The Wacky World of Wednesday: A Review

On Nov. 23 Netflix released its eight episode series, Wednesday, onto their platform. The show follows the titular character Wednesday Addams, played by Jenna Ortega, and her experience at Nevermore Academy, an institute for outcasts, freaks, and monsters. As the title suggests, the show is Wednesday focused rather than Addams family centric. The series is a comedic murder-mystery filled with returning characters you know and love along with some new faces you come to appreciate (or despise.)

Without spoiling, I’ll give a brief summary of the plot. After setting piranhas loose on bullies from her previous school, Wednesday is sent to Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts. The school was hand picked by her alumni parents, as they believe it will help her build relationships with people like her and hone her quirks. After her arrival, things start getting interesting. Murders of both β€œnormies” and β€œoutcasts” alike begin to happen in the town of Jericho, where Nevermore is located. After an escape plan went wrong, Wednesday finds herself entangled in and infatuated with these murders. The monotonous girl spends the rest of her stay doing whatever she can to gain clues and find evidence to catch the culprit.

Jenna Ortega was great as Wednesday. She is living, breathing proof that you can method act without being creepy to your co-stars (unlike Jared Leto). Ortega taught herself how to play the cello, how to speak German, and practiced not blinking during takes to prepare for the role. She even choreographed the memorable dance from episode 4 herself, which was inspired by her research on 80’s goths, like Siouxsie Sioux and Lene Lovich. Her delivery of the witty comments and one liners sprinkled within each episode made the show that much more enjoyable. She brought the gothic teen to life in a way that I don’t think any other actress could have. She truly was the perfect choice for the role and the show proves that.

Casting as a whole was great for this show. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luiz GuzmΓ‘n fully embodied Morticia and Gomez’s love for each other. Fred Armisen brought a liveliness and zing with his comedic rendition of Uncle Fester. The cast for the array of new characters didn’t disappoint either. Emma Myers played the exuberant Enid Sinclair wonderfully, mastering the art of being Wednesday’s perfect opposite. Joy Sunday, Hunter Doohan, Percy Hynes White, and Georgie Farmer play Bianca, Tyler, Xavier, and Ajax respectively. Each of these actors bring a new side to Wednesday that makes you want to keep hitting the next episode button. Christina Ricci, the iconic 1991 Wednesday, was even brought back for a role in the new show, which I thought was a great easter egg for Addams family fans.

With Wednesday’s bright and bubbly werewolf roommate, Enid, keeping up with the latest TikTok trends and running a blog, to songs like Dua Lipa’s β€œPhysical” being played at the dance, it becomes clear that this story takes place in modern day. This fact might throw you off at first due to Wednesdays β€œstuck in the past,” persona. This show might be what some consider β€œwoke” in the way it throws common Gen Z buzzwords around, but it actually does this concept a lot better than other shows attempting the same thing. Even if the words β€œpatriarchy”, β€œmale-gaze”, and β€œmansplain” are awkwardly sprinkled into conversations, you can look past it for every other relatable teen moment the series has.

A new, but very cool, aspect of this new iteration of the The Addams family is that they are Latino. Gomez is canonically Mexican in this series and is played by famous Latino actor Luis GuzmΓ‘n. The family is stated to participate in Dia de los Muertos and Wednesday herself listens to music in Spanish throughout the series. The best part about this representation though, has to be the fact that they don’t rub it in everyone’s face. Yes, the family is Latino, but it isn’t the only character trait they have. By not making a big deal out of their heritage, it furthers the idea that seeing Latino characters on screen should be normalized. 

Ortega herself even agrees with this decision, stating in an interview with shondaland that, β€œA lot of times, they put a person of color in a film; it’s kind of like checking a box, like, β€˜Oh, look at what we’ve done!’ And they try to push it as far as they possibly can. Wednesday is just who she is. You don’t have to talk about it. And naturally, having actors who are very known in the Latin community, like Luis GuzmΓ‘n, is very powerful and speaks volumes.”

The soundtrack was one of my favorite things about the show. I may be a little biased since I grew up on films that had Danny Elfman as the composer like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Batman Returns, but the soundtrack was absolutely gorgeous. The beautiful violins in the somber scenes of the show are perfectly placed. Dramatic and fast paced symphonic music was strategically used to cause anticipation in other scenes. Even the character specific songs perfectly encapsulate the personalities of who they are about. The songs they included who were by different artists were just as fitting and made the show more memorable. Shifting between 80’s goth and rock classics, to modern synth pop, and then again to emotion filled spanish tunes captures Wednesdays unique, angst-filled teen experience excellently.

The fashion from the titular character was another one of my favorite aspects of the show. Throughout the episodes she would wear different variations of the same monochromatic outfits. Sometimes she would dress in dark academia, with long dresses, white collared undershirts, and blazers. Then, she would show up wearing knit sweaters and jeans. She even sports the black dress with tiny flowers that the 1991 Wednesday famously wears. The costuming didn’t shy away from black and white stripes and squares, as Wednesday is shown wearing the monochrome patterns frequently throughout the show. Not to mention mine, and everyone else’s, favorite outfit: the Rave’N dance dress. The flowy, voluminous, black chiffon dress looks gorgeous on Ortega. She slayed. The balance of finding new modern outfits while maintaining the classic, gothy Wednesday style we all know, shouldn’t go unnoticed. 

However, I do have a few complaints about the show as well. For one, the show strays very far away from the core Addams family values, specifically with Morticia and Wednesday’s relationship. In the original comic strips, the 1960s sitcom, and 1991 film, Morticia and Wednesday are shown to admire each other, especially because of their differences. In the Netflix original, Wednesday seems to despise the idea of ever being like her mother, and Morticia is portrayed as an overbearing mother who wants her daughter to follow in her footsteps. The tension between the two can feel forced at times due to how unusual it is for this  mother and daughter pair to argue.

The family as a whole is also portrayed very differently. While previous adaptations have shown the family to be very loving, bonded, and caring of one another, the new series shows them to be cold, selfish, and unable to express their feelings. You also don’t get to see the family as a whole get into the silly situations they are known for, but that makes sense as the show is centered around Wednesday. In the episodes she does see her family in, she seems very standoffish around them and at times can be accusatory towards them; something she would never do in past works about the family. It honestly feels like the physical character designs from the comic strip were taken but turned into completely original characters with new personalities to fit the universe the Netflix series stakes place in.

Another issue I have with this series is that Tim Burton worked on it. Listen, I know his works are amazing, I grew up on Alice in Wonderland, Edward Scissorhands, and Beetlejuice just like the rest of you, but that doesn’t excuse the blatantly racist comments that he’s made. In a Sep. 2016 interview with Bustle leading up to the release of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Burton was asked about the racial bias in his films. “Nowadays, people are talking about [representation] more, [but] things either call for things, or they don’t,” Burton explained, insinuating that the β€œthings”  in question are his works and Black people.

Burton’s racism managed to even creep its way into Wednesday. In episode two, β€œWoe is The Loneliest Number” the characters participate in the β€œPoe Cup,” a boat race where every boat is based off of an Edgar Allan Poe story. Conveniently enough, Bianca, the only black woman with a main role in this show, was on the boat based off of Poe’s infamous story, β€œThe Gold Bug”; a story which includes a racist depiction of a slave named Jupiter. Not to mention that each of the three prominent black characters in this show are depicted to be villainous at some point throughout the eight episodes, which cannot be coincidental. Despite everything, I recommend the show to anyone who is willing to set aside eight hours to watch it. The acting is wonderful, the costuming is great, and the soundtrack is impeccable. As there is no set release date for season two just yet, you have plenty of time to catch up on the thrilling world of Wednesday.

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