|The cast of The Addams Family|
1. Anjelica Huston was 40 when she played Morticia. Considering that it’s very hard for women over 40 (who aren’t A-listers) to get lead parts, that’s already a milestone. But she’s also sexy. Incredibly sexy. Yes, she’s playing the mother of a pair of preteens, but she appears immaculately (and eerily) beautiful in every scene she’s in. How often do we see a mother character who is genuinely sexy?
2. Morticia and Gomez Addams are famously in love with each other. What set the 1960s series apart from all other sitcoms was that this was a married couple who were crazy about each other, instead of fighting. In the film, this tradition of their great love affair continues. There are no mother-in-law jokes, both take responsibility in raising the children, and have a very healthy sex life. So many stories have the love story end at marriage, or have the couple grow to loathe each other over time. Just think of it - a loving marriage was groundbreaking.
3. Addams Family Values explicitly challenges conformist WASPs at the Summer Camp that Wednesday and Pugsley stay at. The siblings absolutely refuse to compromise themselves and pretend to be happy or to enjoy sickeningly sappy things (like Annie the musical). The camp counsellors show favouritism to the traditionally attractive blonde white rich kids, and it’s made quite obvious how hateful and hypocritical they really are. At the end of the movie, Wednesday and the other “outcasts” deliberately sabotage the counsellors’ tremendously racist Thanksgiving play by symbolically enacting revenge for the genocide that Native Americans suffered at the hands of white people.
4. Despite the Addamses having both a boy and a girl child (at least in the first film), it is the girl that gets the good parts. That doesn’t happen very often at all - other examples of media that has two siblings of each sex almost always emphasizes the brother. Christina Ricci’s sarcastic and deadpan portrayal of Wednesday is one of the highlights of an already perfectly cast set of films. It contrasts sharply with the cheerful Wednesday from the TV version, but I can’t be the only one longing for more sardonic brunette girls in family movies...who aren’t the villains.
5. The climax of The Addams Family seemingly has a damsel-in-distress situation...except that it’s been turned on its head. Morticia...enjoys...being tied up and tortured. Yep kiddies, here’s your first introduction to bondage and BDSM! It’s played for laughs of course, as it always is, but notice that when Gomez and Morticia discuss her predicament, it’s with absolute passion. Their kinkiness is just another aspect of their already healthy sex life. And in the end, the damsel-in-distress isn’t really in distress at all! Sure, she needed to be untied, but Morticia was definitely not in any danger.
6. The characters are evenly split male/female. On the male side, we have Gomez, Fester, Lurch, Pugsley, and Tully Alford. On the female side, we have Morticia, Wednesday, Grandmama, Dr. Pinder-Schloos and Margaret Alford. The four leads (arguably Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci) are split evenly too. And, of course, the film passes the Bechdel Test pretty easily.
7. The villain of Addams Family Values, Debbie (played by Joan Cusack), is a parody of the femme fatale. She’s a black widow with the most ridiculous motives possible. She supposedly killed her parents as a little girl because they got her Malibu Barbie instead of Ballerina Barbie. The tropes of the femme fatale are stretched to their absolute limit of believability, which helps to highlight just how silly a character archetype it is. And naturally, the Addamses accept her faults wholeheartedly (as they always do - they don’t judge anyone except those who judge them). They just take issue with her attempting to murder them too. And decorating with pastels. One must never decorate with pastels.
8. The first film depicts a realistic (well, for a bizarre comedy) breakdown of a marriage. Tully Alford is a coward and a liar, who has practically bankrupted his family by relying too much on loan sharks and vainly hoping that his wealthy Addams clients will bail him out (but instead of asking them for help, he tries to trick them out of money). Margaret openly wonders why she married Tully in the first place. A few weeks later, when the Addamses are holding their family reunion in Fester’s honor, Margaret hits it off with Cousin Itt. They dance, and talk together, and Itt is clearly the first person to make her smile, laugh, and open up about her troubles. She is initially guilty about the affection she’s showing for Itt, but it’s obvious by this point that her husband has begun to ignore her completely in his pursuit for money. When Tully “dies” at the end, it frees Margaret to begin a relationship with Cousin Itt. Instead of vilifying Margaret, her loneliness and subsequent happiness with Cousin Itt is depicted very sympathetically. Should she have gotten a divorce instead, I have no doubt it would have also been portrayed sympathetically.
9. Morticia becomes pregnant at the end of the first film, and has a son, Pubert, in the second one. This is another unusual depiction of motherhood. We know that Huston was in her 40s when the films were shot, and her character is probably around the same age since she has teenage children. Here we see an “older” mother getting pregnant and having a child, AND a family where there’s a big age gap between one or more siblings. As someone roughly twice the age of my younger sister, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that a film recognized that not all siblings have to be born within 10 years of each other. I also appreciated that, once again, it depicted a mother who isn’t traditionally “young” (which I’ll define as under 35). As women wait longer to get married and/or to have children, this is an important social change to recognize.
10. They are genuinely FUNNY. The two films are ones I can watch over and over, and I’ll maintain that they are probably the best feature film adaptations of a TV series ever. They utilize black humour in a way that is both clever and ridiculous (exaggeration being the favourite tool of comedians) without being gory or mean-spirited. I also believe that the films couldn’t have had a finer cast, god rest Raul Julia. I leave you with one of the finest jokes ever written for a comedy film. Happy Halloween!
Girl Scout: Is this made from real lemons?
Girl Scout: I only like all-natural foods and beverages, organically grown, with no preservatives. Are you sure they’re real lemons?
Girl Scout: Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll buy a cup if you buy a box of my delicious Girl Scout cookies. Do we have a deal?
Wednesday: Are they made from real Girl Scouts?
Myrna Waldron is a feminist writer/blogger with a particular emphasis on all things nerdy. She lives in Toronto and has studied English and Film at York University. Myrna has a particular interest in the animation medium, having written extensively on American, Canadian and Japanese animation. She also has a passion for Sci-Fi & Fantasy literature, pop culture literature such as cartoons/comics, and the gaming subculture. She maintains a personal collection of blog posts, rants, essays and musings at The Soapboxing Geek, and tweets with reckless pottymouthed abandon at @SoapboxingGeek.