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A showrunner is accused of bad behavior with women behind the camera. Nothing new in Hollywood, alas.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, The Avengers – the high points of Joss Whedon’s career form a flowchart of geek favorites. But upon what foundation was this all built?

Joseph Hill “Joss” Whedon was a scion of show biz writing. His father Tom Whedon was an Emmy-winning writer for shows as diverse as The Electric Company and The Golden Girls. His grandfather John Whedon wrote for The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show – to say nothing of his younger brothers, the rest of the “Bad Horse Chorus,” Zack Whedon and Jed Whedon, each with their own notable writing credits. But Joss got his start with scripts for Roseanne, which had its own disturbing history of on-set behavior.

The slow and steady climb is well known enough to the genre audience that we don’t really need to recount it all here. This narrative picks up in 2017, when TheWrap dropped the bomb with a blog post: “Joss Whedon Is a ‘Hypocrite Preaching Feminist Ideals,’ Ex-Wife Kai Cole Says,” subtitled: “He used his relationship with me as a shield … so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist,” she writes. This key paragraph from the middle says it most poignantly:

“Despite understanding, on some level, that what he was doing was wrong, he never conceded the hypocrisy of being out in the world preaching feminist ideals, while at the same time, taking away my right to make choices for my life and my body based on the truth. He deceived me for 15 years, so he could have everything he wanted. I believed, everyone believed, that he was one of the good guys, committed to fighting for women’s rights, committed to our marriage, and to the women he worked with. But I now see how he used his relationship with me as a shield, both during and after our marriage, so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist.”

Moving ahead to 2020, the Year of the Pandemic, and the revelation of the Snyder Cut of The Justice League. Ray Fisher [Cyborg] opened the cybernetic can of worms with a single tweet, pulling back the curtain on the injustice of this production:

Naturally, the Internet exploded with accusations against both sides. Was Fisher sore because he didn’t have a bigger part? Was Whedon ruining the film? Lord knows, it had challenges before he got there, with the Snyder family tragedy forcing the change in direction. It was the best we could expect from an origin in the not-our-Superman Man of Steel, but lord it wasn’t good.

The best parts of the next two films were the introductions to the other super heroes, but that’s an essay for a different day. We will all see the much-touted Snyder Cut eventually, and maybe Cyborg’s character will shine brighter. However, actor Fisher had to face a great deal of criticism, and a long “investigation” by the studio instead of by an independent investigator, with very few tangible results in the end – but no libel suits either.

Now this week: Charisma Carpenter, “Cordelia” in Buffy, The Vampire Slayer whose character was rather used and thrown away early in the run of sequel series Angel, had this to say to the world.

Support rolls in from her “Buffy” cast mates:

Amber Benson, “Tara”:

Sarah Michelle Geller, “Buffy”

Michelle Trachtenberg, “Dawn”:

Thank you @sarahmgellar for saying this. I am brave enough now as a 35 year old woman….To repost this. Because. This must. Be known. As a teenager. With his not appropriate behavior….very. Not. Appropriate. So now. People know. What Joss. Did.
The last. Comment I will make on this. Was. There was a rule. Saying. He’s not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again.

Anthony Stewart Head, “Giles” seems to have missed the whole thing while it was happening. On ITV’s This Morning, he said: “I have been up most of the night just running through my memories thinking, ‘What did I miss?’ “This is not a man saying, ‘I didn’t see it so it didn’t happen.’ I am gutted, I’m seriously gutted because one of my memories, my fondest memory was the fact that it was so empowering. Not just with the words in the script, but the family feel of the show. I am really sad that people went through these experiences.“How on earth did I not know this was going on?”

Male cast member from both Buffy and Angel James Marsters had spoken out before:

Ray Fisher responds:

From the ‘Caedmon manuscript.’) c. 1000 AD. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

We have been checking the social media of the Avengers stars, and have not found any such response from the MCU but that’s not surprising, as a Disney production. The one condition we know about that’s in a Disney contract is: Never Embarrass The Mouse. This week has seen some consequences for another franchise performer, but that’s another story. [here]

Fan responses are rolling in quickly. One of our “home conventions”, WhedonCon, which has struggled with this branding since the Cole article, is changing the name of their dedicated genre gathering as The Hellmouth Convention (no, Whedon did not invent the term: “Hellmouth” dates back to medieval manuscripts as a vivid visual of the descent into the fiery underworld).

The question remains: whither Whedon? Hard to say. People’s careers don’t typically withstand this kind of avalanche of bad news. Joss Whedon had started a new, unrelated project The Nevers, a sort of steampunk superhero ensemble of specially gifted women in a never-was past, to be produced in the UK, but stepped away after the Fisher posts took root. He still serves as Executive Producer, according to IMDB.

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Susan L. Fox
Susan L. Fox
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