There’s an old saying about “loving the art, not the artist” when it comes to works you really like but whose creator is someone you may have issues with.
It’s an intriguing thought experiment and it does point out your tolerance for the antics of people and also, perhaps, your limits.
Of late, various cast members of both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its follow-up series Angel have spoken up about creator and main producer Joss Whedon.
What they say about him isn’t pretty.
There have been stirrings for a while regarding Joss Whedon. Back in 2017 his ex-wife Kai Cole wrote a scathing letter regarding her ex.
Among other things she pointed out his hypocrisy, that he claimed he was a “feminist” while having numerous affairs behind his wife’s back. Click the link in the above paragraph if you want to read the full details Ms. Cole presented.
Still, Mr. Whedon remained a high in demand director. He had a cult following for his various series, including Firefly, which while perhaps prematurely cancelled, was popular enough to have Serenity, a concluding feature film made out of it.
But there remained whispers out there about Mr. Whedon and the next big negative press he received occurred following his taking over for Zack Snyder to finish up (actually re-do, based on what I’ve read) the 2017 film Justice League.
Actor Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg in the film, originally praised Mr. Whedon. Perhaps it was part of the Hollywood game to offer praise to all those you work with. In time, though, he had a change of heart and announced he could no longer do it.
In 2020 Mr. Fisher formally accused Joss Whedon of “abusive, unprofessional” behavior. Jason Momoa, who played Aquaman in the film, lent support to Mr. Fisher, noting that “serious stuff went down” during the Justice League reshoots which Mr. Whedon made.
Though less vocal, Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in the film, also stated her experience working with Mr. Whedon “wasn’t the best one”.
Now, within the past couple of days, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, took to twitter to not only say she believed Ray Fisher’s accounts of Joss Whedon’s abuses, but that she herself was a victim of them.
It’s truly a harrowing account and, from the link in the above paragraph:
Carpenter’s accounts of Whedon’s “harassment” and “serialized abuses of power” include him accusing her of “sabotaging” “Angel” by getting pregnant and “calling [her] ‘fat’ to colleagues.” For Whedon, perhaps, it all ended with him “unceremoniously” firing Carpenter from the series after she gave birth, but the actor couldn’t move on that easily.
After Ms. Carpenter spoke, the floodgates truly did open. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy, stated she was proud of her work on the show but that “I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon. Amber Benson, who played Tara on the show, stated “Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top”.
Perhaps the most chilling statement came from Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Buffy’s little sister and was a teenager when she worked on the series. She noted that after some incident between them Mr. Whedon and she, he was not allowed to be alone with her.
Incredibly, there are still more stories coming out, including one regarding how he abused female writers he worked with and took a sadistic pleasure in making them cry.
As I mentioned above, one can love the art but not the artist but there does come a point where the artist becomes so loathsome within your mind that the work produced by them may be tainted and, for you, impossible to love it again.
I’ve read posts from people who cannot watch any Mel Gibson films because of his drunken actions many years before. While he claims he was at the time drinking too much and nearing a nervous breakdown, its still tough to accept his racist and abusive words -all recorded- as simply coming out of that alone.
Similarly, following the death of David Bowie, there were those who noted he is alleged to have had sexual relations with underage girls back in the early to mid-70’s. Yeah, it was a different time and there were teenage groupies who made it a point of sleeping with rock stars and, yeah, there so many drugs being used and, yeah, there are similar allegations/stories related to other very big musical artists who were popular at the time…
…but you know what? All that’s an excuse if these people, who should have known better, were allegedly having sex with underage girls.
Unlike David Bowie, I’m not the biggest Joss Whedon fan out there. While I enjoyed Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, if I never see an episode of these shows I truthfully won’t miss them. Similarly, I doubt I’ll revisit either of his Avenger films or his version of Justice League.
Further, based on the press he’s getting now, I wonder if he’ll become a pariah in Hollywood and we’ve seen the last new material from him.
But I love the music of David Bowie and I’ve mentioned it plenty of times around these parts. As much as I like his music, I’ve taken great pains to avoid any detailed biographies about him. I’ve done the same regarding biographies about Led Zeppelin. The Doors. The Rolling Stones. Even The Beatles.
I suppose its a form of cowardice on my part. I so like the music created by these people and I’m afraid I won’t know how to feel about this music I love so much when I’m confronted by all the alleged nasty details related to those who created them.
Recently, Courtney Enlow presented this article for io9.com:
It’s Well Past Time to Rethink ‘Auteur Theory’ and the Way Actresses Are Treated
In the article, which touches upon the recent Joss Whedon revelations, Ms. Enlow points out the oft told story of how director Stanley Kubrick treated actress Shelley Duvall on the set of The Shining as well as actor Tippi Hendrin’s revelations about how Alfred Hitchcock treated her -sadistically- on the set of The Birds.
I love both films and consider them classics of the horror genre.
But each time I hear/read the stories about how Ms. Duvall and Ms. Hendrin were treated on the sets of these films… I can’t help but realize that what we’re seeing on the screen is genuine suffering by the actors who were treated terribly by those two directors.
And I have to admit… I don’t know if I can watch those films again.
Two films I love by directors whose work I generally love. Songs created by people who may have been engaged in some very questionable activities.
It’s a tough line to draw.
When can one no longer love the art because of the artist?