The Addams Family concept began as a series of cartoons in The New Yorker in 1938; since its inception, the family has made its way into dozens of movies, books, games and shows, most recently the Netflix original series Wednesday. The show stars Jenna Ortega in the titular role, Wednesday, as the eldest daughter of the Addams family. Although Ortega gives a phenomenal performance with a brilliant set behind her, the show ultimately failed to maintain or build on the classic charm of the Addams family.
The show begins with Wednesday Addams retaliating against the school bully by releasing piranhas into the pool. Rather than face criminal charges, Wednesday is sent to a boarding school for other outsider teens, most of whom have powers. At this point the show quickly devolves into a cliche of a supernatural teen drama.
Instead of highlighting Wednesday’s sharp wit and social commentary, the show is stuffed to the brim with mystery plots, a love triangle (with a bad boy), and a Wicked-style roommate situation (with Wednesday’s roommate being the blonde, sweet foil to her gothic self).
While the teen sleuthing role might be appropriate for characters like Betty Cooper, for Wednesday, the sleuthing detracted from the development of her character, leaving me with the feeling that Wednesday herself was not necessary to the plot — rather, she is used as the stereotypical angsty goth character. With a crowded plot, Wednesday is also forced into a more one-dimensional version of herself, constantly insulting and belittling those around her but lacking her usual charm. Each of these observations do not make Wednesday a bad show; in fact, it was relatively engaging. However the show ultimately lacked the nuance and substance typically present in Addams Family renditions.
Unlike some other supernatural families, the Addams Family is a social commentary on the typical suburban nuclear family. In contrast to white-picket-fence families, the Addams family lives in a large gothic mansion. The Addams family is a satirical nuclear family in almost every way, with the exception being that the parents were truly loving and supportive. For example, the father, Gomez, is hopelessly in love with his wife Morticia, doting on her more than any happy ’70s sitcom parents.
Some of the most timeless and humorous Addams family scenes are when they are placed in social situations with “normal families” and the viewer is offered the opportunity to question whether or not the Addams family members are the strange ones. One example of this is in the 1993 “Addams Family Values,” in which Wednesday interrupts a youth camp Thanksgiving performance to violently explain the attacks Pilgrims made on Indigenous people. She later burns the camp to the ground in protest.Beyond the plot shortcomings of the show, Netflix is also under fire for queerbaiting after basing their advertising strategies on phrases like “Wednes(gay)” and alluding to the romantic relationship between Wednesday and her female roommate Enid, played by Emma Myers, but never delivering explicitly queer characters or relationships in the final cut. Ortega and Myers gave a wonderful performance, but viewers were sadly let down by the writers and advertisers at Netflix. Ultimately, Wednesday failed to deliver on promises of Addams family charm, LGBTQ+ relationships and even the most basic hope of a TV show offering a slightly new take on the worn-down supernatural trend.