I recently watched Wednesday, which is one of Netflix’s most watched English language series. There’s a lot to like about it. Jenna Ortega makes the perfect Wednesday Addams. Thing (the disembodied hand) is a lot of fun. The dance scene in episode 4 is amazing. The dialogue is witty, and there’s a lot of great one liners.
However, there were also things I didn’t like about it. I didn’t feel like this version of Gomez and Morticia had the same chemistry as the 1990s Addams Family. They kissed a lot, but they didn’t seem to have any real passion. Also, Uncle Fester’s high-pitched voice kept making me think of Curly from the Three Stooges. I guess I preferred the husky-voiced Fester from the 90s.
I also didn’t like the disproportionate revenge in the first episode. Some bullies stuff Pugsley into a locker, so Wednesday releases piranhas into the swimming pool for revenge. This is wrong on many levels. First of all, not everybody in that pool stuffed Pugsley into the locker, but Wednesday’s not concerned about collateral damage. Secondly, being attacked by piranhas is worse than being stuffed in a locker, so this isn’t justice, just Wednesday being a bully herself. Thirdly, the scene is played for laughs, which is just wrong. A boy screaming in pain as the pool fills with blood is not funny. In a later episode, Wednesday jokes about the boy losing a testicle, because Tim Burton thinks genital mutilation is hilarious.
The way the series deals with race is also awkward. In the first episode, Wednesday gets bullied by two different Black characters because she has pale skin, which makes me think Tim Burton is woefully unaware of how racism actually works. First, Wednesday challenges another student named Bianca to a fencing match. Bianca criticizes Wednesday for her black-and-white appearance even though Bianca has a black-and-white appearance herself. She cuts then Wednesday’s cheek, making her bleed and Bianca says she finally got a splash of color on her face.
Later in the same episode, Wednesday is minding her own business at a café when a group of boys dressed like pilgrims start to bully her. The leader of the bullies is Lucas, the mayor’s son. Once again, a Black character bullies Wednesday for having pale skin. Why does a Black person work at Pilgrim World anyway and why does his dad own it? There’s a later episode in which Morticia tells the Black mayor, “Men like you don’t know what it’s like not to be believed.” Really Morticia?
Another head-scratching moment is the boat race in episode 2. Each team decorates their boat and wears costumes based on a different Edgar Allen Poe story. We get The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, and Bianca’s team…The Golden Bug. Why Bianca would pick Poe’s most racist story for her team is beyond me. The Golden Bug features a former slave as the comic relief character. He constantly refers to himself using the N word and is so dumb, he doesn’t know his right hand from his left. Having a Black character be on the Golden Bug team is not a good look.
In the past, Tim Burton has dismissed diverse casting as political correctness and he rarely casts Black actors in his movies. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and The Nightmare Before Christmas both featured only one Black actor, playing the villain. Fortunately, the Black characters in Wednesday grow as people and become more than just bullies by the end, but it was weird that they all started out as bullies.
I felt like the ending was a bit silly. Wednesday almost dies several times so each and every one of her classmates has the opportunity to save her life. I know that in action movies the way characters bond with each other is to save each other’s lives, but the number of times her life gets saved at the end is ridiculous. It’s also implied that Wednesday murders one of the villains at the end, making her a bit of a villain herself. It’s also left a bit unclear whether another of the villains was being mind-controlled or not. If not, earlier scenes in the series don’t make sense. If he was, he shouldn’t have been sent to prison at the end. Oh well.