For ‘Buffy’ Fans, Another Reckoning With the Show’s Creator

The Four Percent


The Whedon Studies Association, a society of academics devoted to studying the works of Joss Whedon, is debating whether to change its name. Fans who grew up with his signature show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and were planning to introduce it to their children are grappling with what to do.

Some said they are regretting tattoos inspired by “Buffy” and other shows Mr. Whedon created.

For years, fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which aired on the WB and UPN from 1997 to 2003, have had to reconcile their adoration for a show about a teenage girl who slays monsters with the criticism that often swirled around her creator.

Mr. Whedon’s early reputation as a feminist storyteller was tarnished after his ex-wife, the producer Kai Cole, accused him of cheating on her and lying about it. The actress Charisma Carpenter, a star of the “Buffy” spinoff “Angel,” hinted at a fan convention in 2009 that Mr. Whedon was not happy when she became pregnant.

In July, Ray Fisher, an actor who starred in Mr. Whedon’s 2017 film “Justice League,” accused him of “gross” and “abusive” treatment of the cast and crew. Mr. Whedon has disputed some of Mr. Fisher’s accusations, and said his ex-wife’s 2017 account included “inaccuracies” and “misrepresentations.”

A representative for Mr. Whedon declined to comment.

Through “Buffy,” Mr. Whedon sparked a universe that inspired scholarly articles and books, countless online groups that still dissect plotlines and characters more than 17 years after the final episode aired, and legions of fans who connected deeply with a teenage girl forced to fight unimaginable horrors.

“Many people came out and said that ‘Buffy’ saved their lives,” said Alyson Buckman, a professor at California State University, Sacramento, and member of the Whedon Studies Association, who surveyed fans of the show for an upcoming book. “It was incredibly meaningful for them. It taught them to stand up for themselves. It taught them that they could go on.”

She added: “Is that all ruined by one man?”

In March 1997, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” premiered on the WB, then a fledgling broadcast network, and was quickly praised as a smart and campy series about a teenage girl and her friends fighting the forces of evil.

The show was full of clever metaphors — Buffy lived in a California town that sits on a hellmouth, a place where vampires and monsters converge and a sly comparison to the pains of adolescence. Writers like Ms. Noxon and Jane Espenson developed rich plotlines and provided the actors with snappy dialogue that fascinated linguists. The characters struggled with evil boyfriends, their own sexuality and the death of a parent in ways that fans found cathartic.

“The show was really a lifeline for me at the time because I didn’t have community,” said Jen Malkowski, a film and media studies professor at Smith College, who identifies as queer and trans nonbinary and began watching the show in high school.

“I was working with my sexuality, coming to terms with coming out,” said Professor Malkowski, who uses they and them pronouns. “Buffy was a huge source of comfort for me.”


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