The three most well-known actresses who have played Wednesday Addams, Christina Ricci (left), Jenna Ortega (middle), and Lisa Loring (right) in front of the 1964 Addams Family home as Jenna Ortega is shooting lasers out of her eyes. The Addams Family is a media franchise spanning from 1938 to present. Image edited by Anabelle Jukkala.
Spoiler Warning: The following article contains potential spoilers for “Wednesday”
With the recent release of the new series, “Wednesday,” on Netflix, old and new fans of “The Addams Family” were jumping to see the new rendition of the iconic family. Directed by Tim Burton with actress Jenna Ortega playing protagonist Wednesday Addams, many viewers were intrigued by the new cast and production.
“The Addams Family” began in 1938 when cartoonist Charles Addams created a comic strip that appeared in “The New Yorker,” for over 50 years. The Addamses originally did not have names, nor a storyline, until 1964 when the sitcom series,“The Addams Family,” came out. The sitcom followed the family for over two seasons, with 64 episodes in total, reaching a $191 million dollar global revenue. While the series was popular during its time, The Addams Family franchise did not reach its prime until the 1991 movie “The Addams Family” was released. The 1991 release made most headway due to its impressive, new-age CGI technology, primarily used for the character “Thing” who is a solitary crawling hand, often aiding the family in their escapades.
The 1991 release revived the franchise entirely. Throughout the 90s and 2000s, numerous spin-off movies, shows, books, merchandise, and even a two-time Tony nominated Broadway musical were released, making the gloomy family a household staple. “[“The Addams Family” is] one of the best written shows I’ve been a part of,” says Franklin senior Henry Takiguchi, who played Pugsley Addams in Franklin’s 2019 showing of “The Addams Family Musical.”
The most successful spin-off to be released, “Wednesday,” aired on Netflix on Nov. 23, 2022. Within the first week of its release, “Wednesday” swiftly toppled the throne that season four of “Stranger Things” held in most hours viewed during debut week. According to Netflix, in the first three weeks of its release,“Wednesday” received over 1.02 billion viewing hours in 150 million households and has since remained the number one most popular show on Netflix for six weeks straight since its release.
“Wednesday” follows Wednesday Addams, daughter of Gomez and Morticia Addams, as she navigates the unfamiliar waters of a new school, Nevermore Academy, located in Jericho County. Nevermore is a boarding school for those with special abilities, commonly called “outcasts.” As Wednesday spends more time at Nevermore, she begins to learn more about the beginning of her parents’ relationship and all the baggage that comes with it.
From sirens; to wolves; and those with psychic visions, like Wednesday, the school serves as a safe haven for such students to meet others with similar identities. As Wednesday joins this new community with her somber and unwelcoming personality, she is met with the mystery of a monster who is attacking and killing people in the town. She discovers historical documents that show evidence of her past ancestors’ involvement intertwining with the recent attacks. The danger, mystery, and confusion involved encourage Wednesday to throw herself into the investigation, using her psychic visions as evidence and aid along the way, despite much pushback from her headmaster, Larissa Weems, and Jericho County Sheriff, Donovan Galpin.
“Wednesday” brings a new, refreshing take on “The Addams Family” compared to previous releases, while also paying proper homage to the original character development and storyline. The new version follows Wednesday Addams through her teenage years, including love triangles between “normie” Tyler Galpin, and Nevermore student Xavier Thorpe, friend fights and makeups with roommate Enid Sinclair, and academic rival Bianca Barclay. These characters are developed along with the iconic, closely-knit Addams family, including Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Thing, and Lurch. The duality of new and old invites new viewers to a more accessible Addams Family world, while also giving returning viewers the nostalgia and familiarity they desire.
As someone who was only somewhat familiar with the batty family prior to its release, “Wednesday” was a great introduction to “The Addams Family” as a whole. The show did a brilliant job at enticing the audience with the setting and storyline. Many teenagers can relate to the struggles Wednesday faces; from tough conversations with friends and family to the desire to rebel but also simply belong somewhere, “Wednesday” displays it all for us.
Despite its direct interpretation from a cinematic perspective, “Wednesday” also serves as a strong example of Latinx representation in media. With both Jenna Ortega and Luis Guzmán, playing Wednesday and Gomez Addams, they provide further representation for Mexican and Puerto Rican people across the globe. Ortega reflected pride in an interview with the food-centric Netflix series “Taste Buds,” saying, “I think it’s pretty special for me just because growing up, I didn’t really have a lot of representation on screen.” In the same interview Guzmán further commented on the importance of Latinx representation, commenting, “We are a big driving force in the entertainment industry…it’s more important than ever that we as artists get more exposure.”
While “The Addams Family” serves as a cinematic staple for many people, it further acts as a tool for societal change. No matter what release of “The Addams Family” you watch, there is a common theme of rejecting the status quo and living to the self-defined expectation of what makes you most happy, not others. The Addamses take a very nonchalant approach to their identity and never back down from who they are. Despite numerous people coming to destroy their family for fortune or fame, the recurring savior of “family over everything” pulls them together and resurrects their livelihood. According to Takiguchi, “‘Wednesday’ comes along at a very good time. Culturally, we’re all about … going against the status quo,” he further reflects, “I don’t think there’s a time in culture where there isn’t a rebellion.” The Addamses represent the consistent human desire to rebel, which gives them such a strong potency throughout the years.
While yes, they’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, and simply just a fun story, they serve as an inspiration to us all. As you sit to watch “Wednesday,” take a look at the community around you. Ensure that you have made space for people to be themselves and share their interests and experiences freely. After all, we all desire to feel seen somewhere.