04/02/2023

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Why Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family has a cult following

5 min read
Why Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family has a cult following

“I’m not a freak — I’m a force of nature.” The unabashedly sharp-as-ever Wednesday Addams declares this memorable string of words in the 2021 movie The Addams Family 2. A true reflection of the Addams’ resident genius, Wednesday’s diabolic smarts do make her a force to be reckoned with, and over the years, the fictional character has accumulated a cult following. A favorite in the family of “kooky” characters, Wednesday’s success as a character has primed her for the lead role in Tim Burton’s upcoming Netflix show, Wednesday.

Initially appearing as a character in Charles Addams’ 1938 cartoons in The New Yorker, Wednesday subsequently became a part of multiple adaptations of TV shows and movies over the next few decades, with a memorable, beloved performance from Christina Ricci in the ‘90s Addams Family films. Now, the iconic role will be played by Jenna Ortega in the upcoming TV series, which hits streaming Nov. 23. Despite appearing in comics in the 1930s, Charles Addams didn’t name his comic characters until the 1964 TV show adaptation. He notably named Wednesday after a line from the nursery line “Monday’s Child:” “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” Easily recognized by her signature braids and goth aesthetic, the cult character is now a well-known favorite among many, and the fandom surrounding her has been further ignited ever since the 2020 announcement of the show.

Blurring the lines between protagonist and antagonist in her own macabre way is one of her iconic trademarks, and this balance makes watching her exploration of the world around her incredibly fascinating. She loathes color, prefers her dolls headless and speaks in a signature drawl. Her classic ensemble remains a popular costume every Halloween, with the #wednesdayaddams tag on TikTok accumulating an incredible 1.2 billion views and the character having her own verified account with nearly 70,000 followers on Instagram. (When you give her a stalk, expect to find her trademark gory sense of humor and plenty of Wednesday-centric memes.) 

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While Wednesday’s appreciation of torture and torment fluctuates in different screen adaptations of the franchise, in popular adaptations she also often struggles with feeling different than everyone else in her already one-of-a-kind family. Her endeavors in trying to figure out those feelings and explore her identity humanize her and remind audiences that she’s still just a young person who’s making sense of the world around her. This edifies her extraordinariness and forms a connection between fans and Wednesday, making her an even more likable character. It gives the impression that you don’t have to be exactly like Wednesday to get her. Instead, you just have to appreciate what she represents: individualism and existing outside “the norm.”

For longtime fan Tatiana Tenreyro, Wednesday’s acceptance of being different was inspiring. “As someone who always felt like a misfit growing up and was bullied for not being like the other girls, Wednesday was my hero because she embraced being treated like an outsider,” she says.“For her, being different was a badge of honor. That mentality guided me through dealing with my toughest teen years.”

Ingrid Cruz, another fan of the cult character, shares similar sentiments. “I enjoyed watching Wednesday be free, creative and moody. It was the opposite of what I was taught to be. I could relate to her because I always hated smiling unless I had a reason, which really made it hard for me to interact with adults who insisted I should always be smiling,” she says. Cruz also added how Wednesday’s rebellion of the Thanksgiving play in the 1993 Addams Family Values made her ability to question norms a significant marker of her personality. 

christina ricci in addams family values, christina ricci as wednesday addams

Paramount Pictures

The Thanksgiving play is a moment in the film at Wednesday and her brother Pugsley’s summer camp in which the campers are asked to put on a play that depicts a colonized, racist version of the first Thanksgiving. Wednesday, who plays a Native American character, rightfully thwarts the production by going off script and openly disagreeing with her camp’s portrayal of the holiday and its history. “You have taken the land which is rightfully ours,” she says in character, and simultaneously sends shockwaves through the audience. “Do not trust the pilgrims,” she declares in another changed lyric, leading to the start of a rebellion within the play. Cruz appreciated how Wednesday stood up for what was right, even though it wasn’t the majority opinion. Perhaps it is this exact combination of defiance and deviant justice she represents that makes her so enjoyable.

Being in an environment that encourages being different from what society expects of them already makes Wednesday stand out. And seeing her take on and embrace her alternative personality without bending to anyone else’s whims is a power move that people of all ages struggle to do themselves. “The Addams Family takes characters that would normally be outsiders in mainstream comedies and dramas and puts them front and center,” says Dr. Neil Fox, Associate Professor of Film Practice and Pedagogy at Falmouth University. Wednesday has always stood as a beacon for those on the outside or fringes of what is considered cool or acceptable. She actively inserts herself as a chaos agent into established social hierarchies and truly doesn’t care what people think.” 

jenna ortega in wednesday

Netflix

In the new Netflix rendition, her Latinx identity adds another layer for fans to connect with the character  For fans, it has been affirming to see the Addams family’s identity be acknowledged in the upcoming series. Tenreyro notes that being Puerto Rican and seeing that the previous movies portray the Addams as half-Latinx with a Puerto Rican patriarch made her feel seen. “It means a lot to me that Tim Burton’s new version of the Addams family retains that as part of the story,” she says. Similarly, for Cruz, seeing Wednesday unapologetically being herself in her ironically loving family was wonderful to watch. “As a Latina, it was common to have aunts and uncles play an important role in our lives, and seeing these relationships on screen, [like] in Wednesday’s relationship with her parents, Uncle Fester, and the rest, while watching Wednesday be herself, despite having a close-knit family, was game-changing for me,” she says.

Wednesday symbolizes many things, but — most importantly — the ability to choose the way you want to take up space in the world, no questions asked. Not only is she a fabulous goth, alt-core fashion icon, but she is also a comforting reminder that even when you feel like an outsider, you are valid, and you matter. She is a reminder that not fulfilling the status quo and sticking up for what you truly believe in is one of the bravest things you can do in a world that makes it so hard to exist outside of the norms surrounding you.  She is powerful in doing so, and that is why she will always be an extraordinarily interesting pop culture icon. 

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