The recent release of Netflix’s “Wednesday” reintroduced The Addams family to an entirely new generation of viewers. Though the admittedly peculiar family was created in 1938 by cartoonist Charles Addams, their appeal seems evergreen. Audiences have witnessed different iterations of the beloved characters. The Addamses were created to be a subversion of the quintessential American family. Their list of family members always includes matriarch Morticia, patriarch Gomez, and children Wednesday and Pugsley. Their fascination with the macabre and their Victorian mansion in disrepair set them apart from other normal 20th-century families. Apart from their rather unique, sensibilities, what really makes the Addamses so significant? The Addams Family has always been loved for its long-standing message; that it’s okay to be different, and it's okay to behave in ways considered abnormal.
The concept of abnormality is age-old. On the other hand, what necessarily constitutes abnormality, however, is not. It was only in 1973, as an exemplar, when the American Psychological Association (APA) decided to remove homosexuality from the diagnostic and statistical manual, before which it was pathologized. Throughout history, abnormality has been viewed differently. A myriad of things considered deviant today was considered the norm ages ago and vice versa; women in positions of power, tattoos, divorce. A common theme that underlies what is considered abnormal is social acceptability. If something deviates from what is considered socially acceptable, it is abnormal.
The Addams family, since their creation, have been unabashedly abnormal. Morticia and Gomez were outwardly affectionate towards each other during the heyday of chaste sitcoms with married couples sleeping in separate beds. Wednesday possessed a fascination with all violent things.
In real life, people who act differently from the status quo bear the brunt of ridicule. They are punished for not interacting with the world in a manner palatable to most. There is, undoubtedly, an element of ableism deeply rooted in this phenomenon; among an intersection of other kinds of systemic discrimination. The Addams family offers respite from this relentless push to be normal. It, then, doesn’t come as a surprise that people who belong to communities deemed abnormal gravitate towards this zany family of proud misfits. In fact, several queer and neurodivergent individuals have spoken about identifying with Wednesday in the Netflix reboot.
It is important to remember that the classification of abnormality should not, ideally, lead to ostracization. The sole objective of identifying something as abnormal should be to better understand and help a person; by helping them learn how to cope, by providing them with a proper remedial process, or by researching to understand the processes that underlie the development of abnormality. Individuals with ‘abnormalities’ have a right to exist in the mainstream and the only way in which that can happen is through destigmatisation.
In the meanwhile, characters like the Addamses serve as a wonderful reminder that it is okay to be different. They prove that there is a community to be found as your most authentic self regardless of how many people may try to convince you otherwise.