Spooky, Kooky, and Altogether Ooky

Anne Chen

Snap, snap! Everyone’s favorite deadpan daughter is back again in Tim Burton’s rendition of The Addams Family. Only this time, the morbid Wednesday Addams takes on the dreaded teenage years in a packed season of mysterious homicides, secret societies, love triangles, and mother-daughter relationships. 

Netflix released Wednesday during Thanksgiving week and the series attracted an overwhelming amount of attention. The dark comedy was watched for a total of over 750 million hours just twelve days after its release, becoming the fifth most-watched show ever on Netflix.

Set in Jericho, Vermont, the series begins with Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) transferring to a boarding school for outcasts and weirdos. In her first weeks, she scarcely escapes death from a falling gargoyle, recruits a walking hand as her loyal servant, and sneaks out from a therapy session. Meanwhile, a homicidal monster embarks on a killing spree all over town, and Wednesday makes it her mission to uncover the string-puller behind these attacks. 

The show also played into the spirit of the national holiday by capturing family gatherings, while still acknowledging the country’s history of subjugating minorities and outcasts. The “normies vs outcasts” trope in the series fuels much of Wednesday’s awakening to her psychic powers. Through her visions, she learns that her ancestor was burned by Jericho’s founder. And with the colonizer’s intentions resurfacing, Wednesday must fulfill the prophecy of facing her foe, and to put it simply, stop an outcast genocide.

At a glance, Wednesday is every other ridiculous supernatural teen comedy. However, Jenna Ortega’s performance brings an appealing dimension to the character that combines Wednesday’s stoicism with typical teenage experiences. Ortega introduces Wednesday through a coming-of-age journey, as she struggles to find a place in her mother Morticia’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) alma mater. She brings a touch of vulnerability and teen angst to the character while maintaining an unblinking, soulless stare. Wednesday’s experiences with high school, friendships, boys, and dances attract a generation of viewers who grew up with Ortega’s role in Disney’s Stuck in the Middle

In comparison with Christina Ricci’s interpretation of Wednesday from The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993), Ortega can certainly hold her own. Beyond Netflix, her character has taken the internet by storm. Ortega’s stellar performance in her self-choreographed dance to “Goo Goo Muck” became a viral sensation on Tik Tok, with millions of users recreating her eccentric scene. Many creators have also attempted to imitate Ortega’s unblinking performance, which she maintains throughout the entire series. 

Wednesday is a chaotic work filled with ubiquitous teen tropes, mysteries, spooky twists, and many other subplots. Yet, what made this predictable show a sensation was none other than Jenna Ortega. With season two approaching, it is with no doubt that despite the pressure of reviving Wednesday Addams, Jenna Ortega not only had her breakout role but also redefined the beloved character.