Feb 8 • 39M

Chapter 3.11 - Day Full of Woe

How the Netflix television show "Wednesday" helps us explore Gothic literary themes

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Two English teachers analyze pop culture through the lens of literary analysis.
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Alicia and Sarah explore their darker sides with a discussion of the new Netflix original series Wednesday. They investigate the elements of gothic literature and cover centuries of gothic literature, leading right up to the Addams family. At the end of this week’s discussion, they talk about the things they've been reading, watching, and analyzing outside of the classroom.

Literary terms of the week: gothic, gothic literature, women in gothic literature

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Music by Craig Harmann

Cover art by Matt Holman

Show Notes:

30-second summary

  • Why Wednesday?

    • Original comic in 1938

    • Original TV show in 1960s

    • Original movie was 1991

    • Original musical was 2009

Literary terms of the week (plus historical context):

  • Gothic: of or relating to a style of fiction characterized by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents

  • First gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, written in 1764

  • 10 major characteristics of gothic literature

    • Someone is suspected of murder

    • People who don’t fit in are scary

    • Mysterious, fear-inducing setting

    • Protagonist is in a foreign land

    • Bad weather

  • Women in gothic lit:

    • Persecuted maiden: The trembling victim (frail, passive, innocent); feels sympathy for the monster that pursues her

    • Mother Figure: Often depicted as a selfless being sacrifices in order to give help to her children

    • Femme Fatale: A sharply contrasting female predator, dangerous creature, often punished in their story for their transgressions

  • Famous Victorian gothic authors: Bronte sisters, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker

Theme Development: 

  • Identity: “I find social media to be a soul-sucking void of meaningless affirmation.”

  • Trust and Truth: “Enid, the mark you have left on me is indelible. Anytime I grow nauseous at the sight of a rainbow, or hear a pop song that makes my ears bleed, I’ll think of you.”

  • Fitting in:

    • No matter the time period in which they’re portrayed, members of the Addams family have always been viewed as outsiders. To their neighbors, they’re creepy and they’re kooky, they sound funny, they dress oddly, they eat strange foods: they’re a perfect allegory for immigrant families.

    • Milar and Gough decided to finally make this explicit after years of being implied. In the Netflix show, Wednesday’s newfound psychic visions introduce us to one of Gomez’s ancestors from Mexico, Goody Addams, who started a secret society to “protect outcasts from harm and bigotry.”

    • When Wednesday was in development, the idea of “outcasts” versus “normies” came even before that of critiquing colonialism. The concept of celebrating those rejected by society sprang directly from Charles Addams’ cartoons. “In some form, the Addams were always disruptors in a normal world,” says Gough. “The Charles Addams cartoons were a reaction to the ‘50s America: the white picket fence and the house. It’s a little subversive, but also pointing out that it’s also kind of bullsh-t.”

  • In Wednesday, says [showrunner Miles] Milar, “It’s an allegory for racism and prejudice and all those things that we’re dealing with now. And I think that’s the interesting thing about genre shows: That you can—not in a sledgehammer way, but in a way that’s buried—talk about real issues that are affecting the modern world.”

What are we enjoying right now?

  • Alicia: iZombie (TV on Netflix), Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

  • Sarah: The Storyteller by Dave Grohl (book), That 90s Show (television)

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