“Wednesday” I’m in Love


Photo: Netflix

Clio Burns and Miranda Ljung-Baruth

The Addams family has remained one of the most iconic fictional families for almost a century. First created by Charles Addams in the late 1930s, the family has since left their mark on generations through numerous television adaptations. “The Addams Family”, released in 1991, and its sequel, “Addams Family Values”, were staple films of my childhood — particularly the latter.  Now renowned gothic director Tim Burton has taken it upon himself to turn the classic childhood movie into an eight episode Netflix series starring Jenna Ortega. 

The films I grew up with depicted a kooky and macabre family, differing vastly from their much more wholesome community members. From family sèances to arson at summer camp, the Addams family’s adventures were thrilling and darkly amusing. In Burton’s “Wednesday”, the entire family is no longer the focus. Instead, Wednesday Addams, the eldest child, is the sole protagonist. Although the show retains the dark humor and morbidity of its predecessors, the Addams’ are no longer the only outcasts. In fact, Wednesday is attending a boarding school for supernatural outcasts; Nevermore Academy, her parents’ alma mater. Although she still stands out against her much more personable peers, the contrast between the Addams family and everyone else is not as great. In a school full of abnormalities, she suddenly feels less abnormal. 

Photo: Netflix

Oddest of all was the change made to Wednesday’s parents. Their once iconic role was minimal, and the way they described their experiences at Nevermore felt like I was watching the reminiscing of two adults who had peaked in high school. Rather than devotion, Wednesday’s feelings towards her mother verged on discomfort, as she expressed her need to be unlike her mother. Although their relationship with the outside world may not have been loving, the Addams family’s devotion to each other was always evident, and to take it away was one of my biggest- and only- complaints.

Although it was filmed in Romania, the show takes place in Jericho, Vermont, which is just a half-hour outside of Burlington! In fact, in the first episode, Wednesday takes a trip to the Burlington train station. It becomes quickly apparent, however, that the research done was minimal, and the accuracy begins and ends at Jericho being a small town and Burlington being a big(ger) city. The inaccuracies, at least for me, made the show even more fun to watch, creating unintentional humor in the bustling train station and the mention of “Jericho High School” (MMU, anyone?). 

 Speaking of interesting directorial choices, it becomes clear from the first episode that they’re setting up a love triangle between Wednesday, Tyler the “normie”, and Xavier, the brooding artist. Although, can it really be considered a love triangle if she seems completely disinterested in both of them? When I started watching I found myself asking how they were gonna make a teen romance work with someone as apathetic as Wednesday, and it does work… sort of. Personally I struggled to feel any sort of chemistry between her and either suitor, and overall it felt forced. Ortega also mentioned in an interview with Etalk that she was strongly against the plot. “I told them very early on that I didn’t want her to be in the middle of a love triangle. (…) As far as the boys went, I had to accept it – but honestly, I’m going to fight this love triangle thing so hard. Because I don’t think Wednesday would ever be in a love triangle.”

Ortega herself is quickly becoming a Gen Z it girl and a true scream queen, starring in horror movies ‘X” and “Scream 5” on top of “Wednesday” just this year.  She detailed the extensive preparation she had taken for the role in a red carpet interview at the premiere, revealing that she studied German, took fencing and archery lessons, learned the cello, and even did all of her own stunts for the show.  This is the first time that an adaptation of The Addams Family has centered Wednesday as the main character, and also the first time she has been portrayed as a teenager, in contrast to the morbid little girl we’re used to. 

Ortega does a fantastic job with the role. She truly makes the character of Wednesday her own, giving her a modern look and some healthy teenage angst on top of her classic callous attitude. The way she was able to take a character who never shows too much emotion and slowly incorporate more feeling into her demeanor throughout the show as Wednesday learns and grows, even making some friends along the way, really impressed me. 

As can be expected when rebooting such an iconic piece of cinema, the show has totally blown up. Breaking a Netflix record previously held by Stranger Things, it became the most viewed English speaking series in a week, hitting a 341.23 million hour playtime! It’s also gone viral on multiple social media platforms, especially Tiktok. Wednesday’s iconic dance scene (which Ortega choreographed herself) to Goo Goo Muck by The Cramps was a true highlight of the show for me, and clearly the internet agrees. Thousands of recreations of the dance have been posted, complete with Wednesday inspired outfits and makeup. 

Photo: Netflix

It can’t have been easy making the perfect playlist to fit someone who seems like they don’t enjoy anything, let alone a good song, but somehow the show’s music supervisor nailed it. You can find our gothic protagonist listening to gloomy Spanish melodies like La Llorona by Chavela Vargas or Tierra Rica by Carmita Jiménez, usually flowing mournfully from her gramophone.  Wednesday’s haunting cello covers, ranging from Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones to Vivaldi’s famous Winter, also grace the soundtrack from time to time. As for the score, I thought composers Danny Elfman and Chris Bacon did a wonderful job using background instrumentals to add suspense and to set the overall playfully creepy mood of the show.

Perhaps most exciting for me, as an avid enjoyer of the previous films, was Christina Ricci’s role in the series. Ricci starred in both 1990s films as Wednesday Addams. In “Wednesday” she plays Marilyn Thornhill, Nevermore’s first “normie” teacher. She attempts to bond with Wednesday over their shared role as pariahs in a school full of outcasts. Wednesday’s dark personality sets her apart from her peers, while Thornhill is looked down upon due to her being too abnormal for the “normies”, and too normal for the outcasts. The role of a seemingly virtuous herbology teacher is a complete one-eighty from Ricci’s previous character, creating a fun dynamic for viewers familiar with the previous adaptation. 

Another thrilling cameo in the series was that of Fred Armisen in the role of Uncle Fester. Armisen is an expert comedian, with eleven years as an SNL cast member under his belt, accompanied by numerous roles in films and television. The energy he brought to Uncle Fester was absolutely impeccable for the role, and although his appearance lasted for only one episode, he very nearly stole the show.

Although certain aspects of the show felt a little too cheesy or forced, it was overall a charmingly droll adaptation. For old and new fans alike, it makes for the perfect binge-watch for these dark and dreary winter months.