“Wednesday” – Hardships of Growing up [Review]

I have to admit that I approached the Netflix series “Wednesday” with some skepticism. A story seemingly designed for teenagers seemed to me unattractive and naive. Meanwhile, it turned out that I was wrong: “Wednesday” is not only great entertainment, but also a high-level production, in which you can feel the atmosphere of Tim Burton’s work. The combination of the convention of detective fiction with elements of fantasy, black humor and a coming-of-age story captivates the viewer from the first episode. Moreover, as is usually the case with Burton, the story simultaneously entertains and teaches, and the generation of parents can especially learn a lot from this moral. For me, as a mother of a teenager, looking at growing up through Tim Burton’s eyes proved extremely invigorating.

“Wednesday” – the daughter of the Addams family

The screenplay for “Wednesday” by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar draws on the popular Addams Family stories from Charles Samuel Addams’ comic books. The characters of the ghostly family have become characters in numerous film, TV series and animated productions. This time we are dealing with a special project: the plot of the adolescence of the sociopathic teenager, the eponymous Wednesday, was developed by Tim Burton himself, the creator of such hits as “Beetle Juice”, “Edward Scissorhands” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. And it must be stressed that the effect is excellent.

A teenage girl going through a period of rebellion is constantly being expelled from one school after another for her macabre antics, such as throwing a piranha into the school pool. So Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán) Addams decide to put their daughter in Nevermore Academy, an institution for teenagers who manifest supernatural abilities. From now on, her companions are to become werewolves, mermaids, wizards or clairvoyants. Shrouded in a black outfit and exuding negative energy, Wednesday becomes the roommate of Enid (Emma Myers), a friendly werewolf girl with a penchant for flashy colors.

The protagonist undergoes the agony of assimilating to a new environment, and in the process befriends a “normal” boy from the town, Tyler (Hunter Doohan). It soon turns out that there are mysterious murders in the nearby woods, of which the local sheriff suspects one of the alumni of the school for “freaks.” Smart and clever Wednesday soon discovers that the murders are related to events that took place many years earlier, and in which members of her clan were entangled….

The series “Wednesday” – great entertainment in the style of Tim Burton

“Wednesday” as a thriller is really delicious to watch, and the filmmakers effectively confuse the clues so as not to reveal the solution to the mystery until the end. The growing tension is effectively relieved by black humor and motifs from the world of fantasy, such as the Handyman accompanying the main character, the visit of Uncle Fester or the Poe Cup competition, in which Nevermore alumni have the opportunity to showcase the full extent of their extraordinary talents. The climate of fiction aesthetics constantly balances on the border of kitsch, but never for a moment crosses it, playing with the expectations of the audience. The meticulously designed setting of the Nevermore school with the gothic style of Wednesday’s room and the underground library with a secret passage co-create a semi-magical atmosphere taken from horror cinema, as do the forest and the cave where a menacing monster lurks.

An additional asset of the production is its musical layer, which is a combination of classics and hits by Metallica or The Rolling Stones. The latter we have the opportunity to hear in the original arrangement, when Wednesday passionately wins them on the cello. It seems that the heroine’s famous peculiar dance at the Nevermore ball has already become part of pop culture, especially thanks to LadyGaga’s hit “Bloody Mary.” The song, with frames taken from the series, has gained immense popularity on TikTok and received praise from the song’s performer herself.

It is also impossible not to mention the excellent acting, starting with the actress playing the role of Wednesday, Jenna Ortega. The actress perfectly conveyed the character of her character – an insanely intelligent outsider who, with the help of indifference and antipathy, protects the most vulnerable part of her self from the world. It is she who sets the rhythm of the whole story and effectively focuses the viewer’s attention on herself. However, while at times Wednesday may seem overly schematic, a good counterbalance to her performance is Emma Myers in the role of Enid. Contrary to appearances, she is a multidimensional character who efficiently combines humorous elements and deeper meanings of the series. Enid was conceived as a kind of filter for the values that Wednesday has yet to learn: friendship, solidarity or trust. Also noteworthy is Christina Ricci’s ambivalent performance as the eccentric teacher of Nevermore or Gwendoline Christie, the headmistress of the school hiding her emotions under an image consisting of the perfect hairstyle, matching costume and stilettos.

“Wednesday” – the hardships of growing up

Nevertheless, the greatest asset of “Wednesday” seems to me that the production does not stop only at the level of good entertainment, but has greater ambitions. The series on many levels is about the experience of otherness and alienation. What is alien (and therefore any deviation from the norm) is subject to exclusion and stigmatization marking the relationship of townspeople and “others” with intergenerational trauma. In turn, out of the growing hostility can only be born evil, which, unnamed by name, will like a boomerang return in subsequent generations.

“Wednesday”, on the other hand, in terms of the division of self and stranger, portrays primarily the period of adolescence itself. The initiation into adulthood is, as it were, a confrontation with the world of one’s own otherness. Even more interesting is the perspective of parents: for them “freaks” seem to be young people going through a stage of rebellion, which they manifest through eccentric clothes, hairstyle or manner of being. What can save us in this “macabre” adolescence? Well, only distance and black humor in the style of Tim Burton.