The following contains spoilers for Wednesday’s Season 1, which is now streaming on Netflix.
Wednesday star Jenna Ortega had some pretty big shoes to fill after Christina Ricci defined Wednesday Addams for an entire generation between 1991 the addams family and its 1993 sequel, Addams Family Values. Interestingly, despite the unenviable task Ortega had before her, the trailers and shorts for the new Netflix series made it clear that she was the perfect choice for the role of hers.
From the way Ortega succinctly captures Wednesday’s body language, his way of speaking, and the way he delivers his one-liners, there was no doubt that his iteration of “worry child” would be his own. Now that his series is streaming on Netflix, it turns out that Ortega’s Wednesday Addams has a lot more to it than what the trailers and feature films initially showed. In fact, after seeing her entire performance, Ortega gives her co-star Christina Ricci (who plays Marilyn Thornhill) a run for the title of “Most Iconic Wednesday.” While Orega’s Wednesday has a lot in common with her predecessor, there are also new layers to her character that really make her stand out in unique and interesting ways.
Ortega’s Wednesday is as sharp as Ricci’s
One thing that’s immediately recognizable about Ortega’s Wednesday is that it’s as sharp as Ricci’s version of the iconic 1990s movies. While Ricci’s Wednesday was mostly a supporting character in the addams family — delivering a performance similar to Lisa Loring’s iteration of the character from the 1960s TV series — the sequel film was where her Wednesday truly pushed the envelope and shone as a feminist icon. Forced to attend summer camp at the “suggestion” of their evil babysitter, both Ricci’s Wednesday and Jimmy Workman’s Pugsley found themselves mingling with “regular” kids, many of whom were strange for their macabre interests.
Throughout the film’s sequel, Ricci’s Wednesday constantly clashed with camp counselors and fellow camper Amanda Buckman (played by from Buffy the Vampire Slayer Mercedes McNab). Some of Wednesday’s most memorable scenes in the film include her comment about Amanda being a victim all her life and the sabotage of the play in which Amanda played an English settler and Wednesday played a Chippewa maiden, incorrectly named Pocahontas. on netflix Wednesday, Ortega brings a similar energy to his version of the character, which clashes with everyone he meets. This includes the principal of his school, Larissa Weems (played by the Sandman Gwendoline Christie), Sherriff Galpin, and her various schoolmates, including her roommate, Enid Sinclair (played by Emma Myers).
Like his predecessor, Ortega’s Wednesday is also forced to stay somewhere against his will, in this case, a boarding school called Nevermore Academy. Despite being among other outcasts, his schoolmates still clique and behave like normal teenagers, effectively further cementing Wednesday as a true outlier. Although Ortega’s Wednesday prides herself on being obnoxious, this doesn’t stop her schoolmates from wanting to be friends with her like Enid and Xavier Thorpe, the latter of whom is romantically interested in her. Her desire to get closer to Wednesday causes her to back off with her trademark brutal honesty, often being as hurtful as possible. Ironically, the students at Nevermore fall for her, making a significant difference from Ricci’s Wednesday.
Ortega’s Wednesday is more emotionally vulnerable than Ricci’s
Due to the satirical nature of the addams family films from the 1990s, Ricci’s Wednesday doesn’t have much character development as her character’s goal is to subvert female stereotypes. While this remains true of Ortega’s Wednesday, her show is less satirical and comes across as a teen drama a la Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As such, satire is only one aspect of his show, with more emphasis placed on challenging Wednesday to deal with people and circumstances outside of his comfort zone. This includes exploring how Wednesday handles interpersonal relationships, both romantic and platonic.
Despite being of Mexican descent, Ortega’s Wednesday does not at all subscribe to the stereotypes attached to the Latino community. One of those stereotypes is that Latinos are family-oriented and people-oriented, neither of which are in Wednesday’s toolbox. She is also not loud or energetic, nor does she have a colorful personality as you would expect from a Latino character. Ortega’s Wednesday, on the other hand, is emotionally cold and melancholic, preferring the solitude of a dark and empty space to the company of a single close friend. This makes establishing relationships a challenge for Wednesday, and her emotional vulnerabilities are immediately revealed the moment she realizes that other people care about her.
Wednesday as an emotionally vulnerable person is primarily explored through three characters: Enid, Xavier, and Tyler Galpin, who also has a romantic interest in Wednesday. Of the three, Enid is the character that pushes Wednesday out of her comfort zone in a healthy way. In the same way that Wednesday takes pride in accusing people of her nonsense, Enid does the same with her when she steps out of line or does something hurtful. Similarly, Enid models healthy, unconditional love, forcing Wednesday to reevaluate her behavior and reconsider her position on friendship. Wednesday is also shown to be more empathetic towards her friends and schoolmates, even if she doesn’t admit it to herself out of a false sense of self-preservation. This is most evident in her decision to investigate the murder of a classmate, which puts her in the path of Tyler and Xavier.
Ortega’s Wednesday is more open to romance than Ricci’s
As he investigates the circumstances of his classmate Rowan’s murder, Wednesday’s prime suspect is Xavier, who is always at the scene of every crime or incident he investigates. This is often a source of frustration for Xavier, but oddly enough, the least of his worries is Wednesday suspecting him of murder. Instead, he is more upset by the fact that she spends more time with Tyler, a “normal” who has a history of bullying. This is also a major source of frustration for Wednesday, as she is not comfortable with the idea of anyone being romantically interested in her, let alone someone she suspects of murder. Ironically, this pushes her further into Tyler’s orbit, who validates her reservations about romantic relationships in the worst possible way.
Initially thinking of Tyler as someone who is strangely accepting of her unconditional individuality, Wednesday allows herself to be more receptive to Tyler’s affection. She even considers getting romantically involved with him and allows herself to kiss him, something she never thought she would do. Unfortunately for Wednesday, just as she lets her guard down, she has a vision of Tyler’s recent murder of her therapist, Dr. Valerie Kinbott. Not only does she turn out to be the assassin she’s been searching for, but she inadvertently validated her original opinion that a romantic relationship was wrong. Although it didn’t take Wednesday long to get over Tyler, she made her reluctant to rush into another romantic relationship.
While Christina Ricci’s Wednesday will always be loved by adams family Fanatic for the limits he surpassed 30 years ago, it is undeniable that Ortega’s Wednesday has become an icon in his own right. Ortega not only successfully continued the legacy that Ricci started, but also explored different layers to the character of him that hadn’t been seen before in other iterations. As such, Ortega easily stands out as Wednesday Addams to a whole new generation.
Wednesday Starring Jenna Ortega is now streaming on Netflix.