Sarah Michelle Gellar had to unlearn what she believed to be the norm in Hollywood.
The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum recalled having it “ingrained” in her that all sets were “extremely toxic” early in her career. While Gellar did not name “Buffy” or its controversial showrunner Joss Whedon, Gellar described the misogynistic and manipulative behavior she endured on an unnamed, long-running project.
“For so long, I was on a set that I think was known for being an extremely toxic male set,” Gellar said during TheWrap’s Power of Women Summit panel for Power of Storytelling: Producers Roundtable. “And so that was ingrained in my head that that was what all sets were like, and that women were pitted against each other — that if women became friends, then we became too powerful, so you had to keep that down.”
Gellar continued, “Now that I’ve had this opportunity to work with so many more women and men that support women as well, I realized how easy an experience it can be, but…unfortunately we’re still in that place where all of those departments a lot of times need to be women for us to have a voice.”
“Buffy” aired from 1997 to 2003. Whedon was accused of being abusive on set, with Gellar’s fellow “Buffy” star Charisma Carpenter claiming that Whedon’s “disturbing” behavior left her with “performance anxiety” and alienated her from her co-stars. Carpenter described Whedon as having “often played favorites, pitting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval.”
Gellar similarly took to social media in 2021, writing, “While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon…I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”
“Buffy” costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom addressed the numerous allegations against Whedon in Evan Ross Katz’s “Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How ‘Buffy’ Staked Our Hearts” history of the show.
“Joss always talked to me about how the show was about a young girl becoming an empowered woman and how — and this is what really gets me — how he didn’t want to see the pretty blonde victimized, how he wanted to see her as the hero of the story,” Bergstrom said. “And now in light of everything that’s come out, I’m just thinking, then why the fuck did you victimize everybody? Why did you traumatize? What is wrong with you?”