With one hell of a cast, plenty of nostalgia fuel, and a still-alive fanbase, the macabre comedy-horror series now evolves into the realm of teen dramas — but will it be subversive as the original was, or will Netflix botch this one up?
At over 84 years old, The Addams Family is one of the oldest existing properties in film and television today.
Charles Addams’ creepy inversion of the ‘ideal’ American family covers a legacy that began with fifty years’ worth of single-panel cartoons featured in The New Yorker, which then spawned a television series, animated series, standalone films, and eventually a grand renaissance in the 1990s with The Addams Family 1991 flick, which is the version most of us are familiar with today.
That was over thirty years ago, however. In the time since, the Addams have faded into relative obscurity, yet remained a fond object of nostalgia — making appearances in the occasional animated kids’ movie, or drawing attention at comic-con cosplay events. That all changed this year, as Netflix released their latest trailer of Wednesday — a teen drama focusing on the family’s titular teenage daughter.
Within a few hours of the new trailer going up, fans exploded with excitement for a variety of reasons — but why exactly is there so much hype surrounding a now-octogenarian IP, and what have the creators done to differentiate it from what comes before?
Quite a lot, it would seem.
There’s a reason I instantly paid attention to Wednesday when it was initially teased back in June. While Jenna Ortega and The Addams Family, in general, are awesome, the addition of Tim Burton’s name to the project dials up the nostalgia bait factor right up to eleven.
It’s interesting to note that for Burton, this will be the third time the iconic director was propositioned to handle an Addams Family project. He was initially asked to direct the iconic 1991 film, but was busy handling prior commitments for Batman Returns.
19 years on in 2010, he was connected to a Universal Pictures stop-motion project, which was reportedly canceled in 2013. Hell, I even remember feeling a bit upset that yet again, the lighthearted-yet-macabre property would continue to remain out of reach for Hollywood’s greatest feel-good horror director. Burton also managed to rope in the ‘90s Wednesday actor Christina Ricci for a reappearance and recruited long-time collaborator Danny Elfman to help score the series.
While a part of me was hoping for another stop-motion masterpiece, perhaps that was a bit too much to ask for, which brings me to…
It’s hard to pinpoint when Netflix decided to sell its soul to strange, chaotically-written teen dramas. Many of these shows garnered big audiences, but like the MCU, it was time to subvert the genre in order to keep things fresh.
This harkens back to the original Addams concept, which essentially sought to take the oversaturated cultural market for ‘perfect American families’, and instead provide us with a hilariously grim block on suburbia, interested in all things gruesome, spooky, and straight-up disgusting.
The Addams painted a picture of weirdos co-existing with the average American neighborhood — a reminder of how people we find different or strange can also be interesting, loving, and even good samaritans. It’s also interesting how the evil side of the family never goes too far — and rather reflects the darker sides of the human psyche, such as when we idly daydream about bashing some irritating neighbor’s face in or tossing an unpleasant politician into a pit of snakes.
With the Addams, the camera always cuts away right before it’s too late, and that’s part of the narrative.
What Wednesday seeks to accomplish, then, is catapulting this idea into the clique-driven world of Netflix high schools, where Wednesday — who takes after her mother’s cool, slick confidence — plots sadistic paybacks against the boorish jocks, in-crowds, and bullies in her social environment.
Naturally, this goes too far, and she finds herself transferred between eight schools in just five years. Worried and perhaps seeking a more ‘familiar’ school for their daughter, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and her husband Gomez (Luis Guzman) decide to send Wednesday to Nevermore — an Edgar Allen Poe reference disguised as Hogwarts, but for creepy little goth kids.
Some, such as Cracked’s JM McNab, think that applying the Addams’ unique weirdness to an entire subculture is a mistake, but I disagree. In showrunners Miles Millar and Alfred Gough’s own words:
“That’s something that was very important to the show—that it didn’t feel like a remake or a reboot. It’s something that lives within the Venn diagram of what happened before, but it’s its own thing. It’s not trying to be the movies or the ’60s TV show. That was very important to us and very important to Tim,” they said to Vanity Fair.
Wednesday has always stood out wherever she’s gone — from interactions with other children in 1993’s Addams Family Values to any number of adventures in the animated show. Nevermore allows us to explore Wednesday’s growth as a character beyond a misunderstood freak and also provides Tim Burton with the opportunity to flex his worldbuilding muscles in a way he’s never done before.
While I’m skeptical of how well the clearly-teased supernatural-murder mystery will pan out (looking at you, Riverdale), Wednesday’s solid casting, promising writing team, and iconic source material just might hit the right combination of notes, so I’m cautiously hopeful for the series.
Wednesday releases sometime during the fall season, with rumors suggesting a Halloween 2022 release. *snap snap*
Lead Image: Netflix