In yet another year of reckoning for powerful men in Hollywood—with allegations this year having already been levelled against Marilyn Manson, Shia LeBeouf, and Armie Hammer—the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has accused creator Joss Whedon of “abuse of power” while on the set of the iconic ’90s series.
Carpenter’s claims follow a long list of people taking a stand against the director, including the stars of his most recent film project, Justice League, and his ex-wife, who penned a scathing essay about him once their divorce was finalised.
In a two-part tweet, Carpenter alleged that while filming Buffy, Whedon would find his misconduct “amusing” and his behaviours from the time triggered a “chronic physical condition” that she still suffers from.
“Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel,” Carpenter wrote in a statement.
“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.”
According to Carpenter’s statement, Whedon “has a history of being casually cruel” and “created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career.” The actress added, “I know because I experienced it first-hand. Repeatedly.”
The actress continued, “Like his ongoing, passive-aggressive threats to fire me, which wreak havoc on a young actor’s self-esteem. And callously calling me ‘fat’ to my colleagues when I was [four] months pregnant, weighing 126 lbs. He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favourites, pitting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval.”
“At six months pregnant, I was asked to report to work at 1:00am after my doctor recommended shortening my work hours,” Carpenter continued. “Due to long and physically demanding days and the emotional stress of having to defend my needs as a working pregnant woman, I began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions. It was clear to me the 1:00am call was retaliatory.”
Carpenter notes she decided to finally come forward to support actor Ray Fisher, who last year, accused Whedon of unprofessional behaviour during reshoots of Justice League.
Sarah Michelle Gellar issued her own statement following Carpenter’s social media post, writing, “While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to forever be associated with Joss Whedon. 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 the survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”
Fellow Buffy co-star Michelle Trachtenberg posted to her Instagram in support of those coming forward. “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 behaviour……What he did was very bad. But we win. By surviving!”
Fellow Buffy star Amber Benson added the show was “a toxic environment and it starts at the top. Charisma 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.”
In July 2020, actor Ray Fisher—who played the superhero Cyborg in the Justice League films—accused Whedon of “gross, abusive, unprofessional and completely unacceptable” behaviour on set, alleging that Warner Bros. co-president of production Jon Berg, and former DC Entertainment president and chief creative officer Geoff Johns, both “enabled” the behaviour, per Variety.
Fisher’s claims led to Warner Bros. parent company WarnerMedia launching an investigation into the matter. A detailed report of findings was never released, and the only statement from the studio was that some vague “remedial action” had been taken.
The actor later called out the behaviour of Walter Hamada, who was named as DC Films President in 2018, for the handling of the abusive conduct allegations he’d levelled against Whedon.
In January, Fisher claimed that he had been removed from a previously unannounced Cyborg appearance in the upcoming The Flash due to his accusations against Whedon and Hamada. “If the end of my time as Cyborg is the cost for helping to bring awareness and accountability to Walter Hamada’s actions—I’ll pay it gladly,” he wrote at the time.
Whedon, Hamada, Warner Bros. and DC Films have yet to respond to the allegations.
The string of accusations levelled against Whedon follows his ex-wife Kai Cole’s scathing 2017 essay, published on The Wrap, for his behaviour throughout their 16-year marriage.
“He hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends, while he stayed married to me,” Cole wrote in the piece. “He deceived me for 15 years so he could have everything he wanted. I believed, everyone believed, that he was one of the good guys, committed to fighting for women’s rights, committed to our marriage, and to the women he worked with.”
“But I now see how he used his relationship with me as a shield, both during and after our marriage, so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinise his writing as anything other than feminist,” she continued.
At the time, a rep for Whedon said Cole’s “account include[d] inaccuracies and misrepresentations,” but ultimately declined to comment “out of respect for his ex-wife.”