New accusations against Buffy and Angel creator Joss Whedon have fuelled debate over toxic workplaces and abuse, and whether we can separate the art from the artist.
Actor Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase in both shows, took to Instagram to share her experience of working with Whedon.
“Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel,” Carpenter wrote.
“Joss has a history of being casually cruel. He has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career. I know because I experienced it first-hand. Repeatedly.”
The 50-year-old went on to detail a number of incidents that “wreaked havoc on a young actor’s self-esteem,” including Whedon’s passive-aggressive threats to fire her, and openly calling her “fat” to her colleagues.
Carpenter also claimed she was “unceremoniously fired” after she fell pregnant.
Dr Jessica Ford, a lecturer at The University of Newcastle’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, said it isn’t as simple as ‘cancelling’ Whedon’s work in light of the accusations.
“No television and no film is the result of a single author. It’s the result of a collaboration of a large amount of people – many of the people who worked on Buffy in particular, are women like Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon,” Dr Ford told The New Daily.
“Once the text is in the world it takes on new meaning, once Harry Potter is in the world, once Buffy is in the world, they take on particular resonances, particular ideas, and they have meaning beyond the author themselves.“
Whedon joins a list of high-profile to have mounting allegations of abuse levelled against them in recent weeks.
Singer Marilyn Manson has been accused of domestic violence and sexual assault by a number of former girlfriends, including Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) and Esme Bianco (Game of Thrones).
Actor Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) has been accused of coercing women to perform violent sexual acts.
Dr Ford believes that while known abusers should be barred from working in their industries, the onus shouldn’t fall on consumers.
“Everyone has different lines for themselves for what they’re willing to cancel,” she said.
However, the #MeToo movement has changed the way the public views claims of abuse, Dr Ford said.
“It’s not that women are speaking, it’s that women are being believed,” Dr Ford said.
“Women have always talked about their abuse, women have always discussed the kinds of toxic work environments they’ve had to endure, they’ve always discussed the types of sexual harassment and gaslighting they’ve had to endure.
“What’s different about now is that women are being believed. The ‘he-said-she-said’ thing is no longer a legitimate defence
Buffy stars distance themselves from Whedon
Carpenter’s claims against Whedon are not the first.
Whedon’s wife Kai Cole penned a scathing letter in 2017 alleging deceptive and manipulative behaviours.
James Marsters, who played Spike, has also spoken candidly of Whedon’s aggressive and intimidating behaviour on the Buffy set.
Ray Fisher, who worked with Whedon on Justice League said the director’s behaviour was “gross, abusive, unprofessional and completely unacceptable”.
Sarah Michelle Geller, who played Buffy Summers, shared her own message of support for Carpenter.
“While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon,” Gellar wrote on Instagram.
“I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”
Amber Benson, who played Willow’s love interest, Tara, also took a stand with Carpenter and said much of the cast were still processing the abuse two decades later.
Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top. @AllCharisma is speaking truth and I support her 100%. There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it twenty plus years later. #IStandWithRayFisher #IStandWithCharismaCarpenter https://t.co/WJAmDGm76C
— Amber Benson (@amber_benson) February 10, 2021
“I am brave enough now as a 35-year-old woman …To repost this,” she wrote in the caption.
The actress remained vague, but went on to say there was a rule that prohibited Whedon from being “allowed in a room alone with Michelle”.