Retrospect is 20/20, so they say, and I can certainly tell you why I identified with Wednesday as a young, highly gender confused child.
I revisited some of the more (relatively) recent Addams iterations and found that the Addams family from ’91 onwards snuck by as sex-positive kinky commentary. These concepts weren’t really in the public consciousness (sex-positivity is arguably still largely unknown) so the Addams family didn’t seem to ping anybody’s moral crisis radar. Or maybe they did? I was definitely too young to be paying attention to politics when this material was new.
Morticia and Gomez’s continuously passionate and loving relationship, despite the years of familiarity, is contrasted with the “typical” married couples who were often resentful and borderline abusive to one another. Gomez and Morticia are enthusiastically expressing their love and sexual desire for one another, and this is seen as contributing to their outsider status. Married couples were supposed to be spiteful, so obviously Morticia and Gomez were freaks if they actually behaved like people who routinely expressed affection and sexual desire for one another.
Morticia: “Last night you were unhinged. You were like some desperate howling demon. You frightened me. Do it again.”
Mmmm yassss girl. Right there with you.
Morticia in particular had the double whammy of being a woman who was cognizant of her sexual desires, and having those desires be fringe through her practices of sadomasochism and consensual fear play. Female sexuality is still seen as taboo, still used as a characterization trope for a “bad” woman, and this works overtime with its combination for her preferences in BDSM, which is also used as another shorthand for “bad” people. Morticia double bad. Yet, she has one of the healthiest and most loving TV marriages I’ve ever seen. She’s the only TV character I’ve seen where I’m thinking, “she’d be a good mom to have.”
Cue my identification with Wednesday:
Wednesday is characterized primarily through stinging barbs. In most of the Addams iterations, she is a hotbed of poignant commentary where nothing is too sacred for criticism. Wednesday addresses bullying, theism, invasive or entitled questioning, heterosexism, sexist narratives about girls, Christian sex “ed,” woo, the list goes on. No bad idea survives her scrutiny.
Morticia: Wednesday’s at that very special age when a girl has only one thing on her mind.
Girl Scout: Is this made from real lemons?
Girl Scout: I only like all-natural foods and beverages, organically grown, with no preservatives. Are you sure they’re real lemons?
Girl Scout: Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll buy a cup if you buy a box of my delicious Girl Scout cookies. Do we have a deal?
Wednesday: Are they made from real Girl Scouts?
Gonna need some cream for that burn.
Wednesday obviously spends a lot of time questioning the things that most of the non-Addams characters take for granted. This is one quality that she shares with my childhood. I questioned nearly every idea I encountered (including the idea that I was a boy–but no one I knew or met encouraged the completion of that train of thought). We used dull sarcasm as our vehicle of expression, because we saw that most people floated blissfully through life with nary a second thought.
Although I’m no longer a child, I find myself at a position of relative disenfranchisement in a way that still simulates Wednesday’s position within the Addams fiction. As a minor, she isn’t empowered by most of the people she meets, so she feels she has to comment from a back foot. My multiple minority statuses, not all of which are protected by law, create the same effect–so I have to wade into the commentary from a position of less power, be spoken to as if I were an ignorant child and not someone who has spent their whole life questioning a problem that the “grown ups” are only now talking about. Stinging barbs become my weapon, because nothing else gets through that arrogance.
Wednesday has allies, of course. Her family. One characteristic shared by all of her family is that they do empower her. They encourage her explorations, give her a platform, and let her do her. The Addams parents don’t have to sculpt Wednesday into someone perfect. Instead they teach her to live with her whole character. Don’t get rid of the warts, celebrate them.
It’s some good fiction, is what I’m trying to say.