So that happened... Whedon's “history of creating toxic and hostile work environments”

A hollywood director or producer is a abusive jerk? This is news? To who?

Do people have no knowledge of cinematic history? Stories about John Ford and Stanley Kubrick will make your toes curl.

I’ve ran into abusive directors working as a audio tech in regional theatre. Being a nitpicking asshole is not unusual. Directors have hundreds of small details to manage. Some like Ron Howard are reported to be patient and encouraging. Some are short tempered and volatile.

A little information about Kubrick. Making the The Shining and 2001 A Space Odyssey wasn’t easy. Actors worked with him because he was a brilliant director and visionary. Sometimes that meant getting your butt chewed out. Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall 's greatest work is in The Shining.

This whole discussion about genre fiction being for children (or not) is an inappropriate hijack in this thread, but I thought it was an interesting discussion, so I made a separate thread about it:

The fact that a director or producer is an abusive jerk? It’s not news, to anybody. The allegations that this specific director/producer is an abusive jerk? That’s news to a lot of genre fans who love his work. It might be a surprise to some people, due to Whedon’s self-crafted image as a feminist, a “woke” creator before “woke” was a thing, but I doubt most of us are surprised. Just disappointed and saddened.

Even for stuff as small as local commercials. I used to do catering, and one of my oft times gigs was at a local AV studio.

I wasn’t involved in anything but setting up the craft services table, but some of the conversations that I overheard between production staff and talent made me more than a bit uncomfortable. Nothing sexual, but definitely abrasive.

I understand it’s a different situation in tv. Shelly Duvall and Nicholson worked with Kubrick for less than a year. The Actors in Buffy and Angel worked with Whedon for over 7 years.

I can put up with a volatile boss short term. Seven years of butt chewing would be a lot.

John Wayne made a lot of films with Ford. I’ve read Ford was always pushing and prodding Wayne to deliver a better performance.

It’s not just that. Whedon always came across as a nice guy in the good sense of the term, not to mention a cool, laid-back dude - an image he probably nurtured intentionally. Worse, his works are always about friendship and creating impromptu alternative families. Learning that someone like Kubrick or Hitchcock were jerks isn’t that surprising, in retrospect, but with Whedon there’s a huge amount of cognitive dissonance between creation and creator.


I’ve encountered more than one case where somebody is making a similar argument about how people are going too far. But if you follow their argument to the point where they discuss the details of specific examples, you often find those examples to be instances of genuine sexual harassment.

If all I knew about the situation of Aziz Ansari and Grace was that they had gone on a date and Grace later accused Ansari of sexual harassment, I would withhold judgement. I wouldn’t join the side that says we should assume any man who is accused of sexual harassment is guilty or the side that says we should assume that any man who is accused of sexual harassment is being falsely accused. But I feel confident in casting my personal judgement in this situation because I’ve had the opportunity to hear what both parties - Grace and Ansari - have to say about the incident.

I agree with that. But it’s also probably true that a lot of the time, Whedon is a genuinely cool, laid back dude, and a nice guy. But a lot of the time, he may also be a raging asshole. And it’s quite possibly also true that with some actors and crew, he’s a cool, laid back dude, and with some he’s a raging asshole. People are complicated.

The problem is a lot of abusive people (in the entertainment industry as well as plenty of others) see being abusive as part of what makes them good at their job. They adopt the mentality that “I’ve got to be an abusive asshole because that’s what it takes to get the job done.” And with that mentality, they see abusiveness as a necessity or even a virtue.

This is not true. In all of these businesses, you will find counter-examples; people who are doing a good job without being abusive to their colleagues. (You used Ron Howard as an example from film directors.)

So a person may be a highly qualified manager and an abusive asshole. But he’s not a highly qualified manager because he’s an abusive asshole. And when we recognize that we can tell people to separate the two aspects of their personality. We can tell people we want them to continue doing the great job they are capable of. But that we expect them to stop doing in a manner that includes abusing the people around them.

Whedon apparently respected Charisma Carpenter’s work. She had a supporting role in Buffy. A regular member of the Scooby gang. Buffy had a large cast of actors. The focus on characters rotated from week to week.

Charisma had a full costarring role on Angel. Apparently the years of friction with Joss led to her leaving in season 5. She was on Buffy three years and four on Angel. I can see how micromanaging someone for that long could ruin a working relationship. It’s sad that Charisma has such negative memories of working on those shows.

You make a very good point Little Nemo. I think it starts with inexperience. Someone is given responsibility and they get results by raising their voice. It escalates over time and they think that’s the only way to get things done.

People can change. They have to make an effort to manage projects in a more cooperative environment. Delegate responsibility.

I feel another big problem is institutional mentality. People who are in charge of businesses will promote people like themselves. So if the people at the top are abusive and see that as a necessary quality for success, they will promote other abusive people who will in turn become the new leadership.

I feel that motivation for change shouldn’t just come from within. Society as a whole - which is all of us as individuals - need to start holding people accountable for their bad behavior and telling them we expect better from them.

So when we hold somebody like Joss Whedon or Gina Carano responsible for their actions and impose consequences upon them, we are motivating them to be better people. And we are motivating other people who might have otherwise followed their example to change their behavior.

The question is, is he an “unforgivable”?

From what I’ve read, he’s lost his temper sometimes, and he has treated a few people poorly who he felt had “failed” him. I’m not sure what is up with the Trachtenberg allegation. He also cheated on his wife.

Could he have done better? Of course. Should he do better? Yes, absolutely. Do I have to go burn my Firefly and Dr. Horrible DVD’s? I don’t think so.

To me, it sounds like the failings of a human being in a stressful high stakes situation, not someone who is at their core abusive or exploitative.

I certainly would like to know that he has apologized to those he has hurt, and that he has worked on himself to avoid repeating these mistakes, but unless more comes out that indicates that it was more than what has so far been reported, I don’t see any need to write him off, or his work.

I don’t feel we’ve reached the point of writing him off.

But we need to adjust our expectations to the new reality and Whedon has to be a part of this readjustment. If he wants public redemption, he’s going to have to acknowledge his past faults - including a history to hiding behind a fake public persona - and work on fixing those faults.

I can’t find the citation, but something like that was said about Apple: that Steve Jobs was a brilliant asshole, and that some of the managers working for him managed to copy and imitate the ‘asshole’ part of his character, without replicating the ‘brilliant’ part.

The thinking is that if you are enough of a tyrant, underlings will be intimidated into giving the kind of results that make you look good (and implicitly, that people only perform if forced to).

What’s the intent of this post? Did anyone express surprise that “a [H]ollywood director or producer is a[n] abusive jerk”?

That’s not the news. The news is that

(1) “This one particular person, whose work I and many other people have admired and enjoyed, is abusive,”
(2) “This one particular person, who formerly had a reputation for being a decent person, is abusive,”
(3) “This one particular person, who has been revealed to have been abusive, is being called to account by his former employees, co-workers, and bosses,” and
(4) “People are calling for this person’s bosses to be held to account for enabling his abuse.”

These are all topics that are interesting and worth talking about. And the fact that Hollywood has been known for abusive behavior makes stories like this more relevant, not less. It means that (some) people are trying to effect change.

And folks have been talking more about the behavior of famous people in the past, like Hitchcock and Kubrick. Talking about it is a good thing. It’s the first step to making it less tolerated.

I recall on these boards a conversation about Christian Bale in which someone here with showbiz experience talked about how abusive behavior affects co-workers.

Sorta serious question - assuming JW was a pretty horrible jerk towards some actors, to what extent is his work suspect? Am I supposed to not like BTVS and Angel as much as I long have? Is Firefly tainted?

Why should you punish yourself for someone else’s actions?

What you are saying in this point strikes a chord, but I don’t want this to devolve into a hijack (and I’m not begging for the lightning to strike from on high). Some entertainers (intentionally nameless ) that I’ve dealt with are very nice, but some have been real jerks. That’s life. But, it always felt like a portion of them were not jerks from the git-go in life, but were ( trained? ) to be jerks?

A few of those I interacted with that acted as jerks, it seemed like (to them?) being a jerk to someone non-famous was an expected part of their job. It seemed like “learned behavior”, like people who, as kids, had to attend some mandatory class for their profession.

"Now in order to be taken seriously, to be seen as the best in your field, to retain your box office value, you Must Be A Jerk to all of your lessers. A lesser is anyone who ever says the word autograph or tries to get you to speak about product without approval from an agent or Marketing. Now, lets repeat our mantra:

’ I’m a Star. I’m Better than they are. My money and my box office proves I am better and that you are my lesser. I must degrade my lessers and be condescending of all of them to retain my value.’ Again…"