It wasn’t just travel plans, music festivals, and work-life balance that 2020 cancelled. So were Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

More specifically, it was J.K. Rowling, Joss Whedon, and Ellen DeGeneres who were some of the celebrities who faced a public reckoning last year and did not pass the vibe test.

Way before the pandemic, the world had begun seeking accountability for bad behaviour. The #MeToo movement has been instrumental in exposing the deplorable deeds of Harvey Weinstein. And in 2020, the public has rallied to remove the cultural cache of Woody Allen and R. Kelly whose alleged predatory behaviour towards women, especially minors, cannot be reasoned away anymore.

Social media has dismantled the power structures of celebrity by displacing the PR middlemen. Communication is now a four-way crossroad junction and traffic is heavy. Despite a person’s best PR projection, their authentic self will come through sooner or later.

So what happens when you discover that your childhood hero has been cancelled?

With a single tweet, Ray Fischer enlightened the world about Joss Whedon’s “gross, abusive” behaviour. His 33 words created a domino effect as past collaborators of the Justice League director shared similar experiences of gross misconduct.

Especially chilling is an Instagram post from Michelle Trachtenberg who confessed that as a teenager on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a rule was instated where Whedon was never allowed to be alone in a room with her. The continued silence from this man, often touted as “one of the good guys”, and who has crafted some of pop culture’s iconic feminist characters is deafening.

On that same platform, we watched in growing horror as J.K. Rowling confirmed and doubled down on her anti-trans women beliefs. Whispers of her transphobia started as early as 2017, when she liked an anti-trans propaganda tweet.

When she did the same thing a year later, her representatives shrugged it off as a mere “middle-aged moment”. No one wanted to believe that the author who had influenced generations of kids to grow into progressives and had positioned herself as an LGBTQ+ ally was not walking the talk.

If knowledge is power, it is also hurt and horror when we learn the people who made us are toxic and do not espouse the values we internalise.

Image: Collider


I learned how to be a feminist from Buffy Summers at the age of 11. Or rather it was Joss Whedon purporting to be a feminist that led me down the rabbit hole. It was simple prepubescent logic at work.

Since I love his strong female character who upended roles by being ladylike yet awesome at butt-kicking, I should love being a feminist too. However, knowing about the abuse and terror Whedon fostered on set has marred the association. Can one ever separate the art from the artist?

Harry Potter stars including Emma Watson and Evanna Lynch have spoken out against Rowling for her hurtful comments. It was Daniel Radcliffe who shared what is the most insightful way to move forward.

“If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life – then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred,” he wrote in a poignant essay for The Trevor Project, an organisation who supports marginalised LGBTQ+ teens. 


There is the creator, their creation, and your core experience.

Whedon and Buffy may have planted the seeds of my feminism but it’s writers like Roxane Gay and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who have introduced intersectionality and greater nuance to my understanding. Likewise, Rowling through Harry and his exploits may have shown us what it means to be brave but the practice of being honest and standing against adversity is the true act of courage.

Learning about the flawed people who made our heroes should not cancel the joy of discovering them. It’s more important what we took from them rather than what they tried to impart on us.

I do not plan to support Joss Whedon and J.K. Rowling’s future projects. The act of my consumption will line their pockets and condone their existence which displays no regret or will to improve. But I also do not plan to toss my Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs or Harry Potter books because I know I will indulge in them down the line.

Here’s to our childhood icons living larger than the people who made them.