Remember when everyone used to love Joss Whedon? Buffy The Vampire Slayer is still considered a beloved television show among a majority those who were teenagers in the 90s and Firefly is arguably the best example of a brilliant TV series that was cancelled too soon. Whedon also wrote and directed an excellent Avengers movie, but then he followed that up and wrote probably the worst Avengers movie.
It was all downhill from there.
The world soon learned that Joss, the outspoken male feminist, was cheating on his wife. Then his Wonder Woman script leaked and everyone agreed that it was way worse than Age of Ultron. Then Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg, outlined how abusive he felt he was treated on the set of Justice League. The best thing he did was screw up Justice League so badly that Warner released the long-demanded directors cut by Zack Snyder.
Now, according to an interview he just gave with Vulture, Whedon calls Justice League one of his biggest regrets.
From the start, things were tense between him and the stars. It wasn’t just that he wanted to impose a whole new vision on their work; he introduced an entirely different style of management. Snyder had given the actors exceptional license with the script, encouraging them to ad-lib dialogue. Whedon expected them to say their lines exactly as he’d written them. “That didn’t go down well at all,” one crew member told me. Some actors criticized his writing. By Whedon’s account, Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman, suggested that he, the director of the highest-grossing superhero movie at the time, didn’t understand how superhero movies worked. At one point, Whedon paused the shoot and, according to the crew member, announced that he had never worked with “a ruder group of people.” The actors fell silent. […] The actors, at least some of them, felt Whedon had been rude, too.
The interview goes on to detail how Whedon severely cut back how much Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was featured in the movie, an assertion which was backed up by how more screentime and focus the character received in the Snyder Cut.
Ray Fisher, a young Black actor, played Cyborg; it was his first major role. Snyder had centered the film on his character — the first Black superhero in a DC movie — and he’d treated Fisher as a writing partner, soliciting his opinions on the film’s representations of Black people. Whedon downsized Cyborg’s role, cutting scenes that, in Fisher’s view, challenged stereotypes. When Fisher raised his concerns about the revisions in a phone call, Whedon cut him off. “It feels like I’m taking notes right now,” Whedon told him, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “and I don’t like taking notes from anybody — not even Robert Downey Jr.”
Gadot didn’t care for Whedon’s style either. Last year, she told reporters Whedon “threatened” her and said he would make her “career miserable.” Whedon told me he did no such thing: “I don’t threaten people. Who does that?” He concluded she had misunderstood him. “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.” He recalled arguing over a scene she wanted to cut. He told her jokingly that if she wanted to get rid of it, she would have to tie him to a railroad track and do it over his dead body. “Then I was told that I had said something about her dead body and tying her to the railroad track,” he said. (Gadot did not agree with Whedon’s version of events. “I understood perfectly,” she told New York in an email.)
Whedon sounds very much like most male feminists I know.
As for Whedon’s claim that he doesn’t threaten people, an actress on Angel told me that hadn’t been true back when she knew him. After her agent pushed for her to get a raise, she claims Whedon called her at home and said she was “never going to work for him, or 20th Century Fox, again.” Reading Gadot’s quote, she thought, “Wow, he’s still using that line.” (Whedon denied this too.)
What are we to learn from all this? Whedon’s late defense didn’t exactly do him any favors or put him in a better light. He still seems willing to eviscerate anyone who ever went up against him. Maybe it’s time to admit we should never never trust a straight male feminist who loves to remind you that he’s a straight male feminist all the time.