(NOTE: This post the first-ever from an outside contributor, or someone not me. Hopefully, many more to come).
(Illustration found here).
By Eva M.
Several days ago I was skimming the headlines when one caught my eye that felt, as my dad used to say, like a slap in the face with a cold wet rag.
The headline read “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Alum accuses director Joss Whedon of abuse on the set of Buffy/Angel.” As a longtime fan of Whedon’s work, the shock was almost visceral, especially in the wake of recent events revolving around Hollywood heavy Harvey Weinstein and the #metoo movement.
It was with much trepidation that I clicked the link, which automatically redirected me to Twitter, and more specifically, a tweet shared by one Charisma Carpenter, aka @allcharisma, aka Cordelia Chase of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame, whom shall be referred to henceforth simply as ‘CC.’
As lengthy and verbose as her post was — you’re actually required to open two separate tweets, Twitter not being set up for lengthy diatribes (which is why I use FB) — I soon realized that the story didn’t actually begin there.
So after leaving a brief comment colorfully expressing my off -the-cuff reaction to her claims, I set about digging into the story like one of those icecream concoctions they make at Cold Stone with those metal patels where you can add whatever you want like M&Ms, brownie chunks, caramel sauce, etc.
As previously stated, I’m a devoted fan of Joss Whedon (shown at left) and have been for the better part of two decades. I owned the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” box set for many years, which includes several hours of special features (e.g. interviews with cast and crew, panel discussions, etc.), watched these more times than I’d care to admit, and couldn’t help but notice a strange undercurrent between certain cast members.
Although CC was all smiles and laughter, even answering in the affirmative when asked if she would consider working with Whedon again (the question stemmed from the fact that she had been fired — another point worthy of consideration), I do recall getting the impression that she wasn’t his favorite person to work with.
He was full of praise for some of the other actors; Sarah M. Geller, he recalled as being “very old Hollywood-she always showed up, on time, knowing her lines…a real class act.”
“As a director,” he continued, “you learn to really appreciate those things.”
Although he didn’t come out and say it, obviously not everyone fell into that category. What was also evident to me was he had a bit of a sharp tongue, his humor running to sarcasm and farce, with enough deadpan thrown in that someone with a very different background, set of values and, frankly, level of intelligence could and most likely often would be offended by some of his remarks.
For instance, one of her “big reveals” is the intense trauma she experienced from him calling her fat when she was pregnant. Calling a stunningly beautiful woman fat when she’s pregnant-or any pregnant woman, honestly, is fucking hilarious to me.
An absurdist sense of humor is one of the things that sets Whedon’s work apart and has garnered him a cult following that encompasses several generations. I watched him joke around with other members of the cast and they would give it back as good as they got it, leaving me with little doubt that he was of the ‘dish it out but can’t take it’ sort, despotic or lacking in self-awareness.
They (Whedon and CC), in my opinion, just didn’t click.
As far as I can tell, this whole round of he-said/she-said/nonbinary talk began when actor Ray Fisher (don’t worry, I had no clue who he was, either) tweeted a statement which accused Whedon, whom he had worked with on the set of the 2017 film, “Justice League,” of being “gross, abusive, unprofessional and unacceptable.”
Along with the fact he went on to bad-mouth several other people in charge of the project, his earlier praise for the director and the complete lack of substantive evidence in support of his statement made this a non-starter in what was already an explosive news cycle.
In other words, nobody cared.
The pandemic, multiple police-involved deaths, widespread civil unrest along with heightening racial tensions and a president who, quite openly and unapologetically fanned the flames that lead to the deaths of an untold and unknowable number of American citizens drastically overshadowed these puerile antics.
It wasn’t until Fisher was summarily fired from the upcoming installment of the comic-book inspired “Justice League” series in which he had played Cyclops (don’t talk shit about your bosses on social media! I mean, DUH!), which lead to a whole new round of vitriolic tweets that in turn prompted an internal investigation into his claims.
While their findings officially cleared Whedon (as well as two other execs) of any wrongdoing, his rant
apparently caught the eye of our girl CC.
Fischer’s words, which either caused CC to have some horrific, PTSD-induced flashback of a time in her life that was so brutally painful that it’s taken her 20 years to gain the strength to “speak her truth,” or, created the inspiration for an out-of-work actress to validate her mediocrity while simultaneously reclaiming her misspent 15-minutes of fame, were the first whisper in the world’s most boring game of telephone.
I’m leaning pretty hard towards the latter, btw.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already familiar with what she had to say, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick summary; according to CC, during the filming of both Buffy and the spinoff, “Angel,” Whedon was “casually cruel” to her, adding to her insecurity and isolating her from her peers.
The only statements representing verifiable facts (versus long-winded, self-serving hyperbole) were the two instances when he took her to task for the no-nos of getting a visible tattoo (ACTUAL VIOLATIONS OF HER CONTRACT), and then for getting pregnant midseason.
She was utterly shocked by the nerve and insensitivity he showed by asking — admittedly behind closed doors — if she planned on keeping the baby. If he’d been some random co-worker this question would obviously be in poor taste. However, as her direct supervisor as well as the person most directly responsible for the success of a project that supported dozens of other cast and crew members, it was well within his purview to ask.
After all, her decision to keep her baby was one that would impact his ability to follow an existing story arch, potentially creating extra work for himself, staff writers, et al. And while it was undeniably her decision, I find her bizarre overreaction to the mere implication that alternative options even exist, the insinuation being that such subjects are beneath her and therefore taboo, to be damn insulting.
As for her decision to run out and get a visible tatoo while under contract to portray a stuckup, superficial teenage virgin, well, if I hadn’t already been convinced of her diagnosis as a narcissistic personality with borderline tendencies, I definitely would’ve been by the time I read that.
I mean, wow.
CC’s claim that she “needed” the tattoo, a rosary, in order to “feel grounded and connected to her faith” was probably the most absurd argument in a two-page-long list of nothing but absurd arguments.
True faith doesn’t require physical reminders, but she could’ve bought a rosary, or at the very least gotten the tattoo in one of the many places where he’d never even have noticed that she’d blatantly violated her contract.
She also stated multiple times that she lived in fear of getting fired. Knowing how many aspiring actresses would give their first born for the chance to play a lead role in a show as popular as Buffy, it boggles the mind that she would so flippantly violate her contract, thus providing him with legal cause to can her silly ass.
She’s incredibly lucky he didn’t fire her on the spot.
I happen to know from personal experience that whenever you’re living in fear of getting fired you almost certainly deserve to get fired.
What’s truly annoying is the influx of misleading headlines that claim how ‘More actors speak out against the already much maligned Joss Whedon.’ Although pretty much everyone had something to say, very little was actually said.
It makes sense; when you’re an actor who hasn’t worked for a while and Newsweek calls, you’re gonna have a comment. In that regard, such highly diplomatic phrases as “I stand in support of all victims” (David Boreanaz), and “I didn’t experience him in that way” (both Nicholas Brendon and Marti Noxon), it’s pretty clear that, while the Buffy set may have been a “toxic working environment” (Amber Benson), nothing truly untoward took place.
Even Whedon himself admitted that Buffy, while one of his best works, was “sometimes hell to get out each week,” as they began with a very low budget and Whedon is an acknowledged perfectionist, well known for making his crew work late into the night, requiring take-after-take and shot-after-shot until it was just so.
This is obvious in the rare quality of his craft. People who are tired get cranky, and actors are naturally sensitive (i.e. snarky and self-involved). If his behavior had of taken place at a Nabisco factory NO ONE would care.
I honestly still don’t.
Ironically, the lack of lurid headlines we’re currently experiencing due to such national boons as the COVID vaccine, a healthy market and a drastic return to sanity in the White House are leaving a hole in the 24-hour news loop.
Otherwise, I sincerely doubt that the highly ambiguous comments of a handful of out-of-work actors would have made the cut.
It’s not as if any of them actually had anything to add, accepting of course, for a bitter ex-wife who’s own long, rambling and embarrassingly confessional statement was posted on TheWrap three years ago. Due to the current brouhaha, her post has shimmied back up to the top of the Google clickbait pyramid.
Kai Cole, who was Whedon’s wife for 16 years until their divorce in 2017, can almost be forgiven for airing her family’s dirty laundry online due to the obvious pain she was in (as Buffy would say, “love makes ya do the wacky”), but I simply MUST object to her claim that she “went from being a strong, confident woman to a confused, frightened mess overnight” when presented with the truth that he had been unfaithful.
As brutal as this may sound, that’s simply not possible. Just as relationships don’t crumble overnight, neither does one’s sense of self, and placing the responsibility of your own sanity on the shoulders of another is neither fair nor is it honest. If he really is the monster she portrays in this article, one must question anyone who would spend 16 years of their life at his side.
So, I guess the long and short of it is this: Joss Whedon, while undeniably talented and clever, can be and most-likely often is an asshole. Big deal. That truth doesn’t make CC’s truth any more valid or interesting. We’ve all had a boss we didn’t get along with, a relationship that ended badly, which was All Their Fault.
Only the terminally vain or narcissistic would think themselves unique in these aspects.
Perhaps all this bad press will lead to soul searching and positive change for Whedon. Or, maybe it’ll just serve to embitter and push him farther away from the ability to connect and empathize with others, in which case he’s the one who ultimately suffers.
A third and far less likely outcome is that he’ll be so enraged by the negative publicity that he’ll go on a rampage and systematically slaughter every single person who weighed in, beginning with Fisher and ending with Anthony Stewart Head (aka Mr. Giles).
Now that would be a story.
And of Giles:
“…I used to be a highly-respected watcher, now I’m a wounded dwarf with an elliptical strength of a doily.”
(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Les Deux Saltimbanques: l’Arlequin et Sa Compagne,’ found here).