I, like most of the world, have recently fallen in love with Wednesday Addams. Her sharp tongue, no-fucks-given attitude and unblinking stare are characteristics you might not expect from a female teenage heroine. Her teen protagonist predecessors include Euphoria’s Maddy Perez who dons cut-out dresses and vocal fry, and The Summer I Turned Pretty’s Belly who is caught in a love triangle between two brothers.
A Tim Burton-led, Netflix-produced, TV adaptation of The Addams Family might not have been an obvious choice for a worldwide hit, but it’s one of the streaming service’s most-watched shows, ever. 20-year-old Jenna Ortega’s take on the braided pigtail antihero has allowed a whole new generation to guffaw at and be spooked by the eccentric Addams family (and take after their style).
My fondness of Wednesday crept up on me in the same way she appears in a scene: out of nowhere. Watching the show, I felt compelled to Tweet, “I’m fully in love with Wednesday Addams and I think she would absolutely hate me”.
She is terrifying, but not in the way you’d expect when talking about a supernatural, psychic character with the ability to converse with the dead. She’s terrifying because she denies social attitudes when it comes to what is expected of girls.
Wednesday is dark and snarky; her one-liners are scathing and unrestrained. “I’m not interested in participating in tribal adolescent clichés,” she says. “For the record, I don’t believe that I’m better than everyone else. Just that I’m better than you,” she offers.
I, on the other hand, can be polite to a fault. It’s typical women’s stuff: I over-apologise in situations that need no apology, and I litter ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ in every little interaction (even when I’m sleep talking). Don’t get me started on my use of exclamation marks in emails.
I’m afraid of bumping into people on the street, I hold doors open for streams of passersby, I incessantly feel the need to smile and nod at strangers to appear amicable. A lot of the time, these actions are spurred on by fear and patriarchal conditioning, rather than the goodwill of my heart.
Growing up both as a woman and a person of colour, we’re taught to appease others by sweetening ourselves up and dumbing ourselves down. But Wednesday, a freshly-turned 16-year-old, turns her nose up at these antiquated expectations.
She doesn’t care what people think about her and she definitely won't smile at them. “I act as if I don’t care if people dislike me. Deep down… I secretly enjoy it,” she says. Wednesday’s ability to speak her mind without hesitation is the confidence that an indecisive and anxious person like myself could only dream of having.
Her self-assuredness isn’t only characterised by mean remarks, either. Take Wednesday’s unabashed intelligence which sees her outsmarting her classmates, or her now-viral jaunty and kooky dance (choreographed by Ortega herself). School dances are typically where teenage insecurity and nerves flourish, but Wednesday owns the dance floor with her flailing limbs and wide eyes, not once looking around to see how her peers perceive her.
This isn’t a case of cool girl aloofness, where a woman is strapped to what the male gaze insists a daring yet submissive, sexy yet doting woman should be. Wednesday simply has a disdain for pleasantries and meaningless fluff that we fill our conversations and interactions with.
What Wednesday has taught me is that there is a huge difference between politeness and kindness. Wednesday Addams is not polite, but she is kind (though I have a feeling she’d hold a knife to my throat if she heard me say that).
At the core of her character is a gnawing need to take care of those she cares for. From dropping bags of piranhas in a pool to get back at her brother’s bullies to her commitment to ‘hive code,’ Wednesday is endlessly loyal and protective of her friends.
“Anytime I grow nauseous at the sight of a rainbow or hear a pop song that makes my ears bleed, I’ll think of you,” she tells her best friend and roommate Enid Sinclair.
Wednesday isn’t afraid to dismiss rules, challenge authority and forego niceties. And when it comes to things that really matter — being there for friends, showing up in tough situations (and solving a murder mystery that’s plaguing your town), Wednesday is there.
Politeness isn't bad per se, but now I know it doesn't have to be a prerequisite for interacting with the world. I've been practising my resting Wednesday face, complete with crossed arms and an unforced disposition. Turns out, abandoning my mandated manners is actually kind of nice.