Happy, Happy Turkey Day
The film makers of the Addams Family movies had a difficult task; how to keep the spirit of the original 1960’s sitcom, which was inspired by Charles Addams’ macabre cartoons for The New Yorker, while moving past the one-joke premise (“They’re creepy and they’re kooky…” the cartoony theme chimed.)
Their solution was brilliant. They simply rotated the perspective. So while the 1990’s versions of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and the rest of the clan were still “creepy and kooky”, they were the ones we related to. They were a foil for mocking the superficiality and latent racism of conformist, suburban, Republican America.
Even the title of the sequel, ‘Addams Family Values’, subverts a conservative catch phrase, while acknowledging that the family, despite their ghoulishness, does actually have values; Gomez and Morticia are lustily devoted to each other; the Addamses promote family pride and tradition; Wednesday and Pugsley enjoy playing together, albeit at killing one other.
The Addams Family as stand-ins for society’s outcasts is never made more clear than in the Thanksgiving scene in the sequel. Wednesday and Pugsley are sent to the conformist Camp Chippewa, where the Fascistically cheerful counselors force them to play sports, watch ‘The Sound of Music’ and take part in the end of session play, which commemorates the first Thanksgiving despite it being late summer. All of the rich, blonde, rhinoplastied kids get to be the pilgrims. All of the Jewish, black, middle-eastern, overweight, bespectacled and children with disabilities are cast as the Indians, with Wednesday as their leader, Pochahontas.
When Christina Ricci commits her sweet revenge (the likes of which hadn’t been seen on film since Carrie was crowned Prom Queen) she is acting for everyone who ever felt like the underdog. For this reason, the Addams Family can be seen as ‘queer’ while featuring no homosexuality, although I have my suspicions about Wednesday.