The Evolution Of Wednesday Addams

Wednesday Addams is one of the most iconic characters of all time. She’s the epitome of the dark and moody girl aesthetic.

By Meghan Dillon4 min read
Screen Shot 2022-12-27 at 11.27.36 AM

We love Wednesday Addams because she’s funny, smart, brave, embraces a darker side of femininity, and has a great sense of style. She’s not afraid to be herself in a world that demands conformity and she refuses to bow down to anyone, but still has a soft part in her heart for her family. She may be kooky and a little homicidal, but she’s our favorite outcast in pop-culture at the moment. 

In honor of the popularity of Tim Burton’s Wednesday on Netflix, here is a quick look into the evolution of Wednesday Addams.

The Original Wednesday Addams

Wednesday Addams was created by cartoonist Charles Addams in his comic strip about a kooky and macabre family in The New Yorker in 1938. Though she was nameless (as the other characters were too), she had her signature dark braided pigtails and black dress with a white collar. Her personality revolved around an obsession with beheading dolls, something that would stick with her character in almost every subsequent adaptation. She wasn’t given a name until the 1960s, when Charles Addams named her Wednesday after a 19th-century nursery rhyme that says, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”

Wednesday Addams Moves to the Screen

The first on-screen and live-action depiction of Wednesday Addams was played by Lisa Loring in the 1964 television series, The Addams Family. The sitcom only ran for two seasons, and this version of Wednesday loved nothing more than her pet spider, Homer, and beheading her dolls. She was as weird and macabre as Charles Addams intended, but a cute and quirky little girl above all else.

Wednesday’s next appearance was in The New Scooby Doo Movie in 1972 alongside the rest of her family. Though she still loved her pet spider and beheading her dolls, this Wednesday uncharacteristically wore a pink dress, which continued in the 1973 animated series, The Addams Family.

Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams

The most famous version of Wednesday Addams (and possibly the most popular portrayal of the iconic family) was played by Christina Ricci in The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) in the early ‘90s. Like the Wednesdays before her, Ricci’s Wednesday is obsessed with death, but she takes it to a level that is sinister and disturbing, yet hilarious.

In The Addams Family, Wednesday is a little girl who delights in trying to kill her brother, Pugsley, and beheading her dolls via guillotine. She’s adorable yet disturbed, but Ricci finds a way to make the character lovable through her dry sense of humor. It mainly works because it’s so shocking to see a cute little girl behave so badly. Similar to popular adult cartoon characters like Bart from The Simpsons and Cartman from South Park, Wednesday takes on the female version of a hilariously evil child.

In Addams Family Values, Wednesday is nearing adolescence and plays a more primary role. She’s still fascinated by death and torture, and is intent on killing her new baby brother, Pubert. After discovering that her new nanny is actually a serial killer who wants to kill her beloved Uncle Fester, Wednesday and Pugsley are sent off to summer camp. At camp, Wednesday challenges the status quo and wreaks havoc on her fellow campers simply by being herself. Though she was great in The Addams Family, Ricci’s version of Wednesday in Addams Family Values made Wednesday a pop-culture icon who is as devious as she’s hilarious. 

Renditions of Wednesday Addams after Christina Ricci

The popularity of The Addams Family saw a resurgence as a result of these two films, leading to the 1992 animated series, The Addams Family, which featured Wednesday in a blue dress and red tights. Though she was still mischievous, she was unrecognizable from Ricci’s Wednesday.

The 1998 direct-to-video movie, Addams Family Reunion, was followed up by a briefly-lived TV series titled The New Addams Family. Nicole Fugere played Wednesday in both adaptations, and though she did a good job at portraying Wednesday to be devious, her performance didn’t live up to the hype around Ricci’s version.

The Addams Family got the CGI treatment in the 2019 animated movie of the same name that most closely resembled the original New Yorker cartoon. Followed by The Addams Family 2 in 2021, both adaptations had Chloe Grace Moretz voicing Wednesday. This version did a great job in showing how Charles Addams viewed Wednesday alongside her dry sense of humor added by Ricci. The movies show Wednesday navigating adolescence and rebelling against her mother. Though this version is more family-friendly than Ricci’s version, Wednesday is still delightfully devious.

Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday Addams

In Netflix’s Wednesday, Jenna Ortega plays a teenage Wednesday Addams who finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery at Nevermore Academy, a boarding school for outcasts. We first meet her when she discovers that the water polo team at her high school for normies bullied her brother, leading her to throw live piranhas into their pool during practice. The prank gets her expelled for attempted murder (obviously) and lands her at her parents’ alma mater, Nevermore.

She initially despises the school and tries to escape but decides to stay when she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery. With an eight-episode run time, the audience gets to see more of Wednesday’s personality, and Ortega portrays her as a multi-faceted character. She’s still the sharp-tongued and sarcastic outcast that Christina Ricci (who is also in the show) made us fall in love with, but she also has a softer side. 

She’s devoted to her family and is protective of her brother (she literally got expelled for attempted murder for defending him), adores her father, Thing, and Uncle Fester, and though her relationship with her mother is strained (like many teenage girls), it’s clear that she loves her. At the beginning of the series, she refuses to make new friends, but she starts to open up as the show goes on and realizes that life is better when you’re surrounded by loved ones. It takes a bit for her exterior to crack, but she has a very good heart.

Wednesday also has more interests. She’s still obsessed with death (she wouldn’t be Wednesday if she weren’t), but she’s also a talented musician and writer. She’s fascinated with literature (particularly horror writers like Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe) and is an advocate for fellow outcasts (her friendship with fellow beekeeper Eugene is heartwarming), proving that she’s capable of empathy. 

Ortega does an amazing job at continuing the legacy that Ricci created for Wednesday as a complex and hilariously dark character. This new version of Wednesday proves that the character is timeless, and Ortega’s sharp wit makes her the perfect fit for the iconic character. We can’t wait to see what she does if the show gets renewed for another season.

Closing Thoughts

From her humble beginnings as a nameless character in a comic strip to becoming a pop-culture icon, Wednesday Addams is a hilarious character that represents the outcasts and weirdos of the world. Christina Ricci was the actress who made her a fan favorite in the '90s, and Jenna Ortega’s version of her in Netflix’s Wednesday proves that she’s a character that will remain beloved for generations to come.

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