The perfect match! If the funeral nuptials between Hollywood’s enchanting neo-Gothic Tim Burton and the macabre and sardonic girl of the Addams Family, Wednesday, seem obvious, they had so far never succeeded. Approached to direct the 1991 film, the filmmaker had to give up due to his previous commitment to Batman, Barry Sonnenfeld sticks to it. In the early 2010s, rumors speak of a resurrection of the Addams Family in stop-motion which never sees the light of day.
It is now done with Wednesdaya series by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, produced and partly directed by Tim Burton, launched this Wednesday on netflix. How does this funny and dark adaptation of Charles Addams’ comics allow the filmmaker to develop his universe there?
Wednesday, the Gothic heroine par excellence
Wednesday joins the cohort of pale-faced Burtonian Gothic heroes, who feel out of place nowhere except in cemeteries. Like Lydia Deetz in beetle juice, Mercredi is a brilliant teenager, but tormented by her anxieties, who feels isolated from a world she abhors. Like Katrina Van Tassel in sleepy hollow, Wednesday has a gift of sorcery that she inherited from her mother. Like Edward in Edward ScissorhandsMercredi seems reluctant to touch people, because it causes her visions… Like Angelique Bouchard in Dark Shadowsthe plot makes her, through the story of her distant origins, a witch, a young woman doomed to the stake since she is fiercely free and independent.
Wednesday, a dissonant and biting voice
The story begins when Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) is expelled from high school Nancy Reagan after a particularly biting prank (an incident that included many piranhas, a few sportsmen, and a lost testicle). Wednesday’s sardonic humor serves Tim Burton and his cronies as a gleefully macabre antidote to right-thinking America, the American dream of the white picket fence, and idealized view of its past and founding. Episode 3 where the high school students visit the Pilgrim World amusement park turns out to be particularly acidic: “You have to be really stupid to dedicate a park to the perpetrators of genocide”, judges Mercredi from episode 1. A fierce irony already at work in Mars Attack! Where Edward Scissorhands.
The asocial teenager is dispatched by his parents Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez Addams (Luiz Guzmán) at Nevermore, the boarding school where they met. This gothic school at Hogwarts, led with an iron fist by Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), welcomes all the bizarre cliques: werewolves, vampires, gorgons or even mermaids. As usual, Tim Burton is interested in different people, those that society decides to ignore or exclude.
Wednesday, an ultra-referenced series
Burton’s signature shines through in a few recurring motifs: the twisted tree that sits in Nevermore’s courtyard and the spiraling lair come straight out of Sleepy Hollow. The Thing’s scars recall his obsession with Frankenstein observed since his 1984 short film, Frankenweenie.
Like Victor Frankenstein, to resurrect the Addams family, Tim Burton brings together elements of heterogeneous pop culture: the opposition between the normies and the residents of Nevermore recalls that between muggles and wizards in Harry Potterthe Nevermore Ball evokes both pulp Fiction that Carrie at the Devil’s BallWednesday leads the investigation into mysterious murders like Veronica Mars…
Nevermore’s annual canoe-kayak competition involves decorating canoes based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe, one of Tim Burton’s favorite gothic poets. Wednesday borrows its main theme – the question of the rejection of others on the sole ground of one’s difference – from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. A book recommended to Wednesday by his mentor, the teacher, Marilyn Thornhill, played by Christina Ricci (Wednesday in the films of Barry Sonnenfeld and Katrina in sleepy hollow).
Like the book, this teen-show highlights in particular through the relationship between Mercredi and his roommate, the colorful influencer Enid (Emma Myers), the primal desire for love and friendship without which it seems impossible to live without lose his humanity. Like many of Tim Burton’s works, Wednesday is finally a macabre tale, sprinkled with poetry and humor, which opposes normality and strangeness.
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“Wednesday”, a 100% Burtonian gothic teen-show
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