So I binged watched Wednesday yesterday… but I almost didn’t. In fact, if I’d had anything more interesting to do at all (or if I’d had any more energy… it’s been a very long holiday break), I would have stopped after episode one. Why? Because something about the show just didn’t sit right. And though the mystery and the beauty did keep me invested enough to continue, there was just something about the character herself that didn’t land.
So of course I have to dissect why. I mean, what else could I possibly do? Not obsess? Pft!
My Addams Family
As a child of the 90s, my Addams family has always been Angelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Jimmy Workman, and Christina Ricci. I mean, COME ON. They had the look, the charm, the darkness, the morbidity, the likability! They had it ALL. Each character was distinct, beautifully acted, and well rounded.
And Ricci was the absolute best Wednesday that ever Wednesday’d.
And more than the individual characters, their relationships were amazing. It was something you didn’t see a lot of in the 90s (and still don’t see much of today): parents and children who support each other with pride.
Ugh, I could fill up this whole post with classic clips. But just do me a favor and go watch Addams Family and Addams Family Values if you haven’t already.
Beware of spoilers below!
But the things I loved most about the Addams Family, Wednesday squashes in the first few minutes. To have Wednesday disgusted by her parent’s PDA instead of seeing it as romance goals? To have Wednesday pushing her mother away? To have Pugsley be a cowering, bullied, shrimp? No! The Addams are a tight knit, beautiful goth family! Pugsley doesn’t need big sister to fight his battles. Why didn’t he put the piranha into the pool himself? What is happening??
I’ll tell you what happened. The show is called Wednesday, not the Addams. Wednesday is the main character, therefore she must have all the agency, right? She makes the choices, she takes the action, she leads the way.
You’d think I’d shout YES about this. I’ve said time and time again that the main character must have agency. But if you have to shoot every other character in the foot in order make Wednesday out to be a strong character… then you get lazy writing. Morticia, Gomez, and Pugsley become placeholders. And that’s boring.
And if you look at the rest of the cast (since the Addams’s are barely in the show at all), this is a trend that continues. Bianca is your token popular mean girl. Two hot boys (that are identical aside from curly vs straight hair) that are both into Wednesday even though she’s awful to both of them? Baseless romance. They’re just there to create the love triangle trope, but there’s zero substance.
And we even have the quirky best friend. Enid has the best characterization on the show (aside from Principal Weems). She is perky, is unapologetically herself, has flaws, and maintains agency. But even her characterization gets shot in the foot at one point: When she decides to stop putting up with Wednesday’s crap, she walks out. She decides to room with someone else. Wednesday doesn’t care about her, and she’s putting Enid in danger. So Enid walks. Good girl! Way to go! Now that is character-based agency.
But then… for no reason Enid just comes back. There were no consequences to that choice, and nothing led to the resolution. The writers just fell back on the “we need the quirky best friend” cliche and made it happen.
So again and again, the problem seems to be to dilute everyone around Wednesday in order to make her seem bigger. Meh.
Character flaws are a requirement. If your character is perfect, then they won’t come across as realistic. But Wednesday’s character flaws are all over the place, and they aren’t balanced with any redeeming qualities. She is straight up just… an unlikable bitch. I have no idea why so many people wanted to be her friend/boyfriend.
She was cold, mean, arrogant, dismissive of other people and their likes, entirely unconcerned with right and wrong, and straight up psychopathic. Like, I’m not sure she had any connection with human emotion at any point. Only in a handful of moments did she not act like a textbook psychopath. And I mean that in the official medical definition of that disorder. And above all else, she pushed literally everyone away at every opportunity, apparently out of arrogance and superiority. Maybe that’s not what was intended, but that’s how I saw it. A snob.
Oh, and at one point she was ready to physically torture a teen boy with a hammer. That’s not the Wednesday I know and love. The 90s Addams enjoy pain, but they’d never inflict it one someone who didn’t want it. I mean, at least without proof that the villain deserved it. They weren’t cruel just for the sake of being cruel.
And the way she disdained teen drama — in the most teen-drama way possible. Come on, lady. Get over yourself.
Granted, the Wednesday I grew up with (Ricci) didn’t have a ton of screen time, but she did have redeeming qualities and her flaws weren’t nearly as bad. She was a little psychopathic in how she played with Pugsley and Pubert (electrocution, knives, etc). But her brothers never came to any actual harm, and Pugsley even begged to be electrocuted. So she wasn’t actually being mean in that case.
And Ricci’s Wednesday had plenty of redeeming qualities. She cared about the love interest in her story and was unapologetic about it. Omg, that kiss through the fence and they both wiped their mouths after… perfect. And when the other outcasts at summer camp were being treated poorly, she recruited them to exact vengeance on the privileged rich kids who had been mean to them.
Plus she was devoted to her family. She enjoyed playing Wake the Dead. She wanted to be on Fester’s team. She danced at the ball with her cousins, wearing a dress very similar to her mother’s. She wasn’t a loner at all.
There’s always a but, right?
But I DID binge the whole show. Why? What caught my interest enough to watch it one episode after the other?
First, and most importantly, it had a lot to do with my own headspace. I was in vacation mode. I had decided I wasn’t going to work at all this weekend. Most of what I did during Wednesday was put together a Friends-themed jigsaw puzzle. Also, I find it very difficult to start new shows because it feels like a huge effort to become emotionally invested in a new story. Therefore, it was the path of least resistance to continue watching Wednesday rather than find something else to watch. It was good enough, so I just stuck with it.
But there had to be something about the story itself that made it “good enough,” and that’s what I want to find out. There was something about the end of episode one that made me think, “Yeah, I would kind of like to know what happens next.”
First, I’m a sucker for a cute teen romance, especially a grumpy/sunshine. In this case, Wednesday is the grump, and there are two sufficiently sunshiney boys who are enamored with her. I could feel the pull.
Second, the mystery of seeing the prophetic drawing of Wednesday burning down the school was intriguing. I wanted to know how we’d puzzle our way to that ending.
Third, the show is gorgeous. Jenna Ortega is beautiful, as are 100% of the other actors and the cinematography in general. It was pleasing to the eye. Pretty things are nice to look at. I’m not gonna lie. I mean, there is a reason why Wednesday’s dance scene has already become iconic.
So I finished the show. And I’ll probably watch season two when it comes out. But this show is not going down as one of my favorites, and that’s 100% because of the lazy, stereotypical characterizations.
The One Exception:
Principal Weems is the only character who had real substance from start to finish. Not once did her characterization get backstabbed (like Enid). Nor did she ever lose agency in order to prop up Wednesday’s character. At first she seemed like your basic principal. She’s just there to create conflict and complications for Wednesday. But there was one scene in episode 3 where Weems becomes real. After Wednesday and Thing blow up a statue at a dedication ceremony, Weems chews out Wednesday for being so disruptive. She’s got a point. Wednesday is literally awful.
But when Wednesday throws out her childish points in favor of the destruction, Weems doesn’t just argue to argue. She doesn’t deflate or back down. Her character isn’t sacrificed in worship of this main character.
“Why be complicit in [Crackstone’s] cover up. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”
“That’s where you and I differ. Where you see doom, I see opportunity. Maybe this is a chance to rewrite the wrongs. To start a new chapter in the normie-outcast relations.”
“Nothing has changed since Crackstone. They still hate us… If you’re unwilling to fight for truth–“
“You don’t think I want the truth? Of course I do. But the world isn’t always black and white. There are shades of gray.”
“Maybe for you. But it’s either they write our story or we do. You can’t have it both ways.”
“Goodnight Miss Addams. But you should know. I don’t tire easily.”
This doesn’t seem like much. But then again, I love the little lines that work overtime to illustrate a character. In this short conversation, you have Wednesday being a classic arrogant teen. She literally sees the world in black and white. Right and wrong. Simple.
But Weems knows better. She knows that being a bitch about the ugly history around Crackstone won’t solve anything. It will only make things worse for the hundreds of students that she’s responsible for. She also knows better than to argue with someone who can’t be argued with. Ugh, arrogant teens, amirite?
But this scene is one of those clever things that is viewed totally differently depending on the viewer. Teens will probably see Weems as the antagonist here. But adults are more likely to see Wednesday as the antagonist. I certainly do. Both characters are relatable to their peers in amazing ways. That’s why this scene is one of the strongest in the entire show.
And of course Weem’s ending fits perfectly with her characterization. She’s willing to listen, to give someone the benefit of the doubt. In many YA stories, the principal/adult is arrogant and dismissive of the main character always. “You’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Go home and be a good little girl.” But that was never Weems. She agrees with Wednesday’s plan to flush out the real killer on the off chance that she might find that truth she wants so badly.
On the other, OTHER hand…
After all my ramblings, I have to admit that this show is made for teens. I mean, the two groups are called outcasts and normies. Normies, guys. Normies.
Plus we have the cute teen love triangle, the coming of age trope for Enid, the reconciliation-with-your-mother trope for Wednesday, the big dance, first dates, first kisses, and mean girls. I mean, this is textbook Young Adult genre stuff. I can’t be that hard on it, can I?
Heck yes I can. Because there is plenty of YA stuff out there that doesn’t have unlikeable main characters and cliche placeholders for everyone else. Julie and the Phantoms, Princess Diaries (books), Gilmore Girls, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Moxie, Never Have I Ever, The Duff, To All the Boys I Loved Before… I could go on and on.
So overall, I’d rate Wednesday a 3/5. Okay. There is potential, but I was underwhelmed by season 1.
I’d love to know what you thought of Wednesday! Let me know in the comments below. I’ll admit my entire knowledge of the Addams family comes from the 90s movies referenced in this post. Maybe the original Wednesday was a hateful, arrogant, cruel snob?