February 3, 2023
Family Values: The Evolution of Wednesday Addams

With Tim Burton’s all-new series now streaming on Netflix, Darcie explores the Evolution of the Addams Family’s dark and twisted teenager Wednesday Addams

With Tim Burton’s new series now delighting fans on Netflix, it’s time to explore the evolution of Wednesday Addams. The whole Addams Family has been iconic since their creation in 1938 by cartoonist Charles Addams. The family of outcasts made their debut in unrelated single-panel cartoons that were published in The New Yorker. Those cartoons were included in the publication for over 50 years. The characters have been adapted multiple times since 1938, appearing in films, TV shows, video games, and comic books. They have had a crossover with Scooby-Doo in 1972. A Horrible Histories song called ‘The Borgia Family’ was inspired by the Addams’ and the family have even been on Broadway in The Addams Family Musical.

You may think that after all this time and after so many varied adaptions Addams Family fatigue may have set in. But that is not the case. Just this month the new series ‘Wednesday’ debuted on Netflix and is a brilliant success. Whilst Wednesday is an Addams Family adaptation, the focus is on one particular member of the family. Wednesday Addams.

Wednesday on Netflix
Wednesday. (L to R) Thing, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 104 of Wednesday. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

NETFLIX

Wednesday Addams is perhaps the most interesting of the Addams clan. Wednesday’s persona plays into the gothic style, similar to the rest of her family. She has dark hair, famously styled into two plaits, and her signature outfit is a black dress over a white shirt. Throughout the many adaptations, Wednesday’s style has changed very little. Perhaps the odd outfit change here and there and a short hairstyle in the stage show. But her personality, specifically the depth of her darkness varies wildly.

CHRISTINA RICCI

The most iconic and thus ‘standard’ depiction of Wednesday Addams is Christina Ricci’s version in the films, The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993). The Wednesday we meet in these films is pretty true to her origins in the single-panel cartoons, dark and macabre. Throughout these films, her lines are delivered in a deadpan fashion, at times full of wit. She tortures her brother for fun. And when sent to a summer camp in the second film, the other campers find her personality jarring, and her somber attitude unnerving. In a pivotal scene, Wednesday leads other slightly different campers on a rampage during a camp show, where she attempts to burn a girl at the stake.

IN ANIMATION

The animated version of Wednesday Voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz in The Addams Family (2019) and its sequel The Addams Family 2 (2021) is pretty standard. Except for little nooses that were added to the ends of her plaits. This Wednesday is full of melancholy with a penchant for weapons. She, however, is caged in by her family and experiments with changing her style. This version is more toned down, still dark but perfect for an animated film.

Two particular versions of Wednesday stand out due to their different takes on the characters. The original 1960s TV series shows Wednesday (played by Lisa Loring) as sweet-natured, wholly different from the rest of her family. This more feminine depiction is perhaps the result of media at the time, with it being easier to mold Wednesday into a more gendered, softer character. Her sweetness and hobby as a ballerina offset her love for spiders and her obsession with asking her brother to behead her dolls.

The Addams Family: The Art of the Animated Movie

Although I did not see the Broadway musical The Addams Family: A New Musical research tells me that the Wednesday depicted here would differ from the source material. At 18, this is the oldest version of the character in mainstream media. She has short hair to highlight her maturing age, she is no longer a child but a woman on the cusp of adulthood. This narrative finds Wednesday in love, her dark traits toned down. Yet she still has the same dry humor.

The Addams Family Musical

JENNA ORTEGA

The newest depiction of the character played by Jenna Ortega is perhaps the most severe of all. No matter what is happening, Wednesday has a deadpan face, even when she is happy, dancing, or disappointed, the expression never weavers. Tributes to the previous versions of the character are made throughout. Wednesday comments that she had a guillotine to decapitate her dolls a tribute to the original 1960s show. Similarly, Wednesday is made to attend a new school where she initially alienates her fellow castmates reminiscent of her storyline in Addams Family Values.

In this version, we see a Wednesday that needs to learn to embrace those around her. Even in her half-feeling fashion. We also get slight appearance alterations, such as the addition of a full fringe, and several costume changes all of which are solely black and white. And why can’t she wear color? Well because she has an allergy to color that results in her skin falling from her bones of course. This is just one detail of many that help flesh out her character into the most rounded version to date. We see a character that excels at everything she takes interest in. Chielo, dancing, fencing, herbology class, and more, yet the ability to interact or even act in a normal way alludes to her. Ortega provides another iconic Wednesday performance only rivaled by Ricci.

Wednesday
Wednesday. Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 105 of Wednesday. Cr. Vlad Cioplea/Netflix © 2022

EVOLUTION

Wednesday is a character that has existed for nearly a century. She has adapted time and time again with each interpretation varying to different degrees of success. I have only touched upon a few examples of how she has been depicted over the years, and these are the most famous versions. Beyond these, the character has undergone further drastic changes beyond just appearance. But one thing is for sure, there has been a new version of Wednesday for each generation.

Will there be more versions to come, I have no doubt there will be. And I, for one, hope that Ortega continues to play the character for years to come.

Wednesday, the all-new Addams Family spin-off series is streaming on Netflix NOW!

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