Stars of the iconic 90s TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer have today spoken out against the show's creator director Joss Whedon, accusing him of fostering a "toxic environment" during the show's seven seasons on air.
Actress Charisma Carpenter, who starred in both first three seasons of Buffy and another four seasons of the spin-off series Angel, was the first from the franchise to come forward, issuing a detailed statement on social media today.
"For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatised me to this day," she began.
"Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. 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."
Carpenter accused the director of berating her when she got a tattoo, of accusing her of getting "fat" when she became pregnant, and threatening to fire her several times.
She claimed that Whedon "manipulatively weaponised my womanhood and faith against me. He proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show, and then unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth.
"Back then, I felt powerless and alone. With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on. After all, I had a baby on the way, and I was the primary breadwinner of my growing family. Unfortunately, all this was happening during one of the most wonderful time in new motherhood. All that promise and joy sucked right out. And Joss was the vampire."
Carpenter's statement was retweeted by fellow Buffy actor Amber Benson, who had the recurring role of Tara for three seasons of the show.
"Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top. Charisma is speaking truth and I support her 100 per cent. There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it twenty plus years later," she wrote, adding the hashtag "#IStandWithCharismaCarpenter."
And Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, then voiced her support for her co-stars while slamming Whedon.
"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," she wrote on Instagram.
She said that as she is more focused on "raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently … I will not be making any further statement at this time. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out."
Both Carpenter and Benson included the hashtag #IStandWithRayFisher with their statements, in reference to the Justice League actor who last year spoke out against Whedon for his behaviour while directing the film.
Fisher accused the director of "gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable" behaviour on the set of the 2017 movie. Co-stars including Jason Momoa spoke out in his defence. "Serious stuff went down. It needs to be investigated and people need to be held accountable," he wrote.
A few weeks after those posts, during a fan convention online panel, Fisher went further: "Obviously I put out some pretty strong words and some strong comments about Joss Whedon, and every single one of those words, every single one of those comments, is true.
"It's taken me two and a half years to get all the information I need to be able to build something that's strong enough so people can't dismiss it."
Fisher's Justice League co-star, Jason Momoa, voiced his support on Instagram at the time and backed up the claims of poor treatment, with capital letters and a few swear words thrown in for good measure.
Whedon is yet to publicly respond to today's allegations.
Whedon's ex-wife, architect Kai Cole, accused the director of "multiple affairs" over their 15-year marriage in a piece written in 2017. According to Cole, the first of these supposed dalliances was on the set of Buffy.
"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," Cole wrote.
"He deceived me for 15 years so he could have everything he wanted. I believed, everyone believed, that he was one of the good guys, committed to fighting for women's rights, committed to our marriage, and to the women he worked with.
"But I now see how he used his relationship with me as a shield, both during and after our marriage, so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinise his writing as anything other than feminist."