When he went off to college, Joseph Whedon “traded his basic name for a more interesting one” and started calling himself Joss. That’s not at all unusual, that you reinvent yourself when you get away from old social circles and find yourself in new ones, but I think, given the allegations and confessions in this article about Joss Whedon, I’m going to have to roll that change back. He’s Joe Whedon, and as he admits, he was “dark and miserable, this hideous little homunculus who managed to annoy everyone”. Gollum tried to call himself Smeagol, but no one is fooled anymore.
The author of the article, Lila Shapiro, lets people just speak, and boy is it damning. She interviews people who worked with Whedon on Buffy, for instance, and discover what an entitled little shit he was, who managed to impress everyone with his big words and flowery language.
A high-level member of the Buffy production team recalled Whedon’s habit of “writing really nasty notes,” but that wasn’t what disturbed her most about working with him. Whedon was rumored to be having affairs with two young actresses on the show. One day, he and one of the actresses came into her office while she was working. She heard a noise behind her. They were rolling around on the floor, making out. “They would bang into my chair,” she said. “How can you concentrate? It was gross.” This happened more than once, she said. “These actions proved he had no respect for me and my work.” She quit the show even though she had no other job lined up.
Then there were the alleged incidents two Buffy actresses wrote about on social media last year. Michelle Trachtenberg, who’d played Buffy’s younger sister, claimed there had been a rule forbidding Whedon from being alone in a room with her on set. Whedon told me he had no idea what she was talking about, and Trachtenberg didn’t want to elaborate. One person who worked closely with her on Buffy told me an informal rule did exist, though it was possible Whedon was not aware of it. During the seventh season, when Trachtenberg was 16, Whedon called her into his office for a closed-door meeting. The person does not know what happened, but recalled Trachtenberg was “shaken” afterward. An adult in Trachtenberg’s circle created the rule in response.
But you can tell Joe chose to do this interview because he wanted to correct the record.
Picking up a cup of tea, Whedon said he could no longer remain silent as people tried to pry his legacy from his hands. But there was a problem. Those people had set out to destroy him and would surely seize on his every utterance in an attempt to finish the job. “I’m terrified,” he said, “of every word that comes out of my mouth.”
That was a prophetic statement. You let your ego run away with you, Joe, you should have just shut up. His denials sound like confessions.
Whedon acknowledged he was not as “civilized” back then. “I was young,” he said. “I yelled, and sometimes you had to yell. This was a very young cast, and it was easy for everything to turn into a cocktail party.” He said he would never intentionally humiliate anyone. “If I am upsetting somebody, it will be a problem for me.” The costume designer who said he’d grabbed her arm? “I don’t believe that,” he said, shaking his head. “I know I would get angry, but I was never physical with people.” Had he made out with an actress on the floor of someone’s office? “That seems false. I don’t understand that story even a little bit.” He removed his glasses and rubbed his face. “I should run to the loo.” When he came back, he said the story didn’t make sense to him because he “lived in terror” of his affairs being discovered.
Wait, wait, wait. The story about making out with actresses couldn’t be true, because sure, yeah, he was having affairs, plural, but he was terrified of anyone finding out? That’s not a very good excuse, you know. It sounds like everyone on the set knew he was screwing around. His wife sure knew, since she divorced him over it.
Then there was that feud with Zack Snyder over the Justice League movie, which Whedon took over mid-filming and revised. I saw the Whedon version, and hated it; I haven’t seen the so-called “Snyder cut”, and won’t, because as bad as the first version was, I don’t think making it longer and putting an Ayn Rand fanboy in charge was going to make it better. It’s a convenient way to blame Joe’s fall from grace on an external force, though.
In our conversations, Whedon was somewhat more circumspect. “I don’t know who started it,” he told me. “I just know in whose name it was done.” Snyder superfans were attacking him online as a bad feminist and a bad husband. “They don’t give a fuck about feminism,” he said. “I was made a target by my ex-wife, and people exploited that cynically.” As he explained this theory, his voice sank into a hoarse whisper. “She put out a letter saying some bad things I’d done and saying some untrue things about me, but I had done the bad things and so people knew I was gettable.”
Snyder superfans tend to be horrible anti-feminist trolls, I agree, but this article makes it clear that Joe is the one who has been exploiting feminism cynically. That Joe Whedon admits to doing “bad things” is not the apology he thinks it is. He was gettable because he’d done those bad things, and that wasn’t Zack Snyder’s, or his ex-wife’s, fault.
Man, that last sentence really needs a “gollum, gollum” at the end of it.
I looked at the comments for a minute, and one guy kept going on how it was a smear, and hey, Whedon mustn’t have done anything wrong because there weren’t any charges.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
I saw the Snyder cut.
It didn’t do anything different or better. It had odd, unfulfilling cuts into “Acts” or “Books” or whatever they were called where a cheap-ass title screen just announced that they were moving to a different section of the movie now … but with no explanation of why and no clear and consistent mood or theme dominating one section that wasn’t present in other sections. In short, there were no clear delineations in the source material, and so I think those were shoved in whenever Snyder thought a transition might be awkward … except they only made the transitions more awkward and reduced the impression of the production values by quite a lot.
the precise mechanism for defeating the big bad might have been different, but that was never the problem with the original movie anyway. In short, the Snyder cut was a longer, more amateurish, much more boring cut of a movie that ran too long in the first place.
None of which is to say that Whedon deserved better treatment from the antifeminists calling him antifeminist. They made a delightful bed together and deserved all the joy that came from their time within it. I just had to comment on the fact that Whedon’s many problems don’t in any way make Snyder’s Justice League worth the time or trouble. If you watch it because you think Whedon’s an asshat and want to see something made by a non-asshat, well,
1. Why are you watching anything by Snyder,
2. no, there was literally nothing improved so much as to watch a 5-minute youtube clip, much less that monstrosity.
The only saving grace was that I watched it on my computer for free while I was sick and had nothing better to do. It took me 3 attempts to get to the end.
And aside from the fact that he’s an utterly repulsive slimeball, Whedon just isn’t that talented as a director. Fox canceling Firefly halfway through the first season did more for his rep than any of his actual work ever did.
Speaking of Firefly, the constant theme of Mal insulting Inara for being a prostitute while claiming that he respects her seems to be a perfect illustration of Whedon’s commitment to feminism.
PZ Myers says
See? That kind of endorsement was why I never bothered to watch it, and I’m the kind of guy who needs some background noise while working, so I put on all kinds of trash to keep me company. The other day I had Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women playing in a corner of my screen while I was working on my class…it was unbelievably awful, badly made in every possible way. I’d prefer to have that distracting me than any Snyder movie.
PZ Myers says
Yeah, and now I’ll avoid any Whedon thing, too. And I liked Buffy and Firefly and Cabin in the Woods so much — now all I can see is the subtext.
I have very mixed feelings about all of it. I love Whedon’s ability to tell stories and create complex believable characters. I also get the feeling that he can be a complete a-hole. In my head, the narrative I have constructed is that he loves his stories, they are one of if not the most important things to him. When someone or something interferes with his stories his temper gets out of control and he feels betrayed. That is not good but then again it is not top tier (Weinstein) bad, at least so far based on what has been put forward.
On the flip side, for as many people who have made complaints, there are many many more who haven’t said anything. He has worked for a long long time with many people who are devoted to him even after these revelations. Clearly they know who he is, his temperament, but still work with him. I have never seen them speak out against him. Many of the actors who worked closely with him have said nothing (or vaguely stated that they support their fellow actors). These are talented people who don’t need to work with him to the best of my knowledge and they have never been accused of any bad behavior. There is something to be said about the quality and character of the people you surround yourself with.
But more importantly for us, as a society, we need to figure out ways to harness the good in people, while minimizing the bad tendencies that everyone has. But as usual, we have a double standard for the rich, powerful, and famous. There has to be a way that people like Whedon can continue to make great stories, be recognized for what they are (both good and bad), while protecting other people so that he does not do socially unacceptable harm.
Dennis K says
@4 – OT, but I also play silly, non-distracting videos in the corner of my screen whilst I work. Next time I’m looked at askance over it, I can proudly proclaim to know of an accomplished scientist who does the same thing.
Back on topic — your post here has badly tainted my love for Firefly. Why must these people suck so much? After reading yesterday that Erwin Schrödinger was a monstrous, lifelong pedophile who defended his “proclivities” as reward for his intellect, I’ve decided that being a no-name nobody with decent principles is greatest achievement anyone can hope for.
The idea that being called by the name you prefer to be called by is a privilege to be earned, rather than a universal right is not one I accept. Too many people use it to deadname trans people to punish them for going out of line.
I saw another article recently (‘When Joss Whedon was our Master’ at Vice) that took a look back on more of his work, and his influence, and some of the specifics of his ‘voice’ and what made a work ‘Whedon-esque’, particularly in light of what has come up about him since then.
Basically his work tends to be very talky and snarky, with entire set-piece dialogue sections. A lot of his style is tied up in what makes his works so quotable. At his best, he can tell you all sorts of things about the characters just from the language they use without having to spell things out. At his worst, the stilted and unnaturally-constructed dialogue leaves the audience with the impression that he’s far more interested in showing off how clever he is than he is in the actual characters themselves.
UnknownEric the Apostate says
I was just saying yesterday on Twitter how much hindsight makes the skeevier moments on Buffy and Angel more obvious. Like the Willow/Tara relationship seems so much less an important moment for lesbian representation on television, and so much more a male gaze/fantasy thing with Xander’s quote from the dream episode (“sometimes I think about two girls doing a spell together, and then I have to go do a spell by myself”) as the mission statement.
Came to say the same as po8crg @8.
Fuck that guy – there was a period of time when I looked up to him as a writer, and that’s just embarrasing now – but you can’t take someone’s name away for bad behavior. That’s literally a TERF argument, no matter how much this situaton has nothing to do with trans issues.
James Fehlinger says
Join the party. :-0
The fallout from Ghislaine Maxwell: A case study about narcissism
Jan 19, 2022
Wouldn’t it be cool if people like this could live “forever”?
Just like vampires and, uh, Gollum.
Jeffrey Epstein Hoped to Seed Human Race With His DNA
By James B. Stewart, Matthew Goldstein and Jessica Silver-Greenberg
July 31, 2019
. . .
He hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at
his vast New Mexico ranch. . .
Mr. Epstein’s vision reflected his longstanding fascination with what has
become known as transhumanism: the science of improving the human population
through technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. . .
Mr. Epstein. . . was a serial illusionist: He lied about the identities of
his clients, his wealth, his financial prowess, his personal achievements.
But he managed to use connections and charisma to cultivate valuable relationships
with business and political leaders. . .
[He] used the same tactics to insinuate himself into an elite scientific community. . .
[and] attracted a glittering array of prominent scientists. . .
The lure for some of the scientists was Mr. Epstein’s money. . .
Once, at a dinner at Mr. Epstein’s mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, [Jaron] Lanier
said he talked to a scientist who told him that Mr. Epstein’s goal was to have 20 women
at a time impregnated at his 33,000-square-foot Zorro Ranch in a tiny town outside
Santa Fe. . .
Mr. Epstein did not hide his interest in tinkering with genes — and in perpetuating
his own DNA.
One adherent of transhumanism said that he and Mr. Epstein discussed the financier’s
interest in cryonics, an unproven science in which people’s bodies are frozen to be brought
back to life in the future. Mr. Epstein told this person that he wanted his head and
penis to be frozen. . .
Mr. Epstein’s foundation, which is now defunct, also gave $100,000 to pay the salary
of Ben Goertzel, vice chairman of Humanity Plus, according to Mr. Goertzel’s résumé. . .
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
. . .
Narcissism As A Motivator For Cryonics
It occurred to me after I put up the post on narcissism
and transhumanism just below that cryonics might in fact
be the perfect mode of interment for narcissists, irrespective
of whether they can be pulled out of the dewar, connected
to some new or transplant body, and revivified at some future
date. The narcissist has a static, idealized self-image that’s
exactly the opposite of the memento mori skull. What better
way to preserve it than freezing?
. . .
My own feeling is that science fiction – not actual technological
advance – drives transhumanism. The appeal transhumanism has to
narcissists is the potential for refusing to acknowledge the
passage of time, as well as a static, immortal, grandiose self-image.
The humorlessness comes with the territory.
Transhumanism seems to have a particular appeal to the wealthy –
look at the Silicon Valley millionaires on the board of the
Foresight Nanotech Institute, for instance – and I think this
follows. A narcissistic rich person can control a great many things,
but there’s one threat that won’t go away: you’re going to die,
no matter how rich you are. Get rid of that one fly in the ointment,
and you’ve got it made: a static, timeless self-image of a rich guy.
(Failing that, freezing your head comes in as a valid second choice.)
And the penis. Don’t forget the penis!
Thirding po8crg and abbeycadabra @ #8 and #11- Joss Whedon is a contemptible asshole, but we should still respect people’s right to be named as they wish.
You’ve kind of got it backwards. Smeagol was his given name, presumably given to him at birth.
“Gollum” was a nickname other people used for him, later on, after The Ring had warped him. I don’t believe he ever called himself that. According to The Hobbit, he called himself “my precious,” though he also called The Ring that, too.
Pierce R. Butler says
Why is today “denounce previously respected artists day” at FreeThought Blogs?
That was my biggest sticking point with Firefly too. Whedon must have thought he was writing a clever romantic conflict, but Mal was just plain abusive to Inara on many occasions, including bursting into her private space without warning and refusing to leave when asked…and not because of some emergency she didn’t know about yet, this was for the sole purpose of demeaning her.
@15– Whedon lost respectability a few years back now; the only thing new is this interview in which he digs himself an even deeper professional grave.
I have no trouble cutting the Whedons from my entertainment consumption. There are, after all, a huge number of highly talented people who are NOT abusers. For every Whedon, Rudin, Cosby, CK, Gibson (Mel and Thomas!), Spacey, and Weinstein (and yes, I know they’re not all on the same level of awfulness) who disrupts their own career path there are dozens of great creatives who never got a fair chance — often because of the culture of abuse — who could step into those roles.
UnknownEric the Apostate@10: I never saw Buffy myself, didn’t get that channel when it was on the air. But I remember after Whedon’s rep went down the toilet there was a lot of commentary made about how he’d always said that Xander was the character he identified with and that maybe people should have paid more attention to that.
For me, I stopped liking him when Avengers: Age of Ultron came out. That movie just had way too much of Whedon’s style in it and I found it annoying and badly overused.
I’ve recently started a Buffy rewatch for the first time since in many years. In many ways it still holds up – its entertaining, its funny and witty, it frequently subverts expectations. Attempts to rewrite history so that Whedon was never a talented writer don’t work for me – its possible to laud his talent while ALSO condemning his behaviour.
Some things i’ve noticed – i remember even when it first aired, finding it ridiculous that the title character habitually fought vampires in full makeup, high heels and a mini skirt. I didn’t know what male gaze was as a teenager, as a middle aged man its exponentially more uncomfortable.
Xander really is an open confession of guilt by Joss Whedon. Creepy, insanely jealous, passive aggressive and possessive but never called out on it. He was an incel before it was cool.
I agree with the occasional comments starting around @8. Although I don’t think Whedon deserves respect, I baulk at what is effectively an act of deadnaming. I’m happy to draw attention to his foibles while using his chosen name, rather than leaving him that refuge to hide within.
I offer you this musical “tribute” to the man: https://flurf.net/batpage/FireLies
(That’s a firmly sarcastic use of the word “foibles” by the way. Like how Harvey Weinstein’s foibles included a tendency to edit movies poorly, speak disrespectfully to writers, and rape women. You know, foibles like that. It’s a versitile word. Feel free to substitute “fuckwittery” if it feels right to you.)
Walter Solomon says
Would anyone honestly miss Whedon if he’s actually cancelled over any of his actions? He, Snyder and I’ll just throw Abrams in there to complete the set, create easily digestible pablum that allows you to be somewhat entertained for the least amount of effort.
If all three would disappear, it’d be a net positive for film and television.
@23: He was able to get away with this stuff for so long precisely because he was highly acclaimed and in demand. Denying that and pretending he was never all that just leaves the door open for the next superstar writer / director to behave in a similar or worse manner…
PZ Myers says
OK, I accept the criticism. It just annoys me that he consciously tried to give himself a “cool” name when it turned out to be all pretense, and he wasn’t cool at all. In the future, I’ll refer to him as “Joss”, as he chooses, even if I think he chose a name that clashes with his actual identity. I can see where you might find that objectionable.
On one hand okay, but on the other hand that’s coming from someone who goes by a ‘cool’ version of his name? Is him going by ‘Joss’ really much different than you going by ‘PZ’, a construction which contains a very edgy letter indeed? Consider how the ‘pitters and their like habitually attempt to annoy you by calling you ‘Paul’, or (and if this ain’t telling on them for misogyny I don’t know what could be) ‘Paula’.
Doesn’t matter, of course. My position is everyone is free to call themselves what they like. I strongly support the idea that everyone SHOULD choose a name that helps their confidence, or is aspirational, or in some way feels good. After all, it’s something you’re stuck with on a daily basis; would not the ideal version of that be an act of self-care?
He’s a distasteful git. IMO in practical terms what has happened here is largely the name ‘Joss’ getting tainted, because he’s definitely the most famous one, and now the most famous one is… this.
That said, you can just call him ‘Whedon’ – if you can be bothered to refer to him again, it’s not like he deserves more column inches.
Comment didn’t show up. What could have been in THAT message that was automatically filtered?
With all due respect, you just gave a not-pology. You did something wrong, you were not respectful to a person. You’re not a bad person, you just made a mistake.
To illustrate, let me re-play your comment back to you in a slightly different context:
“OK, I accept the criticism. It just annoys me that he consciously tried to assume a female identity when he’s not biologically female. In the future, I’ll refer to him as “she/her”, as she chooses, even if I think she chose a name that clashes with her actual identity. I can see where you might find that objectionable.”
The right reply here was some variation of “I’m sorry, I was disrespectful but I will be better in the future”.
Tabby Lavalamp says
I already couldn’t watch Firefly again because of Adam Baldwin. This makes that choice much easier.
I also want to add to the Snyder pile on. He’s just not a good director. Sure, he can do visual style, but he managed to suck ALL the charisma out of Henry Cavill playing friggin’ SUPERMAN who should be charismatic to help the people of Earth feel easier having a veritable god flying around. Every other role I’ve seen Cavill in? Charismatic as hell even when he’s all taciturn.
Don’t even get me started on the absolute garbage fire of a Snyder film, Army of the Dead.
Walter Solomon says
I never said he wasn’t highly acclaimed. I, personally, don’t care for his work all that much and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment.
There’s a lot I will probably continue to like about Buffy (and to a lesser extent Angel) in how it constantly put characters in morally intractable situations, leaving them to choices that can be understood, though rarely justified. Basically, everyone is guilty of some atrocity at some point, but to keep watching, you still have to come to terms with them as human beings.
There’s no reason Whedon should get all the credit for an ensemble performance. Spike, for instance, was not intended to be a long-running character but was kept, presumably in part due to James Marsters’s performance. The writing and directing is only part of the final product, and it’s not like Whedon wrote all the scripts himself.
@23 “easily digestible pablum”? Well, it’s entertaining and popular. You can digest it easily, though I think it can also be a springboard to more interesting questions of human nature. Granted, maybe the same thing can be said about daytime soaps. I don’t watch them, but I’m not going to be a snob about it either.