The Addams Family is an iconic symbol in popular culture of the weird, quirky, and sinister – in opposition to the perfect, white-picket-fence family stereotype. The fictionalised family’s dynamic nature has been reimagined and re-released since its conceptualisation in 1938. Originally, the Addams family was the subject of a series of popular newspaper comics by Charles Addams. Over the years, the Addams family franchise was reimagined in both animated and real-life versions. Previously, the most popular live-action depiction of the family was the ‘sitcom-like’ 1960s television show, as well as the series of movies throughout the 1990s. The most popular (and recent) adaptation, however, came out in 2022 and is titled Wednesday, named after the leading protagonist and the Addams family’s daughter.
In the original graphic narrative depictions, the characters’ odd and comic natures were shown through their features: Morticia Addams’ long, tall, slim figure; Oscar Addams’ squat appearance; Uncle Fester’s round and blob-like head and body…etc. The family live in a dark, sinister house, which is reminiscent of Victorian aesthetics. The 60s T.V. show, The Addams Family, inherited these aesthetics as the Addams’ house is decorated with primarily (but not exclusively) strange and ostentatious furniture. These earlier adaptations focus primarily on the demeanour and nature of the family, establishing their differences from the rest of ‘society’ in a matter-of-a-fact, witty way. Importantly, these depictions were made and released before the punk and gothic alternative scene came into fruition in the 1980s.
The popular 1990s movies, The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) lean further into the gothic style and build on the family’s humour and differences by playing into the franchise’s pre-established dynamics. In Addams Family Values, Wednesday Addams is highlighted utilising a deeply sinister perspective on being a young teenager. For the first time, her dress-style and demeanour strongly relates directly to a pre-existing sub-culture. This bleeds directly into Wednesday, the Tim Burton 2020s live-action rendition of the franchise.
Highly popular and acclaimed, the series further establishes Wednesday’s uniquely menacing nature within a context established by the 80s and 90s gothic fashion aestheticism. A mystery set in a boarding school designed for the odd and supernatural, the series’ fashion draws a stark contrast between Wednesday and the other characters. Wednesday has the pale skin to dark eyes complexion most associated with gothic makeup. Her clothing sense isn’t strictly uniform like the previous adaptations, instead she changes into different outfits, each maintaining a direct representation of the gothic aesthetic.
The problematic nature lies in the contemporary exploitation of the sub-culture or alternative movements. The punk and gothic scenes in the 80s and 90s tried to represent a sense of self-identity and protest to the ordinary, and by extension, the repressive, controlling nature of capitalism. Whilst the unique and individual quality of gothic fashion is reflective in the qualities of franchise, it is inherently contradictory as it is still a capitalist franchise.
Photo from IMDB.com