And our Credo, ‘Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc’: We gladly feast on those who would subdue us. Not just pretty words. (Sonnenfeld, The Addams Family, 00:41:26-00:41:37)
Throughout history, people have been expected to comply with different norms and expectations established by society. Consciously or unconsciously, people have learned to perceive characteristics and behaviors as “normal” according to what is accepted. Forms of identification and categorization have become so mundane and prominent that they are often simply assumed as factual–not as socially built means of grouping, but as a truthful and a definite understanding of the world. History has proven that the ones that do not fit those standards have often fallen victims to discrimination, violence, oppression, and segregation. For this reason, non-conformity and authenticity can often be seen as a threat against the “order” of society. However, there have been multiple groups that have rejected this idea of the “normal” and began to question and rebel against the aspects they have been subjected to before.
“The Addams” have existed as one of the most iconic fictional families in the world. Each character brings a personality that had not been seen before and challenged the idea of normalcy in many ways–not in every way though. The family was created by Charles Addams in 1938 as a cartoon, and from there, it has evolved into multiple mediums: “When cartoonist Charles Addams created the fictional family in 1938, he dreamed them up as a ‘satirical inversion’ of the ideal American household. A wealthy clan living in a big, dark, gothic house, they are obsessed with all things macabre.” (Eloise). Thus, the Addams family would provoke and question the ideals, morals, and attitudes that regular people would have. Living in a society that is generally patriarchal and misogynist, the direct confrontation brought by “The Addams” has not only become a significant symbol in queer and feminist groups, but an example of embracing uniqueness.
Rejection of the “normal” is one of the main attributes of “The Addams.” They fiercely defend who they are and are unafraid of showing their interests and personalities, which directly challenge many of the standards and expectations set in the society they live in. This does not mean that they do not experience judgment and segregation by others, which they often do: “They are evil and corrupt and degraded.” (Sonnenfeld, The Addams Family, 00:59:08-00:59:12). “The Addams” are often segregated, avoided, and even feared by “regular” people, displaying one of the horrors that can be brought from not conforming to society’s rules. However, this does not manage to belittle them or make them insecure. This is another manner in which they fight the stereotypes and discrimination people associate them with.
As previously stated, this family was created to be a satirical inversion of the ideal household, which is interesting when observing all of the positive aspects in the Addamses. In spite of their seemingly dark, unloving, extravagant, unconventional, and opposite aesthetic, “The Addams” prove over and over again how accepting and non-judgemental they are towards others. This can be noticed the most in the party scene of The Addams Family and in the summer camp in The Addams Family Values, in which they embrace the qualities that make people different and actively defend those who are discriminated against.
Their dynamic as a family is also relevant to point out. Morticia and Gomez have become one of the most emblematic couples out there, and for the most part, they are the ones that define the opposition of the family against roles. They are unafraid to show emotions and vulnerability, which becomes especially significant in the case of the father. Gomez Addams is probably the one in which it is possible to notice the most challenging of norms: “Devilishly handsome (an ‘acquitted lady killer’), Gomez is not just devoted to Morticia, but to his entire family. By the inversion logic, we can understand that this makes him the opposite of a “normal” husband.” (Eloise).
Gomez Addams does not feel threatened by Morticia’s power and agency, and if anything, admires those traits in her: “—Tish, seeing you like this, my blood boils… to live without you, only that would be torture —A day alone, only that would be death.” (Sonnefeld, The Addams Family, 01:28:13-01:28:38). This appears as a direct opposition of patriarchal expectations who expect for the woman to be submissive over men. In fact, Gomez appears to blatantly have many characteristics that would traditionally be attributed to women: “One could even argue the presence of role reversal, as the enduringly comical Gomez is often more shrill in comparison to the unruffled, always-composed Morticia.” (Wang). He is able to recognize his mistakes, be loving and supportive towards his family and his wife, and as crazy as it seems, this would be the inversion of the standards of a regular household.
Moreover, it must not be ignored that coming from an upper class, “The Addams” have some type of privilege that in itself allows them to more unapologetically be their own selves. It is a fact that people of lower resources would encounter many more horrors if they attempted to not conform and be as authentic to themselves as the Addamses appear to be. In the movie The Addams Family, they tackle this subject by portraying Morticia and Gomez as charitable and non capitalist in spite of their wealth, to the point in which they even fall victims of their good will: “Yes, we’ve been betrayed by those we trusted, but we’re Addamses and we will not submit.” (Sonnenfeld, The Addams Family, 01:17:15-01:17:18). It is undeniable that one of the reasons why they were able to challenge gender norms is their economical position in society.
“The Addams” stay true to themselves and defy other’s conceptions in different manners. The family manages to establish a conversation and problematic around the concept of “normalcy”. Even though these characters are unable to tackle every aspect of what pertains to being different, they are iconic figures that have made many question society’s standards and expectations, and they have become prominent figures of the horrors of non-conformity and authenticity.
Eloise, Marianne. “How The Addams Family Values inverts the ideal American household to make for the perfect Halloween movie.” Games Radar, 2020, https://www.gamesradar.com/addams-family-values-halloween-family-america/
Sonnenfeld, Barry, director. The Addams Family. Paramount Pictures, 1991.
Sonnenfeld, Barry, director. The Addams Family Values. Paramount Pictures, 1993.
Wang, Jessica. Here’s why “The Addams Family” was one of the most progressive and feminist films of the ‘90s. Hello Giggles, 2017, https://hellogiggles.com/the-addams-family-progressive-feminist-film/