I still remember waking up on the Christmas morning when my stocking was stuffed with a huge poster. I excitedly unrolled it to reveal a big black and white image of the Addams family. Right in the middle stood my heroine, Wednesday Addams. Distinctive with her two black pigtails, and her sour expression, I loved Wednesday.
Like her, I was suspicious of characters who were too pink, too sweet or too much of a princess. I didn’t have her stomach for dissection or creepy crawlies, but I did share her interest in the darker side of life. I devoured books of ghost stories. I was fascinated by Egyptian mummies and pored over diagrams of hooks used to gather brains through the nose.
Wednesday Addams started life in The New Yorker in 1938 as a character in a comic strip by Charles Addams. I knew her best from watching after-school repeats of The Addams Family – a black and white TV programme first broadcast in 1960s – but it was only when two Addams Family movies were released in the early 1990s, and Christina Ricci brought Wednesday to life, that I really fell for the character, and started requesting posters for Christmas.
Adults patronise and underestimate Wednesday. They mistake her quiet nature and love of learning as timidity. They ignore her intelligence, her fierce determination and ability to fight back – and fight back she does! She sees through plots against her family, and defends herself against the cheery counselors of summer camp.
She knows her history, and isn’t afraid of the violence it contains. She admires and celebrates her Great Aunt, burned as a witch, and when given the role of Pocahontas, she leads a fiery rebellion against the settlers. She guillotines her doll, Marie-Antionette. She fights with her brother Pugsley, victorious through skill and cunning. It’s one of the few sibling relationships on screen to show both loyalty and violent resentment – a combination some people might find a little familiar!
For me, Wednesday is a heroine for her wit and intelligence. She’s a lesson in the danger of underestimating girls; they may be small or quiet, but they are fierce.
Girl Museum Inc.