The Importance of Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams

Wednesday. (L to R) Thing, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 104 of Wednesday. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

There’s always been something oddly comforting about the Addams Family for me. Anytime I hear their intro tune and the famous finger snaps, I can’t help but smile and be reminded of childhood. The Addams have always felt like family, ready to cheer me up whenever I need them. You see, I grew up wanting to be like Wednesday (or, Merlina, like I knew her here in Mexico): a confident young girl who spoke her mind and lived her truth even if she didn’t fully fit in with her peers. Whenever I got bullied at school for being different, I’d think of her. “What would Wednesday do?” I’d ask myself and do exactly that (or well, a tamer version that didn’t involve knives or a guillotine, and wouldn’t get me kicked out of school).

A few years ago, while rewatching the 1992 Addams Family movie, I realized something: the Addams are Latinx! While this was never explicitly mentioned in any of the films, shows, or even the original comics, as far as I’m concerned the Addams are and have always been a Latinx family. Just look at Puerto Rican Raul Julia’s casting as Gomez Addams in the 90s films – not to mention the name “Gomez.”

The signs have always been there.

Wednesday. (L to R) Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia Adams, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Luis Guzma?n as Gomez Addams, Issac Ordonez as Pugsley Addams in Wednesday. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

They are a family of “oddballs,” with different customs and traditions who don’t fit in with the people in their town. They have a multi-generation household, where the doors are always open for the many (many, many!) distant and slightly kooky relatives. They have an intense love for the dark and occult while somehow still being very happy and cheerful at the same time. They have a deep love and admiration of death (honestly, if this doesn’t scream Día de los muertos, I don’t know what does). The parents are an over-sexualized couple who are always hot for each other, whose children are the literal depiction of “amor apache” (tortured love). A grandma who happens to be a witch? Sounds pretty Latinx to me!

Building upon these little nods to the Addams’ Latinidad, later this year, we are finally getting an out and proud Latinx Addams family this year – Wednesday. Netflix’s new version of the Addams’ story will revolve around Mexican American and Puerto Rican Jenna Ortega as Wednesday — a fearless, smart, and quietly confident young Latina finding her footing in a world that she doesn’t entirely fit into. 

As Latinas, we’re taught to smile and look pretty; we’re told to make sure our fathers and brothers are comfortable before we take care of our own needs. We’re told from a young age that “calladita te ves más bonita,” reminding us not to take up space and disturb those around us, even if that means quieting our own needs.

Wednesday. (L to R) Moosa Mostafa as Eugene Otinger, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Naomi j Ogawa as Yoko Tanaka, Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay in episode 103 of Wednesday. Cr.  © 2022
Wednesday. (L to R) Moosa Mostafa as Eugene Otinger, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Naomi j Ogawa as Yoko Tanaka, Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay in episode 103 of Wednesday. Cr. © 2022

This new version of Wednesday Addams is the exact opposite of that, and that’s the beauty of the new Latina Wednesday – she ignores the expectations. She won’t smile because she’s expected to, she’ll smile when she feels she accomplished something (even if that something ends up being a bit macabre). Jenna Ortega as Wednesday shows a young Latina saying what’s on her mind — saying the things everyone else wishes they could say — and doing what she thinks is best. Can you imagine how different our community would be if we brought up Latinas to be more like Wednesday? We’d be unstoppable! In my opinion, Wednesday is a great role model, the kind of woman who will unapologetically be herself, even if that means being different than what’s expected. 

And you know what’s better than one Latinx actor playing a heavily Latinx-coded character? Having three Latinx actors play these characters! Specifically, here, I’m talking about Jenna Ortega, Luis Guzmán as Gomez, and Isaac Ordonez as Pugsley. Welsh Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia rounds the family out, representing another nod to Latinx realities – our families are often mixed. And I love to see actors from the same backgrounds as the characters because they can accurately represent the nuances that come with that experience. 

I know Raul Julia will always be the OG kooky Latino dad who we fell in love with nearly 30 years ago. But I’m also excited about the panorama of possibilities that comes with seeing a strong-willed young Latina in Wednesday, leading the way. In her, Latinas will have a clear example of what it is not to be “calladitas,” to define “bonitas” for ourselves. Wednesday gives us permission to be independent, curious, fearless, confident… And yes, maybe a little kooky and bizarre too.

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