Joss Whedon forgot the first rule of the ‘damage control’ interview – just shut up

He shared some regrets around how he spoke to Carpenter after learning she was pregnant. “I was not mannerly,” he said. But he refuted her claims. “Most of my experiences with Charisma were delightful and charming. She struggled sometimes with her lines, but nobody could hit a punch line harder than her.” When the interviewer asked if he had called her fat when she was pregnant, he replied: “I did not call her fat. Of course I didn’t.”

When confronted with Fisher’s accusations of racism, Shapiro writes “Whedon insists he spent hours discussing the changes with Fisher and that their conversations were friendly and respectful.”

As one of his collaborators acknowledges, Whedon is a complex and contradictory figure, a strange mixture of English public schoolboy and American pop culture vulture. “His tone is deflecting, it’s funny, it’s got wordplay, rhyme, quote marks, some mumbles, self-deprecation, a comic-book allusion, a Sondheim allusion, and some words they only use in England. This means you, the recipient, have to do some decoding.”

On other occasions, however, no indulgence can be levelled towards him. One of the most damning sections of the interview comes when Whedon is asked about his much-publicised affairs with various colleagues on the Buffy set, and he replies that, while he feels “f______ terrible” about them, Shapiro notes that “he quickly added that he had felt he ‘had’ to sleep with them, that he was ‘powerless’ to resist… I’m not actually joking,” he said. He had been surrounded by beautiful young women — the sort of women who had ignored him when he was younger — and he feared if he didn’t have sex with them, he would “always regret it.” This is backed up with interviews with much younger women who feel exploited and used by him in various short-lived relationships. Whedon’s response was to quote Richard III, who he explicitly compared himself to, specifically the lines:

“Alas, I rather hate myself

For hateful deeds committed by myself.

I am a villain. Yet I lie. I am not.”

Like Shakespeare’s hunchbacked monarch, the writer-director remains a vindictive figure. Whedon is unable to let old scores from the Justice League set go; he refers to his nemesis Fisher as “a malevolent force… a bad actor in both senses” and, when asked about Gal Gadot’s claims that he had threatened her with ending her career, responded: “I don’t threaten people. Who does that?…English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.” 

It was probably not an excellent idea to hint that much of the discord thrown up by the Justice League fiasco was sown by obsessive Snyder super-fans, any more than it was wise for Whedon to conclude, reflecting on the upset and controversy, that people had been using “every weaponizable word of the modern era to make it seem like I was an abusive monster.” Instead, he told Shapiro: “I think I’m one of the nicer showrunners that’s ever been.”

The reaction to the interview has been predictable. On Twitter Fisher quipped “looks like Joss Whedon got to direct an endgame after all”, and social media commentary has universally acknowledged that Whedon’s latent and allegedly racism, sexism and gaslighting behaviour – as displayed in the interview – have ended any prospect he might have had of resurrecting his career. By now, he must be bitterly regretting giving the interview. But if he had talked to some of his fallen peers, he might have acted differently. 

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