Wednesday, the new Netflix adaptation of the Addams Family, finally got its release date ahead of the streamer’s latest Tudum Festival. Subjectify contributor Jamie Whitehead, a lifelong Addams fan, shares her thoughts on the streamer’s first look at the show, which stars Jenna Ortega as the macabre teen heroine.
In the golden age of early and mid 90s children’s programming on Nickelodeon, I grew up in a home without cable television. I still, to this day, have never seen an episode of Rugrats. Thanks to PBS, I had Wishbone and Arthur, but before them I had another favorite show — The Addams Family. It’s unclear why the local-access channel chose to air hours of it every day, but I’m certainly grateful that it did. The fact that the first piece of media I ever fell in love with was a black and white sitcom from the 60s about an offbeat macabre family probably has a lot to do with how I turned out, but that’s rumination for a different day.
Right now, that little girl as well as the adult who’s loved the show (and movies!) ever since is anxiously anticipating yet another version of Charles Addams’ classic cartoons in the form of Netflix’s Wednesday, and it’s the version that a lot of fans have been waiting for. Ahead of this weekend’s Tudum event, the streaming service finally revealed when the show will premiere: Wednesday (obviously), November 23rd. Jenna Ortega, the actress who will play Wednesday Addams, made a brief appearance at the event itself, sharing a clip of Wednesday taking out her rage on poor Thing.
We did know some other bits of information about Wednesday before Tudum. Showrunners Miles Millar and Alfred Gough — creators of Smallville, so no strangers to helming a new take on beloved IP — brought in Tim Burton, and at last we will finally get to see our beloved creepy, kooky family through his lens. Per an exclusive Vanity Fair article, Burton is an executive producer and directed half of the eight episode season. The first teaser trailer for the show was released in August, and if I was excited before, I am even more so after having watched the first minute alone.
This Wednesday Addams is not the little girl we’re used to seeing. She’s a full-on teenager now, and is handling such a tumultuous time exactly as we’d expect her to. She’s been to quite a few schools in the past several years, and it becomes clear why. I was all in from the very first shot, when we see that the educational establishment she currently attends is NANCY REAGAN HIGH SCHOOL. To put it politely, I am very much… not a conservative, and Wednesday being presented in contrast to the specific form of weaponized “traditional” femininity that’s become ingrained into so much of Americana is exactly right.
The Nancy Reagans of the world put on a pleasant face, wait until your back is turned to hurt you, and then use their privilege to skirt the consequences — the complete antithesis to Wednesday. When she decides to hurt you, she’ll look you right in the eye while she does it. Which is the exact mission we see her on. She strides right past that First Lady bust, looks away from the stares of derision coming from the crowd of her brightly colored classmates, intent upon her goal.
She enters the pool, where the boys’ water polo team is practicing, and there isn’t a more perfect sport that a bunch of douchey jocks could be playing. Sorry to anyone who enjoys it, but those little hats look ridiculous and I can not take them seriously. It looks like I may be right not to because these guys are, unsurprisingly, the worst. Wednesday couldn’t care less that she’s crashing a closed practice because she’s here for one thing and one thing only: sweet vengeance. She speaks her first line of the trailer; one that will be familiar to anyone with siblings: “The only person who gets to torture my brother is me.”
Holding up two bags of piranhas, as Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” begins to play, she lets those suckers loose. The team, including the boy who seems to be our head bully, Dalton, try to escape to no avail. The perfect juxtaposition of a dudebro getting his dick munched by a piranha while Wednesday looks on without remorse and smirks, all set to a French classic, (a refreshing choice of music, when the typical choice would be the iconic sitcom theme song) is the absolute pitch perfect vibe that I want from any kind of Addams Family story.
Other Altogether Ooky Highlights
Netflix might be centering their story on Wednesday, but we can’t forget about everyone else. The Vanity Fair article, as well as the teaser trailer, gives us a look at the rest of the family. (Or most of them at least.) Catherine Zeta-Jones will portray the timelessly elegant and glamorous Morticia, Luis Guzmán will play the single greatest fictional man of all time, Gomez Addams, and the adorable Isaac Ordonez is Wednesday’s younger brother Pugsley. Missing entirely thus far are any details about the illustrious Uncle Fester, and apparently it will stay that way. When asked about him, Alfred Gough replied, “We have no comment on Uncle Fester. Watch the show.” Which is hysterical, honestly. That level of secrecy for a character named Uncle Fester. But, I’m now desperate to know exactly why they’re being so cagey about it, so I guess I don’t really have room to laugh at anyone except myself for that one.
Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) will pay homage to one of her most famous roles by appearing in the Netflix Wednesday adaptation in an undisclosed role. Other members of the cast include Gwendoline Christie as Larissa Weems, Emma Myers as a girl named Enid Sinclair, and Victor Dorobantu, who will give life to the disembodied hand, Thing, who finally gets a new look in this iteration. It’s not fair that Thing never gets a chance to adorn itself with anything special to show its personality like the rest of the family simply because it’s just a hand, and those goth stitching details are really working for it. Do your thing, Thing!
But all eyes are of course focusing on Jenna Ortega as Wednesday, who is absolutely spot on. She has the right look, the physicality she brings to the character is perfect, and I’m desperate to see how else she’ll interpret a sullen little girl transitioning into her teen years. She’s deadpan and serious, but she’s not wooden or without emotion. In her own offbeat way she still has a lot of love to give to her family and friends.
A Neat, Sweet, Petite Featurette
Perhaps knowing that fans would be clamoring for more, shortly after the Wednesday teaser trailer, Netflix released the first of what is hopefully several featurettes about the making of the show. This one is about what Jenna Ortega will bring to the titular role. Her love for the character is evident, as is her pride that she will finally represent Wednesday as Latina, something that I hope the show really plays up. The Addams Family is for everyone, and with all the different adaptations there have been over the years and will be in the future, all cultures should have a chance to be represented.
The complaints about the casting of Wednesday — that Netflix is going for some kind of left wing exercise in wokeism — are racist, plain and simple. One of the characters in this story is an anthropomorphised hand with no body attached. If it’s non-whiteness that disallows you to suspend disbelief, that’s solely a problem with you, not the project. Ignoring and refusing to engage with that kind of ugliness is exactly what Ms. Addams is all about. Actress Joy Sunday, who will play Nevermore Academy student (hey there, Edgar Allan Poe reference) student Bianca Barclay nails the necessity and poignancy of a female character like Wednesday, one who says “I don’t have to smile for you. I don’t have to be happy for you.” We love her for her intensity, and Tim Burton gives my favorite description of her so far: “She sees things very black-and-white… mainly black.”
As someone who shares the tendency to share that intensity and impulse to see things in such stark extremes, a mindset that’s even easier to fall into during the tumultuousness of adolescence, I hope part of her journey is seeing the benefit of some gray. She may not be off to the strongest start there, having taken up fencing. In the trailer Wednesday says she likes stabbing things, so there isn’t a better sport out there for her, really. An extracurricular that lets you try and stab someone as many times as you can? Nancy Reagan High School would never.
But Nevermore is poised to be different. In the first Netflix featurette, Jenna Ortega also provides a bit of clarity as to what adventures await Wednesday there, and in doing so clues us in on at least some of what will make up the plot: Mysteries, murders, and monsters. Really, any Addams worth their salt would be disappointed in a school year that revolved around anything else. There’s something so wonderful about the fact that a show that’s almost sixty years old and a comic strip that’s even older has had so much staying power over the years. It’s not that such a thing is incredibly rare. The Addams Family started out as the opposite of what a traditional American family was supposed to be, and as the times have changed, are now exactly the kind of family so many people want to be a part of. We’re no longer laughing at how odd they are, we’re laughing at how much fun their crazy, kooky world would be to live in.
If the tone set by the teaser trailer and featurette is just a taste of what Netflix’s Wednesday will be like, we’re all in for a very good time. Whatever she gets up to, it’s going to be damn fun to watch her do it. As much as I’m looking forward to enjoying this show myself, I’m even more excited for the young girls who will be introduced to her for the first time this fall, and fall in love with the Addamses just like I did as a child. A late November release date extends the Halloween season this year, with a morbidly marvelous heroine as its star.