We’re living in the age of ’90s reboots (we see you, Saved by the Bell!) and while we’re definitely here for it, this weeks sobering news from the Buffyverse has felt like a shock to the system for many. Charisma Carpenter, who played fan-favourite Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel, has come forward with allegations of on-set misconduct against creator-director Joss Whedon.
Frequently celebrated as a man of integrity – the rare Hollywood bigwig who espoused feminist ideals in a time when few male studio execs would lift a finger in the name of equality – Whedon, 56, was an in-demand director for years; a man other actors supposedly clamoured to work with at all costs. Yes, there had been quiet rumblings over the years that he wasn’t all that great (check out what ex-wife Kai Cole had to say about her “hypocrite” former hubby here), but it was mostly drowned out by the admiration for his latest Blockbuster feature.
Charisma Carpenter speaks out on social media
Yet, in the wake of recent allegations from Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot (who both worked with Whedon on Justice League reshoots and most definitely did not love that experience), Carpenter took to Twitter to share her experiences working on Buffy and Angel. She credits the Time’s Up movement and therapy for inspiring her to come forward.
Carpenter wrote: “For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day. Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers. The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition from which I still suffer. It is with a beating, heavy heart that I say I coped in isolation and, at times, destructively.”
She went on to detail the “hostile” interactions she shared with Whedon: “Like his ongoing, passive-aggressive threats to fire me, which wreaks havoc on a young actor’s self-esteem. And callously calling me ‘fat’ to colleagues when I was 4 months pregnant, weighing 126 lbs. He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favorites, pitting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval.”
Carpenter also described a private meeting she had with the director shortly after her pregnancy announcement wherein Whedon “proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show, and then [he] unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth.”
This isn’t the first time Carpenter has spoken out against Whedon – it’s just that it’s finally been amplified thanks to the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. During a 2009 appearance at DragonCon, the star told fans that her 2002 pregnancy (which occurred during filming for Angel) became a source of conflict for her and the director. “I think Joss was, honestly, mad… it’s a very complicated dynamic working for somebody for so many years, and expectations, and also being on a show for eight years, you gotta live your life. And sometimes living your life gets in the way of maybe the creator’s vision for the future. And that becomes conflict, and that was my experience.”
@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.
Carpenter’s Buffy co-stars immediately came to her defense. Sarah Michelle Geller posted a statement to Instagram that read, in part, “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… I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”
Michelle Tratchenberg, who was a teen when she was cast as Buffy’s younger sister, Dawn, shared Geller’s post and added: “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.”
Amber Benson, who played Willow’s love interest, Tara, tweeted: “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.”
Whedon has yet to respond to the allegations, but it’s become abundantly clear that his sets were far from the whimsical, dreamy experiences our younger selves envisioned them as. The fact that so many of Carpenter’s female co-stars (where are the men at, btw?) immediately stepped forward to validate her truth speaks volumes about the toxicity that permeated his work environments. There had been whispers of misconduct for years, but we overlooked them in favour of big-budget entertainment. We collectively ignored Whedon’s ex-wife and didn’t side with Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot as quickly as we should have. Hopefully now, with Carpenter and members of the Scooby gang at her side, someone will finally listen.