You’d be hard to find anyone who grew up in the 90’s and didn’t know and love Buffy the Vampire Slayer- a supernatural show about the petit blonde who is the hunter, not the huntee. Filled with heart, action, drama, comedy, singing(!) and some major ass-kicking, it was girl power at its best. But not behind the scenes.
Joss Whedon was the director, creator and writer of the Buffy series for 7 seasons and its spin-off, Angel for 5. He was also the writer/director of blockbusters Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron and went on to complete Justice League in 2017.
Joss Whedon’s toxic on-set behavior comes to the forefront in a series of tweets from stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Last summer Whedon was called out by actor Ray Fisher for his “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behavior on the set of Justice League. An internal investigation based on Fisher’s claims concluded in December last year with WarnerMedia claiming that “remedial action has been taken.”
Fisher’s claims have also prompted other actors to come forth, namely Charisma Carpenter who played Cordelia Chase on both Buffy and Angel from 1997-2004.
In a long and impassioned tweet that went viral on Wednesday, Carpenter accused Whedon of shocking working conditions including body shaming her while she was pregnant, ridiculing her for her faith, making repeated passive-aggressive threats to both fire her and alienate her from her peers and several other actions of gross misconduct which all which left Carpenter with a “chronic physical condition.”
The two part tweet started with Carpenter explaining how she’d held her tongue for 20 years while making excuses, then went on to expose Whedon’s traumatizing behavior and abuse of power. Carpenter also revealed that she coped in isolation, sometimes at the detriment to herself or others.
It was then said that Whedon put Carpenter and her unborn baby’s health at risk requiring Carpenter, when 6 months pregnant to report to work at 1am. This was after Carpenter’s doctor recommended shortening her work hours. Carpenter believes this treatment was out of retaliation. She began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions shortly afterwards.
Carpenter stated in her tweet “These memories and more have weighed on my soul like bricks for nearly half of my life.” She continued to say she felt powerless when the abuse was occurring but now felt it necessary to come out with her story, feeling guilt that she had keep the mistreatment private for so long. She still however, feels apprehensive about her bold statements, knowing all the well what a black X against an actress’ name can mean.
“The gravity of it is not lost on me. As a single mother whose family’s livelihood is dependent on my craft, I’m scared,” said the 50 year old, who has worked consistently since her time on Buffy and Angel, albeit in smaller roles. She also wrote that she hopes to “create a space for healing” by speaking out. “It has taken so long to muster the courage to make this statement publicly. I can no longer remain silent. This is overdue and necessary. It is time.”
Ray Fisher responded, also on Twitter. He called Carpenter “one of the bravest people I know. I am forever grateful for her courage and for her lending her voice to the Justice League investigation. Read her truth. Share her truth. Protect her at all costs.”
And the protection came.
Amber Benson who played witch, Tara Maclay for 3 seasons was the first to speak out in support of her Buffy co-star.
Clare Kramer who played season 5’s “Big Bad”, a God named Glory also jumped to Carpenter’s defense.
For what it’s worth, I believe and stand with @allcharisma, @ray8fisher, @amber_benson and others who have the strength to come forward with their truth. A lot of this industry needs a reset….. #IStandWithCharismaCarpenter #IStandWithRayFisher
— Clare Kramer (@ClareKramer) February 10, 2021
And then the big guns came out. Sarah Michelle Geller, Buffy herself released a statement on her Instagram saying she stands with all survivors of abuse and, though she is proud to have her name associated with Buffy Summers, she did not want to forever be associated with the name Joss Whedon.
Michelle Trachtenberg who played Dawn Summers piggybacked onto her on-screen big sister’s statement, posting Geller’s statement to her own Instagram account and writing her own scathing remarks in the comments:
“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.
No comments have been made yet from the male cast of Buffy or Angel, though James Marsters who played vampire and Buffy love interest on both shows had spoken of Whedon’s bad behavior in the past. Speaking to Michael Rosenbaum on his podcast, Inside of You he told how Whedon once confronted him about his vampire character.
“I remember he backed me up against a wall one day and he was just like, ‘I don’t care how popular you are kid, you’re dead’. You hear me? Dead. Dead!'” Marsters said. “And I was just like, ‘Uh, you know, it’s your football team, man. OK.'”
Eliza Dushku, fellow Vampire Slayer, Faith has not made any comment on Carpenter’s claims. Yet Dushku very famously reached a $9.5 million confidential settlement with CBS after being fired from the drama series, Bull. Dushku’s firing was a result of the actress making allegations of sexual harassment (which were caught on a hot mic) and refusing to accept the toxic work conditions on set, created by both Michael Weatherly and by show creator Glenn Gordon Caron.
Since the lawsuit ended in 2017, Dushku has not worked. It is no wonder that Carpenter fears retribution for now coming out with the truth.
Fans of the late 90’s/early 2000’s shows are bitterly disappointed upon hearing of the work conditions on the iconic show that celebrated strong women. Such powerful roles for woman were not, and are still not the norm, and now knowing the conditions these actresses (and actors?) dealt with, it makes our idols even more super-human.
As yet Whedon or his camp have made any comments in regards to Carpenter’s, Fisher’s, Benson’s, Geller’s, Kramer’s or Trachtenberg’s claims and comments.
Watch this space.
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