Iin 1993 Addams Family ValuesWednesday Addams (Christina Ritchie) is sent to summer camp and she is no happy about it. To make matters worse, the camp counselors have written a Thanksgiving-themed play in which they force her to act as Pocahontas. Wednesday’s nemesis, the obnoxiously feisty Amanda Buckman (Mercedes McNabb), stars as the “beautiful and kind pilgrim lady” Sarah Miller, who has invited Pocahontas’ tribe to the supposed first Thanksgiving. At the last second, Wednesday goes off script.
“Wait,” she says, deadpan. “We cannot break bread with you.”
“You have taken the land that is rightfully ours,” she continues. “Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will be wearing vests and drinking marbles. We will be selling our bracelets by the side of the road. You will play golf and enjoy hot hors d’oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They said, “Don’t trust the pilgrims—especially Sarah Miller.”
With this, she declares that she will scalp the pilgrims and destroy their village. All hell breaks loose as members of Pocahontas’ tribe of miscreants go on a rampage, setting fire to the pilgrim village.
This iconic scene – etched in cultural memory (at least for millennia) even though its stereotypes have aged badly – epitomizes Wednesday Adams’ keen sense of justice. And that’s what inspired Miles Millar and Al Gough, the hosts behind the show Wednesdaythe Netflix horror-comedy series starring Jenna Ortega, which releases on November 23. The show is the latest take on a family that first appeared on A New Yorker cartoons in 1938, followed by the beloved 1960s TV show and 1990s adaptations starring Ritchie, Anjelica Huston, Raoul Julia and Christopher Lloyd.
“People know her from that moment. So how do we extrapolate that?” says Millar, who along with Goff answered this question with a premise that included colonial Americans as oppressors. “It felt very easy to get her into a worship idea. It was very organic for the Addams family.
Addams Family Roots
Regardless of the time period in which they are depicted, the members of the Addams family have always been seen as outsiders. To their neighbors, they’re creepy and crazy, sound funny, dress weird, eat weird food: they’re perfect an allegory for immigrant families.
Millar and Gough decided to finally make this explicit after years of hinting. In the Netflix show, Wednesday’s newly discovered psychic visions introduce us to one of Gomez’s ancestors from Mexico, Goody Adams, who founded a secret society to “protect outcasts from evil and bigotry.”
When Wednesday was under development, the idea of the “outcasts” versus the “norms” came even before that of criticizing colonialism. The concept of celebrating society’s outcasts comes directly from the cartoons of Charles Adams. “In some form, Adams has always been a disruptor in a normal world,” says Goff. “Charles Adams’ cartoons were a reaction to America in the 1950s: the white picket fence and the house. It’s a bit subversive, but it also points out that it’s also kind of bullshit.”
in Wednesday, says Millar, “It’s an allegory for racism and prejudice and all those things that we deal with now. And I think that’s what’s interesting about genre shows: that you can — not in a sledgehammer way, but in a way that’s buried — talk about real issues that affect the world today.”
Butler Lurch (George Bursea), Gomez (Luis Guzman), Morticha (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez) visit Nevermore Academy for Parents’ Weekend.
Exiles and immigrants
One of the problems that Wednesday addresses – which dovetails well with his critique of colonialism – is immigrant identity. In the 1991 film Adams Family and its 1993 sequel Addams Family Values, Puerto Rican actor Raul Julia played Gomez Adams, Wednesday’s father. Since then, some have watched the addams family as canonical latin – a view confirmed by on Wednesday casting Puerto Rican actor Luis Guzmán as Gomez and Mexican-Puerto Rican actress Jenna Ortega as Wednesday.
“Wednesday is technically a Hispanic character and that was never introduced,” Ortega said in a behind-the-scenes video. “Every time I have an opportunity to represent my community, I want it to be seen.”
Millar says that while they considered many actors for the lead role, they always hoped to cast a Latin American actor. “That’s always been our goal. We wanted to make sure we left no stone unturned. And obviously Jenna was Latina, but she was also the best actress to date for the role.
In the first episode of Wednesdaymourning broadcast of La Llorona plays the gramophone in the dorm room on Wednesdays as he clatters away on his typewriter. When the Adams come to visit for Parents’ Weekend, Wednesday’s younger brother Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez) is sucking on a tamarind candy. “It’s not a knock on the head, but there are moments,” says Millar. “The choice of music that plays and food. It’s subtly embedded in her being American too; she is the daughter of immigrants. Because Gomez grew up in Mexico.
Pugsley Adams (Isaac Ordonez) sucks tamarind stick candy at Parents’ Weekend.
Addams Family Thanksgiving
The show’s release date, set for late November rather than October, may have surprised some given the gothic family’s long association with Halloween. But the Addams family also has a strong connection to both anti-colonialism and Thanksgiving, at least since the 1993 film.
WednesdayThe Pilgrim’s story goes back in time to a fictional settler named Joseph Craxstone who founded Jericho, the Vermont town where much of the show takes place, in the early 1600s. Jericho is adjacent to Nevermore Academy, the school that Wednesday visits with werewolves and vampires. And Pilgrim World, a modern living history museum that offers daily witch trials, describes Crackstone, like Sarah Miller, as “beloved and pious.”
On Promotion Day – aimed at improving relations between the “outcasts” of Nevermore and the “norms” of Jericho – Wednesday is forced to volunteer with her classmates, serving free cream samples at Pilgrim World.
Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday), a mermaid student at Nevermore, offers free fudge samples at Pilgrim World as part of Outreach Day.
“Enjoy your ‘authentic’ pilgrim fudge, made from cacao beans harvested by the oppressed indigenous people of the Amazon,” she tells a group of tourists in perfect German. “All proceeds go to perpetuate this pathetic whitewashing of American history. Also, fudge wasn’t invented for another 258 years. Are you willing?”
“Our first idea was that Thanksgiving is a time when pilgrims invite the outcasts and then kill them,” says Goff. “It just felt like an Addams family approach. So that’s something that was very much in the DNA and then obviously plays through the whole mystery of the show.
Joseph Craxstone, as Wednesday soon discovers, has sworn to hunt down all the outcasts. In true fire-and-brimstone fashion, he rounded up the downtrodden in the settlement—from those accused of witchcraft to immigrants, including an ancestor of the Addams family—chained them to the floor of a barn and set the whole thing on fire. In the present day, Wednesday retaliates by burning a new memorial statue of Craxstone—just dedicated on Promotion Day—in the town square.
Wednesday frees Eugene (Moosa Mostafa) from the stocks at Pilgrim World, where he has been trapped by bullies.
Goff grew up in southern Maryland, where there was an early settlement not unlike Pilgrim World. He visited Colonial Williamsburg as a child. Tim Burton, who created and co-directed the series, visited similar attractions in Massachusetts and New England when he was researching in 1999. Sleepy Hollow.
“It was something that was always fascinating to see, but once you learn the real story, you realize, ‘Oh, well, it’s told from a certain point of view,'” says Gough. “We wanted to disrupt that perspective and make Wednesday a pivotal point.”
TV shows about dysfunctional families abound: Inheritance, Arrested Development, Yellowstone, Game of Thrones, Empire. Few fictional families, however, are functional—and even fewer love each other fiercely because of their differences.
Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzman) share a moment in the family car.
Courtesy of Netflix
“Especially when you go into the holidays — when people have to get together and it’s always so stressful — there’s a divide for whatever reason,” Goff says. “I think people end up wanting, ‘Oh, I wish we could go to Thanksgiving and all just get along and celebrate our differences and empathize with them.’
Enter: The Addams Family. Created as the ultimate outsiders, Wednesday, her brother Pugsley, and their parents Mortisha and Gomez are actually timeless and ambitious in their proximity.
“We wanted to lean into that part of the Addams family,” Goff says of the immigrant identity. “A lot of it people assumed, but it wasn’t really explored. And the beauty of an eight-hour show is that you can explore.”
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