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.