Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry: Disturbing Parallels

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Joss Whedon Rumours Come to a Head

If you’ve been paying attention to Social Media over the last twenty four hours then you’ve born witness to the years of Joss Whedon rumours come to a head.

Charisma Carpenter, one of the many actresses to act in Joss Whedon’s breakout TV series Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, broke the sleeping giant’s slumber with accusations of behind the scenes Toxicity, On-set Abuse and unconscionable conduct unbecoming of a Hollywood director. At least that’s what we, members of the Buffy fandom, have been led to believe.

There’s something about words and job descriptions like Producer, Director and Hollywood Executive that we’ve been taught (either directly or indirectly) to respect with an air of hero worship. How can people responsible for creating things we love so much be responsible for such atrocities? How can we continue to hold these people up so high on a pedestal? As long as we get our precious TV shows, right?

Charisma Carpenter took to Social Media to unleash a scathing swath of truth bombs, cutting deep into the heart of Joss Whedon creating a hostile and toxic work environment. Carpenter went on to elaborate about how Whedon called her “fat”, joked about firing her and probed her asking if she’s going to “keep it.” Thus, indicating Carpenter’s then unborn child.

“Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel,” Carpenter wrote.

“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.”

Sarah Michelle Gellar, who portrayed the iconic titular character Buffy Summers, echoed her co-star’s allegation:

“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. “I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”

Ray Fisher, Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry: Disturbing Parallels

The Ray Fisher Connection

All of this is becoming an interesting developing story since Charisma Carpenter issued the above statement with the hashtag #IStandWithRayFisher. Fisher, who portrayed Cyborg in Justice League, is no stranger to confrontations with Joss Whedon. An investigation that is ongoing.

For the better part of a year, Ray Fisher has made it clear that he will no longer entertain future Warner Bros offers due to the severity of his treatment at the hands of Whedon. Interesting how the allegations against Joss Whedon are rarely, if ever, different from one another.

On one hand, we have Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, which wrapped production in 2003, and on the other hand we have Justice League, which was released to cinemas in 2017. Two separate productions. Two sets of allegations from actors who have probably never met. All saying the same thing. You know what they say about rumours…

Rumours of Joss Whedon’s unfairness towards his acting talent is hardly a new development. Whedon’s Ex-Wife, Kai Cole, penned a Guest Blog for TheWrap back in 2017:

“He used his relationship with me as a shield … so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist.”

Cole went to elaborate further, “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.”

Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry: Disturbing Parallels
Gene Roddenberry and a model of the Starship Enterprise

Gene Roddenberry’s Own Levels of Misogyny

It reminds me of a certain someone who birthed several generations of Science Fiction fans with the release of Star Trek: TOS. Now, I feel that dubious readers are looking in my direction with raised eyebrows at the relevancy of such a comparison. So let me elaborate.

Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek broke lots of ground. As a Science Fiction show on a Network in the USA during the Civil Rights movement, Star Trek pushed the boundaries on issues of Gender Equality, Race, and Classism. At least, for its time.

Star Trek was also a show that was almost never green lit. Were it not for I Love Lucy star, Lucille Ball’s timely belief in the Space Western’s Pilot “The Cage,” Star Trek might not have ever seen the light of day. It was her time in the industry and her ownership of Desilu Productions which made the I Love Lucy star a powerful force in Hollywood. Perhaps one of the most powerful ones at the time. The point to take away from here is that, without Lucille Ball, there would be no Star Trek.

Similarly, a young upstart Writer/Director whose Buffy: the Vampire Slayer Motion Picture, which moved very little numbers at the box office, might not have ever been turned into a Hit TV Show. A TV Show that Country Music Icon Dolly Parton helped bring to the small screen, thanks to her and then business partner Sandy Gallin’s production company: Sandollar Entertainment. Unfortunately, the parallels don’t stop there.

Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry: Disturbing Parallels
Joss Whedon at a Disney Event

The Gene Roddenberry / Joss Whedon Parallels don’t stop there

Despite Gene Roddenberry’s dream of a better future where all of humanity are treated equally, there existed a darker side to Star Trek, in both Misogyny and well guarded secrets. Roddenberry’s misogynistic traits came to light throughout his storied career. While he penned stories about a fictional starship crew with Female Characters that enjoyed Equal Rights onscreen.

Offscreen his romantic conquests of Trek actors at the expense of his first marriage, were famous. So much so, that the beginnings of his relationship with his eventual wife Majel Barrett were far from innocent. Not to mention affairs with other cast members. A legacy that continued on as he vicariously lived on in the fetishisation of his female characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

If Gene Roddenberry’s checkered past is considered an entry into the Dark Side of Television then Joss Whedon’s track record with his fellow cast and crew shows just how Dark Art can an get. Like Roddenberry, Joss Whedon enjoyed many extramarital affairs at the expense of a marriage. He came, he went, he exploited, and he broke down what made these people who they were.

All behind the smoke and mirrors of writing a show about powerful female characters. A level of misogyny that has devolved into varying degrees of narcissism, abuse and sociopathy.

Like Roddenberry, those Actors were his play things.

We can thank Social Media and the promotional advantages it affords victims to control their own narrative and speak their truth. Yet there’s something to be said when society allows evolutionary theory, a theory responsible for the normalisation of misogyny and rape culture, to take hold at a level responsible for the creation of the very art we consume.

Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry were allowed to happen because we allowed them to happen. Am I saying you can no longer Buffy, Angel or Star Trek and its successor shows? No. Not at all. However, you can’t deny the treatment actors faced at the hands of these individuals. Art has its dark side. The parallels are disturbing.

But hey, at least we get our tv show, right?

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