In the TV show 'Wednesday,' lead actress Jenna Ortega dances solemnly at a high school gym.

How ‘Wednesday’ Highlights the Addams’ Latino Heritage

Netflix's hit show highlights the spooky family's ancestry in a subtle yet effective way.

The iconic Addams family has inspired many adaptations over the years, but everyone is familiar with unique cast of characters. There’s Gomez Addams who, as the patriarch of the family, provides for the Addams household. His wife, Morticia Addams, towers over her husband with a dark elegance. Gomez and Morticia are passionate lovers prone to excessive displays of affection expressed through verbose language and general handsiness. Their children are equally eccentric. Pugsley tends to vary between incarnations, but always accompanies his sister Wednesday, sometimes as an unwitting accomplice, sometimes as a partner-in-crime to her schemes.

The newest Addams family chronicle, Netflix’s “Wednesday,” was released in November 2022 and focuses on Wednesday Addams. Since its release, the series has produced a sort of online phenomenon. Waves of fans perform Wednesday’s dance to Lady Gaga’s 2011 hit “Bloody Mary” as part of an ongoing TikTok trend. Still more TikTok users recreate looks from the show with clothes from their own closets, using makeup and costumes to mimic their favorite characters.

The show’s popularity has not only cemented it as a pillar of pop culture, but also as an incredible work of Latino representation. The Addams family’s ethnicity has had some interesting developments over the years. Gomez’s name alludes to some form of Latino or Hispanic origin. Descriptions of Gomez detail that the Latin Lover is a dark-haired man of unspecified Latin origin, he is said to be of Castilian extraction and Spanish ancestry. Gomez’s ethnicity, and subsequently the Addams family’s ethnicity, were revealed to be unequivocally Latino (more specifically Mexican) with the release of “Wednesday.”

Renowned Puerto Rican actor, Raul Julia, played the role in the 1991 film “Addams Family” and again in the sequel “Addams Family Values” in 1993. Tim Burton’s casting in “Wednesday” pays homage to Julia’s legacy. Not only is Gomez played once more by a Puerto Rican actor, Luis Guzman, but Pugsley and Wednesday are also played by Latino actors.

Jenna Ortega, who plays the titular character of Wednesday, comes from mixed Latino heritage. Ortega has shared the pride she feels in her Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage. “Wednesday is technically a Latina character and that’s never been represented. So for me, any time that I have an opportunity to represent my community, I want that to be seen,” Ortega shared.

Indeed, Wednesday’s Latina identity has offered representation for the Latino community. The family slips between English and Spanish, alludes to the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos, and proudly refers to Mexico as the family’s ancestral land, shining a light on an element of their identity that had previously been left ambiguous. I like to think Julia would be delighted to see the developments that the most recent iteration of the Addams family has provided for the beloved characters.

Overall, I find the series refreshing in how it depicts a Latino family. The family’s Latino identity does impact the way that the individual family members interact with one another as well as non-family members. Cultural references in the script reflect an understanding of the culture that shows (without outright telling) that the family has connections and even pride in their nationality. Yet, the cultural references are never forced or heavy-handed in their inclusion. The series doesn’t come to a grinding halt to remark on cultural differences between Wednesday and her peers or go into giving context for cultural references that could have potentially thrown off the show’s pacing completely. “Wednesday” does an excellent job of portraying a Latino family as simply a family who happens to be Latino.

The actors’ rapport with each other off-screen has also been a welcome display of camaraderie between actors. Behind-the-scenes interviews with both Ortega and Guzman feature easy and pleasant conversation. The two actors bond over shared experiences they have as Latinos working in the same industry. In an interview with Netflix, Ortega and Guzman sit down to eat Mexican and Puerto Rican food and touch on the importance of Latino representation. Both actors grew up watching Raul Julia’s version of Gomez Addams and the pair share a desire to elevate Latinos and Latino stories.

Ortega opens up about how a lack of on-screen representation made her feel discouraged. “I remember for my fifth birthday I actually asked my mom for a box of blonde hair dye because I wanted to dye my hair blonde so I could look like Cinderella,” she confessed. This experience likely sparked her desire to become the representation she needed as a child. She added, “I think it’s really important for not only everyone to see it, but then also young girls out there like me that just want to be seen.”

The casting of these wonderful actors to these beloved characters brings things full circle for them and their entire community. The regard and support they show each other are heart-warming as well.

“Wednesday” represents a turning point in Latino representation in American television. Stories placing Latino characters in the spotlight can no longer be considered a niche market. Hopefully the success of “Wednesday” will inspire stories that are even more diverse in the future, ensuring that accurate representation continues to be a priority in excellent storytelling.

Elannah Swarnes Matos, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez

Writer Profile

Elannah Swarnes Matos

University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
Creative Writing

Elannah Swarnes Matos is an English Literature Major at UPRM. Her writing has appeared in the UPRM English Department Blog, Her Campus Magazine, and Sábanas Literary Magazine under the pen name Mari Louisa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Don't Miss