On Wednesday, star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Charisma Carpenter accused series creator Joss Whedon of emotionally abusive and manipulative behaviour on the set of the two hit shows.

Carpenter made the allegations in a two-part statement she posted on her social media accounts. She states that “Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions” and that “while he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety.

The actor drew particular attention to how Whedon reacted to her pregnancy. Carpenter alleges that Whedon called her “fat” when she was four months pregnant, and fired her from the show after she gave birth. Whedon also reportedly asked Carpenter whether or not she was “going to keep it.” 

He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favourites, pitting people against one another,” she added.

Carpenter was speaking out following allegations of manipulative behaviour made by Justice League’s Ray Fisher, after Whedon was brought on to finish the film following the death of Zack Snyder’s daughter. He described the director’s treatment of the cast and crew as “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.” A subsequent investigation by Warner Bros. in which Carpenter was involved finished last December and “remedial action” was taken, according to the studio. Fisher has since tweeted his support for Carpenter, calling her “one of the bravest people I know.”

Carpenter is fondly remembered for her performance as Cordelia Chase, a character who started out as a self-centred and stuck-up Sunnydale High cheerleader before emerging as a reluctant heroine, and then an agent of The Powers That Be in Angel. She proved to be a fan favourite, bringing depth and staying power to a character that could so easily have proved to be a minor role. However, her death in Season 4 of Angel remains a bitter point with fans, who feel it was handled poorly. Carpenter stated in 2019 that she saw her writing off the show as related to her becoming a mother. 

Other cast members from Buffy and Angel have also shared their stories. Sarah Michelle Gellar posted a statement on her Instagram page that reads “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… I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.” Reposting Gellar’s statement, Michelle Trachtenberg – who played Dawn, Buffy’s younger sister – added “I am brave enough now as a 35 year old woman….To repost this. Because. This must. Be known. As a teenager. With his not appropriate behavior….very. Not. Appropriate. So now. People know. What Joss. Did.

Amber Benson has also spoken out, retweeting Carpenter’s statement and agreeing that the set of Buffy was “a toxic environment.” Another co-star, Clare Kramer, also voiced her support for those who have spoken out against Whedon.

Many online are now calling for the male co-stars of Buffy and Angel to speak out in support of the women and voice their experiences of working with Whedon. Last year, James Marsters (who gave a memorable performance in both shows as Spike) told the Inside of You Podcast with Michael Rosenbaum that Whedon backed him up against a wall and yelled at him in an aggressive manner, annoyed that Spike’s popularity was at odds with his vision for the show.

Buffy is a phenomenon unlike anything else, made popular by far more than the vision of a single man who many have now claimed works in an aggressive, controlling and emotionally abusive manner. The actors who brought their characters to life in such memorable ways, and all the crew working behind the scenes who had little to nothing to do with Whedon himself, play just as much of a role in making the show what it is. Buffy still deserves to be recognised as a pioneering piece of genre television that pushed new boundaries in narratives and representation, but the fact that so many of the female stars felt unsafe while making the show leaves a sour taste in the mouths of it’s sizeable fanbase.

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