Let's see what allegations the Cyborg actor in Justice League, Ray Fisher, moves to director Joss Whedon: between racism, sexism and other problematic behaviors.
Two weeks ago we wrote our impressions on the snyder cut of the film Justice League.
This Tuesday, however, in this post on ours Facebook page ., we talked about how the actor who plays John Walker in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (of which we have reviewed the episodes 01, 02 e 03!), Wyatt Russell, has received death threats on social media.
Well, we're not done talking about yet superhero movies and toxic behavior related to this world. However, this time the person accused of toxic behavior is not an anonymous fan on Instagram, but Joss Whedon.
And to accuse him is Ray Fisher, that is the actor who played Cyborg in Justice League.
So let's see what happened.
A look at the protagonists of the story
Who is Joss Wheedon?
Former director of television series Buffy the vampire slayer e Firefly, as well as two MCU films, The Avengers e The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon is a well-known name in the nerdy world. A name that, in the early XNUMXs, had been widely praised and worn as a symbol of a feminist director, capable of subverting gender stereotypes in his works.
It is a name that, in recent years, has instead suffered a considerable dose of critical, due precisely to a sexist representation of women in their cinematographic works.
What are the criticisms that Joss Whedon has already received for his works and his behaviors?
Among these criticisms, we mention here just four.
First of all, those addressed to him for writing Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) in Age of Ultron. In fact, in this film it is implied that Natasha feels like a monster because she has been sterilized, consequently reducing the human value of the character to her ability to bear children. We talk about it better in this article.
Secondly, there are the criticisms for his film script of a movie about Wonder Woman, written in 2006 and leaked on the internet in 2017, after the theatrical release of Wonder Woman by Patty Jenkins. In this script, in fact, Diana is constantly belittled and insulted by Steve Trevor. You can read some excerpts and the reactions of some fans in this article.
Also, after the release of Justice League, Whedon was widely criticized for freely sexualizing the character of Wonder Woman. In fact, Whedon shot several scenes in which he clearly framed Diana's butt, as well as the sad scene where Flash falls on Wonder Woman's breasts. The objectification of Wonder Woman in Whedon's version is made even more evident by the depiction of the character in the Snyder Cut, as noted Thu.
Finally, in February 2021, the actress Charisma carpenter, who starred in Buffy, accused Whedon's abuse of power and firing her after the actress got pregnant. Furthermore, during the pregnancy, Whedon allegedly implied that Carpenter wanted to boycott the show, tried to persuade her to have an abortion and mocked the actress calling her "fat".
Ray Fisher: career and first accusations against Whedon
Ray Fisher trained primarily as a stage actor, before making his big screen debut in a cameo of Cyborg in Batman v superman. Therefore, Cyborg's role in the Justice League directed first by Zack Snyder and then by Joss Whedon it was Fisher's first major film role.
Subsequently, the actor turned to other starring roles in television series, such as T e Women of the Movement.
Ray Fisher made several allegations against Joss Whedon after the release of Justice League.
In fact, the first allegation was made in a tweet by June 2020. Here, Fisher accused Whedon to have had abusive, unprofessional and totally unacceptable behavior on the set, towards the actors / actresses and staff. Additionally, he also claimed to retract the praise he gave Whedon during 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, in which he called the director a good person.
Fisher's allegations have been supported from his colleague Jason Momoa, who played Aquaman. Momoa has in fact posted a message on Instagram supporting Fisher, after Warner Bros. has, according to the actor, tried to downplay the allegations and distract the public.
Subsequently, Warner Bros. began an internal investigation, which ended in December 2020. The company has not gone into details, but has established itself that measures have been taken, and that other measures will be taken in the future. However, it appears that the company has mainly tried to protect its executives and the conclusions obtained do not seem to convince Fisher very much.
In February 2021, Charisma Carpenter revealed Whedon's abuse to support Fisher. In fact, Carpenter said he participated in the Warner Bros. investigation.
How Joss Whedon treated Ray Fisher: here are the allegations
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter (THR) of April 6 2021, Ray Fisher went into more detail regarding Whedon's toxic behaviors. First, Fisher explained how the director behaved unfairly towards him.
Let's see what he said better.
How do we represent a black character? Without ever accepting the suggestions of the only black actor in the cast
The first thing that catches the eye is the difference in sensitivity for the way in which it represents itself Cyborg, the first black superhero of DC movies. In fact, Fisher says that Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio discussed the character of Cyborg with him at length, also because Cyborg would have been the heart of the film.
Conversely, Whedon cut much of Cyborg's backstory and did not want to hear Fisher's remarks on how to respectfully represent a black character. Ray Fisher, in fact, states that Whedon would have said to him, regarding these observations: "I seem to be taking notes, and I do not take notes from anyone, not even from Robert Downey Jr.".
A representation of Cyborg that avoided stereotypes, running into other stereotypes
Conversely, Whedon and other members of the Warner Bros. executive felt entitled to modify Fisher's performance to avoid what they believed to be racist stereotypes. In that sense, it was problematic for Whedon that Cyborg only smiled twice in the film. In fact, this could have been read as wanting to make Cyborg the stereotypical "angry black man" (angry black man).
In addition, the co-chairman Geoff Johns asked Fisher not to represent Cyborg as a modern Frankenstein, but as a Quasimodo. The moves Johns asked for, mimicking them, seemed to Fisher to be very servile. In this sense, Fisher did not want to portray Cyborg as a jovial and servile person, that is, as another stereotype of black people.
According to Fisher, Johns "assumed how black people would react [to Cyborg], instead of asking only the black cast for advice".
The "booyah!" that would have saved Justice League
This conflict over the characterization of Cyborg ended with the inclusion of "Booyah!", the typical exclamation of the character in the animated series Teen Titans, but not featured in Snyder's script. Ray Fisher doesn't think the "booyah!" in itself was a problem. The problem arose from the fact that no other character of Justice League had one catch phrase, that is a personal motto. Therefore, give one catch phrase to the black character of the cast alone it would have sounded inappropriate.
Fisher said he raised his objections and that the matter appeared to have been buried. However, Fisher subsequently had an argument with another DC Films co-chairman, Jon Berg. Here, Berg put considerable pressure on Fisher to insert the "booyah!", Going so far as to insinuate that if Cyborg had not said his catch phrase, Berg could have lost his job.
Fisher then replied that he was skeptical that the fate of the film was placed in the "booyah!". However, he agreed to film the catch phrase, albeit in a situation in which Whedon also made him weigh his objections.
The veiled threats to Ray Fisher's career
Prior to the "booyah!" Events, Fisher's agent called the studio head, Toby Emmerich, because he found the weather on set worrying.
After the end of filming on Justice League, Fisher found himself having an unpleasant conversation with Geoff Johns. The latter, in fact, had not been happy with the call to Emmerich. So, after telling Fisher "I thought we were friends," Johns would claim to not wanting Fisher to get a bad name in the industry. Fisher interpreted this phrase as a veiled threat.
How Joss Whedon treated Gal Gadot
In general, according to The Hollywood Reporter's article, Joss Whedon had conflicts with much of the cast, including Jeremy Irons, Alfred's interpreter.
In particular, it appears that Whedon has had toxic and unfair behavior towards Gal Gadot, the interpreter of Wonder Woman.
In fact, Gadot has repeatedly stated with the producers of Justice League that she is concerned about Whedon's characterization of her character. In fact, according to the actress, Diana had been made too aggressive and therefore inconsistent with her portrayal in Patty Jenkins' film.
Also, it would appear that Whedon threatened to ruin the actress's career if she didn't recite the lines she didn't like. According to an inside source, Whedon allegedly told Gadot of "shut up and recite the lines, and that could have made her look incredibly stupid in the movie. "
For his part, Gal Gadot claimed to have had problems with Whedon, but did not provide any other details. On the other hand, he claimed to have dealt with the matter quickly.
In that sense, another THR internal source claims that Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins have fought hard to get a good characterization of the Wonder Woman character. Indeed, according to this source, they would have brought the question to the desk of the then president of Warner Bors., Kevin Tsujihara.
Ray Fisher's concerns about the Warner Bros. investigation
Warner Bros. 'decision to conduct an internal investigation was not enough for Ray Fisher.
In fact, still in the interview with THR, Fisher says that the investigation repeatedly seemed to him a lot nebula. His impression is that it was mostly a performative and facade act.
In fact, speaking with the new president of DC Films, Walter Hamada, Fisher said Hamada confirmed that Whedon was "a hard asshole" to work with, but that he also protected Geoff Johns.
With the dialogue with Hamada as a precedent, therefore, Fisher was skeptical about theinvestigation. In this sense, the actor claims that the first person in charge of the investigation had avoided answering several of his questions. In addition, the investigator had named a Warner Bros. attorney as the investigating attorney who, in reality, had nothing to do with the case, but was the only black attorney visible on the company's website.
A murky communication from Warner Bros.
Furthermore, it appears that the public communication of Warner Bros. on the case has not always been the most transparent.
First, in fact, both Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa had the distinct impression that Warner Bros. ran unscheduled announcements about new products every time Fisher tweeted about the affair. According to Fisher and Momoa, this was likely an attempt by the company to divert attention from Fisher's complaints.
Second, Warner Bros. also claimed Fisher refused to cooperate with the internal investigation. Following Fisher's reply, which claimed these allegations were false, the company's communications director, Christy Haubegger he claimed that the communications team was wrong and used "third-hand information". Furthermore, according to Haubegger, the communications team was genuinely convinced of what they had written and, therefore, did not need to apologize to Fisher for spreading false information.
The possible consequences of Ray Fisher's complaint
While it is not possible to know exactly what happened in Warner Bros., there are some events that may be related to Ray Fisher's complaint.
First of all, Joss Whedon will no longer collaborate with Warner Bros. In fact, Whedon was supposed to direct a Batgirl movie and a television series, The Nevers.
However, in 2018 the director announced that he was leaving the Batgirl project, as he didn't have a real story to tell. Furthermore, in November 2020, a few months after Fisher's complaint and the announcement of the internal investigation at Warner Bros., Whedon also left the project. The Nevers. The director's official motivation was the struggle to manage a similar series during the pandemic.
Nonetheless, it seems that there have also been negative consequences for Ray Fisher himself.
In fact, the actor was supposed to appear in the Flash movie as Cyborg, with a supporting role. In June 2020, however, Fisher found that his role had been reduced to a cameo and, consequently, his pay had also been greatly reduced from the initial deals. In December 2020, Warner Bros. eliminated the role of Cyborg entirely from the Flash movie.
However, Ray Fisher does not regret sharing his experience. In fact, precisely because he is still new to the world of cinema, he is not yet so tied to the industry that he is afraid of making such complaints. Fisher in fact states:
I don't think some of these people are suitable for a managerial role.
I don't want to see them excommunicated from Hollywood, but I also don't think they should be in a position to decide who to hire and who to fire.
If I can't take responsibility [from them], at least I can let people know who they're dealing with.
Some concluding thoughts on the affair
Let's start by saying that this story is still unclear and that it is difficult to get a precise idea of the intentions of the people involved.
That said, Whedon's behavior described by Ray Fisher is quite in line with what has already been heard about the director from other sources.
The idea that an established director no longer needs to "take notes" on topics like racism or sexism is born of the idea that, at some point, people would reach the pinnacle of inclusiveness and from there they would not they would have nothing more to learn. We know that this is not the case and that there is always something new to learn about how not to be, for example, a racist.
And one of the most effective ways to learn is to have the humility of listen to people who are personally affected by problems with racism like, in this case, a black man. We had already talked about the question also regarding the Tascinigate.
In that sense, I also find it absurd that Warner Bros. has never heard of asking for feedback specifically from minority people.
If in the world of literature there is the figure of sensitivity reader, that is, of those who give specific feedback on the stereotypical treatment of minorities in stories, then I do not understand why Warner Bros. cannot take on a series of similar figures. It would certainly be more accurate than leaving these judgments to the "sensitivity" of white, straight, cisgender and wealthy men like Whedon.