Signs of teen drama are instantly recognizable, and Netflix Wednesday filled with them. Wednesday finds herself in the middle of a love triangle with tortured bad boy artist Xavier and bland “normal” Tyler; all her friends are walking clichés (including Eugene, a lone nerd in suspenders and glasses whose name it’s even a cliché) and, perhaps worst of all, they turned her into a teenage detective.
While this path is the usual course for Nancy Drews and Betty Coopers on TV, Wednesday’s teenage service to her character turns her into an oxymoron – why should she care about justice and truth? This girl has murderous intent and gives “zero effects” and the show doesn’t convince us too much otherwise. Wednesday Addams cares about truth (somewhat) and justice (a little), but Wednesdaythe overburdened mystery and overly indulgent treatment of their titular character leaves any truly meaningful exploration of her buried as deep as the remains of Garrett Gates. Instead, she barely changes throughout the series, never learning from her mistakes, and the series forgives her for all of this in the name of trying to make her a passable protagonist in a teen drama.
In Episode 3, Wednesday learns the grim truth about the city of Jericho (and we viewers find out why this show was released on Thanksgiving and not Halloween). Her ancestor Goody Addams was nearly killed by a pilgrim named Joseph Crackstone, the city’s founding father and notorious outcast hater. She finds the story repulsive and expresses her feelings to Principal Weems. Wednesday is surprised to discover that Weems already knew about the story and continues to work with the city of Jericho for the benefit of both the city and Nevermore Academy. Wednesday calls her an accomplice and says that she is no better than the repressive, outcast-hating townspeople because she works so closely with them. These moments between Weems and Wednesday are the hallmark of the classic teen drama Teen Against the Establishment. Wednesday, our teenage heroine, is up against Weems, our Establishment who just doesn’t understand the difference between right and wrong, or simply doesn’t care. In this way, the series manages to create a sly teen drama heroine from Wednesday, but due to the nature of her character, she is constantly brought back.
The Rave’N dance in episode four gives Wednesday the opportunity to learn more about the normie barista Tyler that Xavier warned her about. Xavier reveals on Wednesday that Tyler and his normal friends attacked him while he was painting in Jericho, a crime apparently motivated by Xavier’s status as an outcast. Wednesday confronts Tyler about this hate crime and he tries to explain himself, saying that he has changed now. Judging by Wednesday’s reaction to Weems’ compliance in the previous episode, you’d think she’d be furious, right? Instead, she laughs back, “You thought I’d judge you for some lousy joke?” She writes it off by downplaying this hate crime against Xavier, which completely contradicts her moral stance from the previous episode.
When you have a character like Wednesday, who seemingly doesn’t care about anyone and puts her sadistic love of pain and suffering above the feelings of others, it’s hard to get her to fall into the archetypes needed for a teen drama protagonist, especially when she tries to convince the public that she really cares about solving various murders on and off campus. So in trying to mold her into its ideal protagonist, the series relies heavily on the hard work the characters put in on Wednesday to justify her worst behavior and write them off as minor hiccups on her path to her status as Nevermore’s savior.
Throughout the season, Wednesday is truly terrible for literally everyone around. She is terrible for her parents, who are just trying to give Wednesday the same unforgettable high school experience they have; she treats her roommate Enid terribly, who constantly tries to be her friend despite her constant rejection; she is terrible about her two love interests, never truly trusting Tyler or Xavier. But since the plot considers Wednesday to be our hero, she is only rewarded for bad behavior.
In Episode 6, Enid is fed up with Wednesday and her reckless threat to life without remorse, so she decides to move out of their shared room. At the end of the episode, sitting alone in her room, Wednesday seems to actually be remorseful, sincerely contemplating what her actions have led to. Although, moments later, she is rewarded for her troubles by finding pictures of herself and her friends in a music box owned by Laura Gates. At this point, a mysterious plot takes over, pushing Wednesday back into the thick of her investigations, pushing Enid’s feelings out of her head. The same thing happens in the next episode, when Wednesday bumps into Xavier in Nightshade’s library; they fight and he runs out. However, this gives her, Uncle Fester, and the Thing the perfect opportunity to find exactly the book they need to solve the case of the mysterious monster. In each case, the show doesn’t give time to reflect on our main character, never lets her think about the feelings of those around her, and actively rewards her for such behavior, giving her another clue immediately afterwards.
By the end of the seventh episode, Enid returns to their shared bedroom and moves his belongings there. Wednesday asks her why she’s back, and Enid replies, “Because we’re working. We don’t have to, but we do.” Wednesday never apologizes to her for her actions, instead Enid just falls back into her lap despite her doing nothing to win her roommate’s trust again. By episode eight, after Xavier is arrested for murder on Wednesday, she never has to earn his forgiveness as he goes back to what he said about her from his cell (“You’re toxic,” he told her, for which he apologizes. her for). It doesn’t mean the environment doesn’t try nearly apologize. She tells Enid that she “disappointed” her friend, but Enid rejects her apology. There are many instances in the finale where Wednesday could have learned something, could have grown as a person in relation to her friends and the way she treats others, but the show constantly lets her off the hook because of her worst grievances.
Of course, all this does not mean that Wednesday would have been more successful if she had been good all season – just the opposite. The characterization of the Environment is interesting and complex, but there wasn’t enough time in the series to explore it. If a Wednesday really wanted to explore the inner workings of her mind, those important character moments wouldn’t be set aside in favor of other plot priorities. Because the structure of the teen drama requires Wednesday to face the series’ monsters with the help of her friends, Wednesday sacrifices moments of reflection in favor of quick forgiveness.
It’s like the show wanted to tell a story about Wednesday, her relationship with those around her, her relationship with herself, and her morality, but the exaggerated elements of teen drama halted any growth or exploration, leaving the show aside from little character moments. focused intrigue overshadowed by a high-stakes murder mystery and teen TV clichés. Trapped in a teen drama, they had to excuse Wednesday for being herself, pushing the other characters to forgive Wednesday’s wrongs without apology or remorse, instead trying to convince the audience that everything she did was okay because her friends started apologizing in front of her. her, instead of letting Wednesday be the morally gray it should be. Hidden behind Jenna Ortega’s perpetual frown is a version of Wednesday that’s allowed to be as layered and interesting as her acting shows, but sadly the series falters – and she shines despite that.
In the ending, Wednesday finally lets Enid hug her and she even takes an arrow for Xavier; these points indicate a change made on Wednesday. But since she was right about everything and came out on the other hand successful, she simply returns as soon as the danger is over. After the cliché, over the top, teen drama capital “F” Finale, all sins are forgiven because Wednesday is our hero. Because in the end, Wednesday’s mistreatment of others and her selfish nature allowed her to solve the mystery, didn’t it? As predicted in the prophecy, she became the savior of Nevermore.
Despite being slapped by Wednesday on the show (and her penchant for speaking in witticisms that seem perfectly matched to be viral Tumblr screenshots circa 2014), Wednesday still manages to be a fun teen drama filled with mystery and intrigue. But it’s hard not to think it would be better if the series was about exploring the psyche of fiction’s favorite little psychopath rather than trying to turn her into a classic teen drama heroine, unpacking what the Addams does, and Wednesday in particular, is so creepy, weird and creepy.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in rural Indiana. Any thoughts on TV, movies and the beautiful madness of Riverdale you can ask her. @annagovert— if Twitter still exists.
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