Earlier this month Charisma Carpenter came forward with allegations of toxic bullying and general dickery against Buffy and Angel showrunner Joss Whedon. Since then, several actors and former co-workers have also spoken out. And now Variety has published an exposé on Joss. The magazine spoke with 11 anonymous people who either worked on Buffy and Angel or were “closely familiar with the productions during their runs.” They also reached out to 40 others, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, Eliza Dushku, David Boreanaz, and Alyson Hannigan, but they declined to comment for the story.
The thesis is: Joss Whedon was a cruel asshole who was both “feared and idolized” by the actors on the show. He ran an inappropriate, chaotic set, played favorites like a high school mean girl, had affairs with women under him (somewhere ex-wife Kai Cole is framing this story), and knew how to turn on the charm, or “manage up”, for the network higher-ups. Variety says it in their opening line: “it turns out the real-life big bad” on Buffy was Joss himself.
Here are some lowlights:
Whedon created a “cult of personality” around himself, according to these sources. Those on the inside of Whedon’s circle basked in his attention, praise and friendship; those on the outside got the opposite: scorn, derision, and callousness.
This makes sense. In high school, I re-re-re-watched my Buffy DVDs until they essentially melted (JK, they’re still on my bookshelf to this day), and the director’s commentaries and extras were basically cast and crew going on about how Joss was a precious feminist genius. Blegh. Here’s more:
A source who worked with Carpenter when she was on “Buffy” and “Angel” corroborated her story with Variety, saying that Carpenter would often discuss the mistreatment at the time, characterizing it as “very, very bad,” “mean-spirited” and “verbal abuse.”
Apparently, Joss and his crony writers were “openly dismissive” of Charisma’s acting skills, and made sure she wasn’t treated with respect. In her Feb. 10 allegations, Charisma says that Joss shamed her for being pregnant, even asking her if she was going to “keep it.” Sabrina the Teenage Witch creator, Nell Scovell, shares this similar story:
In 1998, when she was pregnant and two weeks from her due date, she met with Whedon and “Buffy” executive producer David Greenwalt for a possible writing job. As Scovell relates in her 2018 memoir, “Buffy” was her favorite television show, so she took the meeting. She writes that Joss “took one look at me and said, ‘Boy, are you fat.’ I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to have the baby. David Greenwalt followed up by asking, ‘Should I put down a tarp?’” Scovell did not get the job. (Greenwalt did not respond to a request for comment.)
Lovely. It’s also alleged that Sarah Michelle Gellar had difficulty with Joss:
Two sources familiar with the production say that fairly early into the show’s run, Gellar had a severed relationship with Whedon, to the extent that she did not want his name spoken around her. That made for awkwardness on set.
As for Michelle Trachtenberg’s horrifying accusation that Joss wasn’t allowed in the room alone with her… again?:
While several high-placed sources who worked on “Buffy” say they were not aware of this rule, a person with direct knowledge of the production at the time confirms to Variety that an effort was made by those around Trachtenberg to ensure the young actor was never alone with Whedon. According to this person, it was due to an improper verbal exchange between Whedon and Trachtenberg.
Michelle’s mother expressed “frustration because the set atmosphere was inappropriate for a young teenager.” The high-pressure, chaotic Buffy environment was “aggressively adult, with inappropriate and cutting jokes flying behind the scenes.”
Joss has yet to say anything publicly about these allegations, but several anonymous sources expressed a “keen interest” in how he might eventually respond. Hmmm, if Buffy were real, I think we all know how she’d deal with an asshole like Joss: