Much like what fans of "Harry Potter" are dealing with when it comes to franchise creator J.K. Rowling, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans have their own moral "fork in the road" to face with Joss Whedon. Back in February 2021, BtVS & Angel star Charisma Carpenter went public with accusations against Whedon that involved years of unprofessional and abusive behavior. Carpenter's posts would bring a number of others who had worked with Whedon in the past to offer Carpenter their support and/or share their own allegations against him, 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.
In the midst of the accusations, HBO would end up parting ways with Whedon on his sci-fi & adventure series The Nevers (with Little Ashes' Philippa Goslett aboard as the new showrunner). But since that time? On the Whedon front, not surprisingly things have been very, very quiet. But "Buffy" fans were left 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 across the globe. And just to be clear? There is no "right" or "wrong" answer in this equation. This is a personal choice. I've always believed that once an artist puts their art out into the world, they lose their "ownership" of it (not legally, of course) as every person who experiences it has a kind of stake in it now. With Buffy as well as with Angel, I see 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. And based on how well the books, comic books, Funko POP! figures, and convention appearances (as well as 90% of the articles we post on the shows) have done over the years, there are clearly a ton of Buffy fans who share our view.
But books, comic books, Funko POP! figures, audio dramas, puppet shows, or even an adult animated series aren't quite the same as a return to our television/streaming lives. We already know that 20th Century Fox Television is developing a reboot with Monica Owusu-Breen (Midnight, Texas; Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) serving as showrunner and co-writing the script with executive producer Whedon. But that was 2018. Four years later, things have gone stone-cold quiet and it's pretty safe to say that the Whedon "stink" is probably one of the biggest reasons why. But should Buffy's days on our screens be over for good? No, the series and its messages were too influential & impactful on numerous levels to not have the chance to inspire new generations.
But if you are going to bring the series back, a couple of things to consider. First, Whedon has 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. His status has to be so "Witness Protection" that viewers will have to run through the end credits to win bets on whether or not Whedon is involved. From there, you have to do the complete opposite with as many members of the original cast as possible. You need them on board & supporting the project. That's essential because it sends the message that Buffy Summers will always matter more than Joss Whedon and that what she stands for means more than the reported vileness of one individual.
From there? Well, that's when we start swimming in the creative deep end of the pool. Should the series be a clean reboot in a "Buffy" universe of its own making? Should the series be a spinoff sequel to the original series, with the focus shifting to new slayers? The advantage of the former is that you get to essentially rewrite a new universe that can counter Whedon's series, but you need to walk a very fine line so as not to insult the original fanbase and leave them feeling like their beloved series is being disrespected. The advantage of the latter is that you can show just how unimportant Whedon is in the show's "bigger picture" future by moving on with Buffy and the Scooby Gang's lives without him. And with the way the original series ended, an entire world of slayers has opened up. Which is a nice way of saying that you have a big creative sandbox to play in for a "Buffyverse" of diverse titles. You can focus on an entirely new cast while still including the occasional guest appearance. And yes, you can bring back Marsters and David Boreanaz's respective Spike and Angel characters even if they're looking older. But let me just say that my "a returned soul would have some serious side effects upon a vampire" idea will take care of that when I roll it out in another post that's coming soon (cheap plug).
So what about Whedon? Hmmm… that's an interesting one. There's a part of me that hopes he stays exactly where he is- and that's off the pop culture grid entirely. The only faint memory of him that should be out there should be those instances where he's legally required to be listed as an executive producer. But I can't shake this feeling that we're going to be hearing from him publically sooner rather than later. But what will his approach be? Will he be in "mea culpa" mode in an attempt to repair his image and work his way back into mainstream Hollywood? It looks like it's working for Mel Gibson. And yet, I can't see that happening. Or does he go with a more "going on the offense" mode, where he looks to challenge the allegations? I'm placing my chips on that one. Because it all depends on his ability to honestly self-reflect and yet my gut feeling tells me that instead, we have an inflated ego that's convincing its owner that he's the real "victim" in all of this.
Hopefully, sooner rather than later, Whedon's problems will be a topic that can be addressed without having to associate him with Buffy. That the series will have achieved greater heights in spite of Whedon and not because of him. Because the world feels a little bit safer and the nights seem a bit less scary with Buffy Summers in it.