Buffys Charisma Carpenter Claims Joss Whedon Lashed Out that Her Pregnancy Was Fucking Everything Up

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Twenty-five years after Buffys premiere, a new book celebrates the shows defining moment and explores how the allegations against Joss Whedon might have jeopardized its legacy.

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When Buffy the Vampire Slayer expert Evan Ross Katz set out to write the ultimate oral history of the cult-favorite series, he wanted to recapture the awe that instantly hooked him back in 1997, when hed dash away from his moms prying eyes to watch the fearless, wise-cracking Buffy take on whatever monster made the sorry mistake of creeping up on her in a dark alley. I just really connected to the character of BuffyId never seen anyone like her, Katz tells ishonest about the protagonist played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. My media diet at the time did not contain anything that treated young people with as much integrity and respect.

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He was far from the only one who was happily sucked into the world that creator and director Joss Whedon had dreamed up about a badass girl and her friends battling the countless foes that cropped up during their adolescence, while deftly exploring themes in a way that so many other teen dramas couldnt seem to master. Over the shows seven seasons and its spinoff series Angel in 1999, Buffy managed to create a devoted fanbase that, 25 years after its premiere, is still just as loyal to their heroine.

Katzs new book Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts is a celebration of a series that was groundbreaking in so many ways, from having a feminist lead in Buffy herself to showing an authentic romance between two women, which many still point to as a beautiful and powerful representation of an on-screen lesbian relationship. Diehard Buffy fans (including politician Stacey Abrams and actress Cynthia Erivo) reminisce on what the show meant to them, while also re-examining some of the series shortcomings.

I have really strong feelings about the ways in which the show shaped who I am. Also, there are aspects of the show, increasingly so over the last few years, that I rejectwhether it be how the show was made, or the lack of characters of color on the show, or the shows sometimes antiquated view of feminism, Katz explains. So I think that this book presents an opportunity to celebrate, but also look at this show and say its an imperfect show, and thats OK, but lets lean into the imperfection.

It certainly changed the book that I was writing, because had that not happened I had a few quotes at that point about some things, but this opened up so much, Katz says. I think people felt more both compelled and comfortable in being real. One thing that Amber [Benson] says in our original interview, which happened before the allegations against Joss, she talked about feeling this desire to not upset the fanbase, allowing them to have this memory of the show and by proxy, the production of the showto not tarnish peoples feelings about the show by revealing there might be more to the story.

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I think that one of the great things about Ray Fisher and Charisma, the people who have come forward, I think it relinquished that sense of responsibility that a lot of the cast was carrying.

Joss always talked to me about how the show was about a young girl becoming an empowered woman and howand this is what really gets mehow he didnt want to see the pretty blonde victimized, how he wanted to see her as the hero of the story, recalls costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom. And now in light of everything thats come out, Im just thinking, Then why the fuck did you victimize everybody? Why did you traumatize? What is wrong with you?

In 2017, Lowery Woodall gave a keynote address at the Whedon Studies Association conference. The topic of his talk was the way that the organization needed to brace for the fallout of Whedons alleged behavior following his ex-wifes letter detailing the torment she suffered as a result of the implosion of their marriage. I saw this as the first domino to fall in a long list of allegations that would come out about Joss that cast doubt on the kind of person he was and how his personal behavior impacted the legacy of his work, Woodall says. I cautioned the organization to take proactive steps to distance itself from the man and instead focus on the content of the shows/films/et cetera. I believe that Mr. [Ray] Fishers comments as well as those from Charisma Carpenter and Gal Gadot have borne out my initial concerns.

Why are we talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer twenty-five years after the show first aired? To celebrate the legacy, yes, but also to correct the record. Some will question the timing. What took so long? is a refrain too often expressed to and about victims of abuse in all walks of life when they choose to tell their story. Why and when a survivor comes forward isnt for any of us to know or to challenge. Imagine, if you can, being associated with something that so profoundly changed peoples livesand continues to do so decades laterthat for you is rooted in trauma. Might you have complex feelings?

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I spoke to Carpenter prior to her issuing a public statement about much of what that statement crystalized, in particular the longstanding rumor that she was fired from Angel during the shows fourth season because of her pregnancy.

It was 100 percent not expected, she says of her untimely dismissal from the show, which was met with fervent backlash from the fandom (a theme, eh?), many of whom had come to see Cordelia as the co-lead of the series. When youre a thirty-year-old woman and youve been on a show for seven years, and youve been with the same partner for like five years, you do have sex. Its plausible a person could get pregnant, and it shouldnt be something that could [get you fired].

Carpenter says she tried to reach out to the powers that be (read: Whedon and co.) to inform them of her pregnancy. She heard nothing back. Finally, once Whedon had learned the news via a third party, he requested a meeting with her. I was let know how it was fucking everything up for the season, she says.

Whats so odd about hearing that story, I tell her, is that if something like that were to ever happen todaya showrunner allegedly firing his lead for getting pregnantthere would be immediate and swift action against the showrunner. It wasnt supposed to be accepted then, she says. To be honest with you, I was so afraid to say the truth for fear of those things that we fear. I had a little baby to feed and I was a primary caretaker of my family. I couldnt afford to say my truth. I couldnt afford to talk about the way that I was treated.

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I imagine it had to be so difficult, I tell her.

Beyond. I dont know that my career has ever really overcome it, to be honest. In the end, I found out laterand listen, its not lost on me how well an actor is paidthat I was the lowest-paid actress in prime-time television. I dont know if thats bad agenting or just the machine that is Youre not enough, Youre not good enough, You create these issues, You have anxiety. And Im not disagreeing on this, I was challenging in those areas, but I was always made to feel that I was also very worth it. So it was always sort of like this Oh my God, youre this huge talent, We want to do everything to make it possible for you to be your best, and America loves you and Youre awesome. Then at the same time when it came time to talk about my paycheck, it was, Youre a problem, You cost us this. It was always this building up to knock you down. It was always something like that going on, and it was very disruptive to me as an artist. It was disruptive to me as a person, and as a new mother I had a lot to traverse and navigate as skillfully as possible. However, back in the 90s you didnt necessarily have a lot of voice.

Benson elaborated on this more in our interview. It starts at the topand Im not talking about Sarah, Im talking about Joss. And it creates the tone of the set. And I worked on shows where the producers are very aware of this, and they work really hard to make everybody feel like they are important and that they have a place in the show. And I think because this was Josss first show, there were things that got dropped. I think sometimes it made the set feel tense because people were like, I dont know that Im important. Like, I know Sarah is important because shes the name of the show, but am I important? And I think that that made it hard. And I think it puts a lot of pressure on relationships with Sarah and other actors and then other actors with each other. I think there was a lot of tension in that way.

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She continued: I came in in the fourth season, so all that stuff had already been concretized. And so it was a little bit of navigating and being aware that there were sort of alliances and tensions and some people got on really well and other people were okay...nobody was flat-out fighting or anything, but you could just feel like people werent sure of their place. And I think it is the bosss job to make everybody understand where they are in the hierarchy and how they fit in and that they are necessary, you know? Cause if you make everybody feel like theyre a part of it and that theyre necessary and that theyre not worried about their job, then theres this comfortability. And I think when that wasnt happening, there was some uncomfortability on-set.

Its easy to look at Whedons rise without context, and marvel. He was the invisible kid in high school who became not only hyper- visible but hyper- beloved, and created a space for other invisibles to feel more seen. I was one of those kids who no one pays attention to, so he makes a lot of noise and is wacky, he told Rolling Stone in 2000. But I was funny; I wasnt totally annoying. I decided early on that my function in life was to walk into a group of people, say something funny and leave while they were still laughing. Which is pretty much what I did, only now I get paid for it. Its a remarkable trajectory... out of context.

I think that this mentality that were seeing in him is kind of like this high school nerd whos angry that the pretty girls didnt like him and he gets older and hes gonna lash out at the pretty girls or hook up with some of the pretty girls, and the pretty girls that dont want to hook up with him hes going to lash out at them in some way or turn other girls against them, surmises Danny Strong, who mentions an oft-repeated refrain from Whedon (repeated again here in this book) about his own experiences of being an outcast in high school who couldnt get the girl. I just want to say if youre in your mid-thirties, fuck you. Thats not an excuse. You should know better by then. Youre very rich. Youre very successful. Give me a fucking break that youre still talking about being the high school nerd that didnt get the girls. Its not an excuse to mistreat people.

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