Whedonesque Shutters in the Wake of Kai Cole’s Essay on Her Marriage to Joss Whedon

Whedonesque.com, the fan community centered around creator Joss Whedon’s works, has just shut down. The announcement comes after his ex-wife Kai Cole penned an essay about their marriage.

Caroline van Oosten de Boer launched Whedonesque in 2002 as a collaborative blog to report and write on all things Whedon. Though Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air in 2003 and its spinoff Angel ended in 2004, the fan site has continued on and remained high in popularity. Whedon himself even posted there occasionally, even famously announcing his departure from the old Wonder Woman film project he was working on in 2007.

While his works have been the subject of a significant amount of fan appreciation, they’ve also come under serious critique over the years, especially as they regard to feminism. But Kai Cole’s essay, published by The Wrap over the weekend, has put a new spotlight on his personal actions (I recommend reading it in full). Cole, married to Whedon for 16 years, not only describes the creator’s infidelity but affairs immersed in his television sets and fandom, and the cause serious emotional damage to her. She wrote:

He made me doubt my own instincts and watched me move further away from my personal values and social mores, trying to connect with him, never telling me it was impossible. By the time he finally confessed the truth, 15 years after his first affair on the set of Buffy, I was broken. My brain could not fit my experience of our life together, through the new lens of his deceit. My entire reality changed overnight, and I went from being a strong, confident woman, to a confused, frightened mess. I was eventually diagnosed with Complex PTSD and for the last five years, I have worked hard to make sense of everything that happened and find my balance again. It has not been easy, because even though in my personal life I have been completely open about what happened, publicly people only know his superficial presentation of us: him as the lovable geek-feminist and me in the background, as his wife and supporter.

It is that part in particular which makes no question about Whedonesque’s decision. Simon of Whedonesque posted in full:

So farewell then. 15 years is a long time and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. But now it’s time to say goodbye. No more threads after this one, we’re closing down. The site will at some stage become a read only site. So if you want to leave your contact details in this thread for other posters to get in touch that would be great otherwise email us at whedonesque@gmail.com.

The admins would like to thank the posters at this site. You made this site and we wouldn’t have lasted as long as we could without you. So thank you. And if you want to mark our passing, please find a charity or organisation that deals with the treatment of Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and leave a donation.

And a special thanks to Caroline who I had the privilege of meeting.

There was also a series of tweets:

As someone who’s been a Whedon fan since the original Buffy movie, and who made a significant moral decision as it pertains to fictional media before, I know this wasn’t an easy call for the folks at Whedonesque. Or maybe it was. Sometimes you have to take a stand based on your own experiences and observations. Many have discussed, and argued, over separating a work from its creator. Sometimes you can, but sometimes you can’t.

I’ve said it before but the “perfect feminist” doesn’t exist and holding people up on pedestals can be dangerous. Loving a piece of work doesn’t mean you excuse the actions of its creator and it can be hard to parse feelings for one without the other. It’s ok to be confused and it’s definitely ok to be angry. There will be a lot of fans trying to come to terms with this recent news, some who say it confirmed what they’ve suspected for years, but whatever you’re stance remember real people were hurt.

I’d like to end with Cole’s words here: “No matter what happens, or how people interpret this statement, I no longer have to carry the burden of Joss’ long-term deceit and confessions. I am free.”

3 Responses to “Whedonesque Shutters in the Wake of Kai Cole’s Essay on Her Marriage to Joss Whedon”

  1. Christopher Michael Moore says:

    He is human. He was married. Marriage is a relationship. Two people were involved. Did Joss do right? No. Did his wife? Probably not. It is all still none of our business. I wish them both the best.

  2. I’m kinda dying for Joss to elaborate on his response. The only thing I can think -if the letter is real and is a full confession, as obnoxious as she describes it- is that he wanted to say “nuh uh, Buffy was 100% J-dawg.”

    And, yeah, I am delighted by my own musing on the subject. And don’t care a fig about his infidelity. This sits squarely in the “not my business” realm of celeb gossip and is apples/oranges when compared to leaving the impression of an Iphone in someone’s face.

  3. WheelchairNinja says:

    Honestly, this reminds me of nothing so much as the stereotypical televangelist caught in an affair. It’s so sad.