In the 90s and 2000s we had The ship Y The Raven, but we haven’t had a young female gothic character lead a show for decades. Until now. From her lush black bangs to her ghostly paleness, Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday Addams is a teen goth queen worthy of her reign on the small screen.
Wednesday is beautiful, weird and fun. She is regularly confused by the rules of life and for all of us who are baffled by the ever changing rules of what is acceptable and what is not, she is eminently relatable. Anyone who has survived high school, or is currently struggling in their senior year, will understand Wednesday’s dilemma.
We live in a culture of remixes and remakes with varying degrees of success in reinventing the nostalgia of perpetually distracted perpetuals. Simply reincarnating The Addams Family would have been a wasted opportunity, and veteran director Tim Burton has gone to great lengths to create a contemporary story and context for the Netflix iteration.
Until now, Wednesday has always appeared as a child in comics, movies, and animations. In Burton’s new series, Jenna Ortega is a teenage Wednesday awkwardly navigating the wild sociocultural complexities of high school and hormones. Even with her mystical witchy powers, her esoteric sensibilities, and her unusually eclectic family, Wednesday reflects any of us who have felt like perpetual outsiders. She doesn’t hang out with the sporty rich kids, nor the preppy girls with her perfect buns and tans. She barely tolerates the therapy sessions and struggles with her mother’s legacy as a stellar graduate of Nevermore Academy. She is either the target of boys’ attention and lust or her belligerence, neither of which is particularly interesting to her.
As if navigating the many microtraumas of high school weren’t enough, Wednesday finds himself drawn into an amateur investigative operation to reveal the protagonist behind a series of local murders. Goth queen detective? It’s a mouthful, and it makes for very juicy and tangled plots. He also opens avenues for the supporting characters to reveal their own agendas and twisted personalities.
Director Larissa Weems (Game of Throne‘s Gwendoline Christie) is the nemesis of both Wednesday and her mother, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a woman who knows much more than she is letting on. She is an ominous presence in the spate of deaths that now plague the city. Wednesday, a sardonically witty super hound, is determined to channel her newfound psychic powers to solve the mysterious murders.
Significantly less malevolent is the bespectacled expert on carnivorous plants, Marilyn Thornhill. Her role is played by Addams Family alumna Christina Ricci, who appears to symbolically hand over her Addams baton (she was Best Wednesday to Date in the 1991 film). the addams family) to Ortega. It’s a generous gesture, one that Ricci apparently enjoys.
Wednesday’s most vehement nemesis (there are quite a few, at the cost of being the weirdest girl in school) is Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday). Wednesday’s suitor, Xavier Thorpe (Percy Hynes), once dated Barclay, and his very obvious lust for Wednesday only fuels the rivalry between the superpowered girls. Her awkward teen romance adds a chill to this multi-layered, psychic, teen-horror family drama. To the great credit of Burton and his team, the series spans generations. It has enough self-referential elements to appeal to the over-40s who were enamored with the original Addams, while also featuring a cast of teens and 20-somethings who represent the new generation of screen idols.
Wednesday Addams has always epitomized marginalized girls who are drawn to unusual or dark aspects of literature, fashion, and ideas. And music. Fittingly, there’s an industrial-romantic sheen to Danny Elfman’s soundtrack for Wednesday. Elfman also composed for Burton’s bat Man, Edward Scissorhands, big fish Y the nightmare before christmas. There’s a lovely nostalgic element to Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne hurte rien” that contrasts with the orchestral fantasy drama we’ve come to expect from Elfman.
Equally fantastic and dramatic is the fashion of Wednesdays. Ortega’s teen goth is a doe-eyed, angular, feline beauty. Unleashed in a boutique, she would be with Rick Owens, Alexander McQueen and Givenchy. The Latino Goths of Tisci’s runway at Givenchy in 2015 epitomize the Wednesday fashion vibe, and fittingly, Ortega’s own Mexican and Puerto Rican roots are also part of his fictional Goth girl identity, even if there’s no overt references to Latinx culture in the first season, at least.
In the wallpaperOrtega clarified that Wednesday represents Ortega’s own community: “Wednesday is technically a Latino character and that has never been represented, so for me, every time I have the opportunity to represent my community, I want it to be seen.” He says.
One of the most attractive qualities of goth girls is that they don’t lose their dark features with age, nor do they end up bleaching their hair and overcoming their social awkwardness to find a perfect Disney happy ending with a blonde surfer. Wendy Addams, much like Doom Gen’s Amy Blue and Nancy Downs, is not just a teen goth queen, but an alienated outcast, a sensitive and outspoken woman who resonates with women in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s. She is, of course, her mother’s daughter and Morticia is the most sensual and self-assured vampire. Somewhere between the introverted and preternaturally intelligent Wednesday and her eccentric and effortlessly sexy mom, we all channel something of Addams’ gothic queens. Or we want.
Wednesday satisfies our endless desire for independent, daring and eccentric girls and women on screen. Arguably, in our social media-saturated culture of plastic surgery, women who embody something unusual and unapologetically in their fashion and style are the ones who give us the courage to make our own statements. In recent years, we have had The girl with the dragon tattooRooney Mara (and Noomi Rapace in the Nordic version) as the ultimate traumatized victim turned hero. She is, like Wednesday, extraordinarily intelligent, observant, and dark in spirit, but also driven by curiosity and compassion to connect with those who will allow her to be exactly who she is.
A beautiful, malevolent, curious and vulnerable mastermind, the new Wednesday Addams exists alongside a legacy of brilliantly dark screen gothic and romantic icons. Once you’ve binge-watched Wednesday, I recommend looking for the following:
The girl with the dragon tattoo (2009 and 2011)
My preference is Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish film, but Rooney Mara does a fabulous job in David Fincher’s American adaptation. Salander is the ultimate outsider, alienated and misunderstood. She’s Joan Jett-meets-Tankgirl (another fantastic comic-to-movie adaptation), if you will.
The Raven (1994)
Eric Draven, played by the inimitable Brandon Lee, is based on the comic book character invented by James O’Barr. After he and his girlfriend are brutally murdered, Draven returns to the world to avenge their deaths. He cannot find peace until he has tracked down and eliminated his killers.
The ship (nineteen ninety six)
A group of tough, witchy girls break free from their Catholic schoolgirl restraints to go wild. It looks as good as it sounds. Like Wednesday, it aptly depicts teenage life in which navigating gangs, predatory children, mischievous teachers, and demanding parents is significantly more interesting with the introduction of supernatural powers.
Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking a link within this story, we may receive a small commission from the sale.