Joss Whedon is one of Hollywood’s most prolific writers and creators of the last 30 years. The mind behind such decade-defining television shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Whedon also wrote and produced the horror-comedy classic, The Cabin in the Woods, and helmed Avengers: Age of Ultron for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s quite an impressive run.
For much of his career, part of Whedon’s mystique and popularity has been his proclivity to write strong women characters and seemingly being on the frontlines for the fight for equality in Hollywood. During his 2006 speech for Equality Now, where he was a special honoree, Whedon said, “Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity.” He added, “[Misogyny] is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it.” When asked why he continues to write strong women, Whedon gave his now famous answer: “Because you’re still asking me the question.”
However, things with Whedon reportedly weren’t as they appeared. “‘Casually cruel’ is a perfect way of describing Joss,” Firefly writer Jose Molina tweeted in February 2021. “He thought being mean was funny. Making female writers cry during a notes session was especially hysterical. He actually liked to boast about the time he made one writer cry twice in one meeting.” Oh, it gets worse. Let’s peek behind the curtain to reveal the shady side of Joss Whedon.
Joss Whedon came under fire for his alleged Ivanka Trump canine comparison
Like other famous liberals during the Donald Trump presidency, Joss Whedon was terminally online expressing his displeasure with all things Trump. In January 2017, Whedon came under fire for seemingly comparing Ivanka Trump to a dog. “Hey, keep your eyes on this f**king prize too. He’s a Voldemort in training, & unlike the Pekingese he married under, can play the long game,” he tweeted, accompanied with a picture of Donald with Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner.
Naturally, Whedon got pushback on social media for his comparison. “Wow calling his wife a dog? I guess it’s OK to demean women as long as you don’t like them or their husbands, eh?” said one user (via The Hollywood Reporter). Another added: “This from the man who prides himself on being such a great feminist. Unreal. I guess just liberal women. Typical.”
Whedon’s controversial tweet got so much attention that he needed to issue a follow-up. “[email protected] ‘the Pekingese he married under’ refers to his ugly yappy father-in-law, not Ivanka. Can’t believe I have to explain that,” he tweeted. Whether or not he meant Ivanka or her then-presidential father, there’s a long list of things one might criticize them for other than their looks. Let’s start there.
Joss Whedon made derogatory comments about Paul Ryan and cancer patients
In yet another tweet published in January 2017, Joss Whedon fired off a post about former Congressman Paul Ryan that some might consider classless. “Violence solves nothing. I want a rhino to f**k @SpeakerRyan to death with its horn because it’s FUNNY, not because he’s a #GOPmurderbro,” he wrote in a since-deleted tweet (via Fox News). The take didn’t go over well. “Good job on making your side seem even more unhinged & detached from reality,” one user responded.
Three months later, Whedon shared another, um, “joke” that he thought was at Ryan’s expense, but he ended up “inadvertently” mocking child cancer survivors. Yikes. But let’s back up a bit: Ryan had posted a photo of himself shaking hands with a group of young people, with the caption, “Advocacy is not limited to adults. These Wisconsin teens shared some powerful stories with me about their fight against childhood cancer.”
Whedon’s response to this moment? “Tonight on White House Wife Hunt, Donny makes host P. Ryan give 2 more contestants the ‘Not a 10’ card,'” Whedon wrote in the now-deleted tweet (via Digital Spy). Funny? No. Tactless? Yes. Then a rare thing happened — Whedon offered an apology (kinda). “So I tweeted something that inadvertently offended everyone except the people I was trying to offend. I’m sorry. I’ll be quiet for a bit,” he tweeted.
Joss Whedon's ex-wife, Kai Cole, blasted him in an op-ed
In a 2017 op-ed published by The Wrap, Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, producer Kai Cole, blasted the filmmaker for allegedly hiding behind his feminist persona while cheating on her. “I feel compelled to go on the record and clear up some misperceptions. I don’t think it is fair to me or other women to remain silent any longer,” Cole began, claiming that Whedon had “multiple affairs” for the better part of 15 years.
“When he was done with our marriage and finally ready to tell the truth, he wrote me, ‘When I was running Buffy, I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it,'” Cole wrote. “But he did touch it.” Noting that Whedon admitted to lying to her and hoped they could “move on and outlast it,” Cole claimed that he “never conceded the hypocrisy of being out in the world preaching feminist ideals” and that she was “eventually diagnosed with Complex PTSD.”
She added, “I want the people who worship him to know he is human, and the organizations giving him awards for his feminist work, to think twice in the future about honoring a man who does not practice what he preaches.” Whedon’s rep claimed that “this account includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations,” but that “Joss is not commenting.”
Ray Fisher vs. Joss Whedon and Warner Bros.
Justice League actor Ray Fisher’s allegations against reshoots director Joss Whedon began with a single tweet. On Jun. 29, 2020, Fisher posted a video of himself at 2017 Comic-Con, where he stated, “Joss is a great guy, and [director] Zack [Snyder] picked a good person to come in and clean up and finish up for him.” His caption for the video? “I’d like to take a moment to forcefully retract every bit of this statement.”
Fisher, who plays Cyborg in the superhero franchise, went on to claim that “Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” in a follow-up tweet, adding that Whedon was “enabled” by DC Entertainment president and chief creative officer Geoff Johns and former Warner Bros. co-president of production Jon Berg. “Accountability > Entertainment,” Fisher continued.
In a statement to Variety, Berg claimed that Fisher’s accusations were “categorically untrue that we enabled any unprofessional behavior” and stated that Fisher was “upset that we wanted him to say ‘Booyaa,’ which is a well known saying of Cyborg in the animated series.” Two months later, Fisher alleged on Twitter, “During the LA reshoots for Justice League, Geoff Johns summoned me to his office to belittle and admonish my (and my agent’s) attempts to take grievances up the proper chain of command. He then made a thinly veiled threat to my career. This behavior cannot continue.”
It didn’t stop there…
The Ray Fisher saga continued
In August 2020, Ray Fisher announced on Twitter that Warner Bros. had “officially launched an independent third-party investigation to get to the heart of the toxic and abusive work environment created during Justice League reshoots.” Things then got testy between Fisher and Warner Bros., with the studio accusing the actor of refusing to cooperate with the investigation. However, Fisher had receipts and posted an email he sent to the Screen Actors Guild immediately after speaking with the investigator on Aug. 26. “Thank you all for the support and for seeing through [Warner Bros.] desperate and scattershot attempt to discredit me to continue protecting those in power,” he captioned the tweet.
During an October interview with Forbes, Fisher accused Warner Bros. of forcing the Justice League cast to tell the public that director Zack Snyder had handpicked Joss Whedon for the movie’s reshoots “and that Joss was a great guy” at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2017, saying, “I still have the email with those talking points.” He also alleged that “blatantly racist conversations were had and entertained” to remove several people of color from the film. Whedon’s rep refuted this claim, and these parts reportedly all appear in Snyder’s 2021 version, dubbed the Snyder Cut.
When the investigation was completed that December, WarnerMedia stated that “remedial action has been taken” (via The Hollywood Reporter). Of the decision, Fisher tweeted: “There are still conversations that need to be had and resolutions that need to be found.”
Jason Momoa: 'Serious stuff went down' during Joss Whedon's reshoots of Justice League
Once Ray Fisher came forward with his allegations against Joss Whedon, Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa, became the first Justice League co-star to express solidarity with Fisher. In an expletive-laden Instagram post shared in September 2020, Momoa not only supported Fisher, but backed up his claims, as well.
“THIS S**T HAS TO STOP AND NEEDS TO BE LOOKED AT,” he wrote. “[Ray Fisher] AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO EXPERIENCED WHAT HAPPEN UNDER THE WATCH OF [Warner Bros.] NEEDS PROPER INVESTIGATION.” Momoa continued, “I just think it’s f**ked up that people released a fake Frosty announcement without my permission to try to distract from Ray Fisher speaking up about the s**tty way we were treated on Justice League reshoots. Serious stuff went down. It needs to be investigated and people need to be held accountable. #IStandWithRayFisher.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Whedon reshoots were reportedly “a messy and hastily assembled affair” that didn’t make for the most pleasant set. “One person present at the reshoots describes a set filled with tension and says the director was difficult with actors,” the publication explained. It didn’t take long for other Justice League stars to speak out against Whedon…
Gal Gadot claimed she had an 'experience' with Joss Whedon that she 'took care of'
After Ray Fisher went public with his allegations against Joss Whedon, another one of his Justice League co-stars, Gal Gadot, went public with hers, as well. “I’m happy for Ray to go out and speak his truth,” Gadot told the Los Angeles Times in December 2020. “I wasn’t there with the guys when they shot with Joss Whedon — I had my own experience with [him], which wasn’t the best one, but I took care of it there and when it happened. I took it to the higher-ups and they took care of it. But I’m happy for Ray to go up and say his truth.”
Gadot didn’t elaborate on exactly what the experience was, but according to popular YouTube film reviewer Grace Randolph, Gadot’s issue was reportedly the way Whedon wanted to film a particular scene — specifically a shot of Ezra Miller (who plays The Flash) landing on top of Gadot during a battle scene in the middle of the film. The Wonder Woman star reportedly refused, but Whedon shot it anyway. “I doubt we’ll ever get specifics from Ray Fisher re Joss Whedon, but here’s one I was the first to report: Gal Gadot didn’t want to film this scene, so Whedon did it w/ a stunt double. That’s why you can’t see her face,” Randolph claimed on Twitter.
While this allegation has yet to confirmed nor denied by Gadot or Whedon, feel free to take it with several grains of salt.
Charisma Carpenter's emotional statement on Joss Whedon
Motivated by Ray Fisher speaking out against Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Charisma Carpenter posted a lengthy, emotional statement on social media in February 2021, accusing Whedon of “abusive” on-set behavior and subjecting her to “ongoing, passive-aggressive threats.”
“For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day,” began Carpenter. “Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.” Carpenter continued, “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.”
Alleging that Whedon was “mean and biting” and “pitt[ed] people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval,” Carpenter claimed that he routinely mocked her weight while she was pregnant, and asked if she planned to keep the baby. She added, “He proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show, and then unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth.”
Carpenter noted, “I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to Ray and others for remaining private about my experience with Joss,” who she claimed “has persisted in his harmful actions, continuing to create wreckage in his wake.”
Sarah Michelle Gellar: 'I don't want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon'
Sarah Michelle Gellar has been working in Hollywood since she was a child, but her breakthrough role came in playing the titular character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So after Charisma Carpenter (a.k.a. Cordelia Chase) came forward with her allegations in February 2021, Gellar made a statement in support of her former co-star.
“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 am more focused on raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently, so I will not be making any further statements at this time. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.
Although Gellar didn’t confirm any of Carpenter’s allegations, fellow co-star Amber Benson (who played Tara Maclay) did in a statement of her own. “Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top. [Charisma Carpenter] is speaking truth and I support her 100%,” she claimed on Twitter. “There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it twenty plus years later. #IStandWithRayFisher #IStandWithCharismaCarpenter.” Similarly, former co-star Eliza Dushku (a.k.a. Faith) wrote in part on Instagram that Carpenter’s statement “was powerful, painful and painted a picture we’ll collectively never un-see or un-know.”
Michelle Trachtenberg claimed Joss Whedon was 'not allowed in a room alone' with her
Another Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum, Michelle Trachtenberg, thanked Sarah Michelle Gellar for her statement, before revealing a bombshell of her own. “I am brave enough now as a 35 year old woman….To repost this,” the Dawn Summers actor wrote of Gellar’s statement on Instagram. “Because. This must. Be known. As a teenager. With his not appropriate behavior….very. Not. Appropriate. So now. People know. What Joss. Did. The last. Comment I will make on this. Was. There was a rule. Saying. He’s not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again.”
Also speaking out was James Marsters, who played fan-favorite Spike. Tweeting that “the Buffy set was not without challenges,” he added, “I do not support abuse of any kind, and am heartbroken to learn of the experiences of some of the cast. I send my love and support to all involved.” During a previous appearance on the Inside of You podcast, he’d claimed that Whedon once “backed [him] up against the wall” because he was “angry” over his initially villainous character’s popular turn (via CinemaBlend): “He was just like, ‘I don’t care how popular you are, kid, you’re dead. You hear me? Dead. Dead!’ And I was just like, ‘Uh, you know, it’s your football, man. OK.'”
Meanwhile, Anthony Head (a.k.a. Rupert Giles) told ITV’s This Morning that he was “gutted” over the Whedon allegations, noting that they were “making me think, ‘How on earth did I not know this was going on?'”
HBO distanced itself from Joss Whedon
In November 2020, Joss Whedon made a surprise announcement that he was stepping down as the showrunner for a new sci-fi series he’d created for HBO, The Nevers. “This year of unprecedented challenges has impacted my life and perspective in ways I could never have imagined,” Whedon stated in part (via CinemaBlend). “And while developing and producing The Nevers has been a joyful experience, I realize that the level of commitment required moving forward, combined with the physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic, is more than I can handle without the work beginning to suffer.”
Ray Fisher believed Whedon’s exit was “undoubtedly the result” of WarnerMedia’s investigation into his alleged on-set behavior. While HBO “parted ways” with Whedon, the network received “no complaints or no reports of inappropriate behavior” on Whedon’s part prior to him leaving the series, according to HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys (via The Wrap).
However, during a February 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bloys called Charisma Carpenter’s allegations “distressing” and discussed how HBO had previously begun distancing itself from The Nevers creator. “We were already planning, as you saw, to not say ‘From Joss Whedon’ or ‘the director of [Avengers],'” he said. “It hasn’t really affected the campaign. Yes, you would expect to have that name [in marketing materials] but the show and the creative is going to speak for itself.”
As of this writing, Whedon has not responded to the allegations against him.
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