Buffy: Joss Whedon Needs to Take a Deal, Take a Check & Take a Hike
It's funny how looking back over the past year reminds you of things you were meant to address but didn't. For example, we nearly forgot that it was only four months ago that we actually had an update to share on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot that was originally announced back in 2018, with Monica Owusu-Breen (Midnight, Texas; Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) serving as showrunner. That was when executive producer Gail Berman shared that it was still "on pause." And that's when we quickly remembered why it was on pause. So with this being the final day of 2022, let's discuss the last decent thing that Joss Whedon can do if he wants to salvage any crumbs of respect that he used to carry across the pop-culture landscape. Take a deal, take a check, and walk away from the "Buffy" franchise so that it can continue to inspire generations in the format that it was meant to… as a television series.
As far as "Buffy" & Angel star Charisma Carpenter going public in 2021 with accusations against Whedon involving years of unprofessional and abusive behavior, that alone was enough to raise serious red flags about Whedon. Carpenter didn't need others to speak up to make her claims more legitimate. But others did speak up, offering their support and, in some instances, sharing their own allegations against Whedon, including Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Summers), Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn Summers), Amber Benson (Tara Maclay), Emma Caulfield (Anya), Anthony Head (Rupert Giles), Eliza Dushku (Faith), James Marsters (Spike), J. August Richards (Charles Gunn) and more. When you add into the mix the claims made by a number of folks from both sides of the camera in Evan Ross Katz's Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts, it was easy to form the opinion that a number of folks had issues working on both shows and Whedon appears to be a very common factor in those issues. Whedon didn't exactly help his cause in "The Undoing of Joss Whedon" by Lila Shapiro for New York Magazine, which appeared to many to be Whedon attempting to "play the victim" instead of addressing the accusations leveled against him in a responsible manner. And that brings us to today… and to why Whedon needs to walk away if he truly gives a s**t about the vampire slayer he created.
Because right now, Whedon's forced "Buffy" fans to have to decide for themselves if they can separate the art from the artist enough to still embrace a series that was such an influence on them and millions more around the globe. I've always believed that once an artist puts their art out into the world, they lose their figurative ownership of it, as every person who experiences it has a kind of stake in it now. With BTVS and Angel, the actors, writers, producers, make-up team, costume professionals, stunt coordinators, and a whole lot of other production stakeholders as being just as responsible for the series that hit our screens as Whedon was. For what they put into making those modern television classics come to life and remain as vibrant as ever before, they've earned the right to benefit from the franchise's full growth potential.
Do I think there's a realistic chance of Whedon stepping away and never looking back? Normally, I would give it a 100% negative response, but post-pandemic? Everything gets a 1% chance moving forward. That said? I can't see Whedon willing to leave millions on the table in potential future earnings, especially when the last major interview he gave didn't exactly give readers the impression that he's accepting a lot of responsibility. But as long as Whedon's name is officially attached, I can't see a network or streamer willing to touch the idea of a new series with a ten-foot "Mister Pointy." Because you would need Whedon to be name-only on the project (because of his creator's rights), and that's it. No interviews. No convention nostalgia tours. No signings. No book deals. Nothing. And I can't imagine his ego handling that.
From there, you would need as many members of the original cast & creative team as possible on board and/or supporting the project. It would be key to send the message that Buffy Summers will always matter more than Whedon and that what she stands for & what she represents is a light that burns brighter than the darkness still overshadowing the series. What better way to prove to Whedon that Buffy, Angel & the "Scooby Gang" have lives beyond him than to bring the universe back under more caring leadership? Unfortunately, for that to happen? We would need Whedon to stop thinking he's still anyone's "master" and start thinking beyond himself.