Starting off as a comic strip in the New Yorker magazine in the early 1960s, the Addams family were the very antithesis of the jolly, sunny family that was more usually portrayed in popular culture. These were not the Flintstones or the Jetsons, and the Addams life was not punctuated by “hilarious” slapstick situations. The humour came from their take on current events, through their distinctive lens of the macabre. Not that the Addams’ were miserable, quite the opposite. They seemed to be extremely content, it was just that they saw the world from a whole different perspective. They blended a loving home with a strangeness and a darkness, which was their special allure. They were outsiders.
The comic strip was adapted for TV, and creator Charles Addams named his fictional daughter Wednesday – inspired by the Victorian fortune telling rhyme, which fortold that, “Wednesday’s Child is full of Woe”.
Wednesday Addams was one of the first prime time girl “anti-heroes”. Small, pale and polite but sparky and sarcastic, with a sharp wit, and a delicious lack of people pleasing. This quality was the shock factor – or in sit-com terms, the “Joke”. A little girl who refused to conform to what was expected. Imagine! How hilarious!
What probably no-one in TV land had stopped to consider at this point, was that instead of this apparent contradiction being just plain old funny, for many of us it proved to be something more of an inspiration or signpost.
Wednesday became far more than a “Joke”.
Originally played by child actor Lisa Loring, the Wednesday of the TV series kept pet spiders and cut the heads of her dolls with a guillotine. All very amusing and interesting for the time, but it wasn’t really until Christina Ricci (right) took on the role for the (1991) “Addams Family” feature film, that the cult of Wednesday really found its teeth.
With her sullen demeanour mixed with her damning one liners, Wednesday somehow spoke to our inner goth, no matter how old we were.
With her slightly Victorian pallour and dress sense, Wednesday ultimately led away from the dire cliches of goody-goody and compliant girl characters, with her dead-pan humour, and her refusal to bend to authority. This was not “the new Jan Brady” this was something much darker and more intoxicating, it appealed to our dark side, and still does. Wednesday…..Darlene Conner…..Fleabag.