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Wednesday - tropes and references in the Nevermore Academy series

Author of the article: Tatiana Zhakova
Journalist, linguist, teacher of storytelling with 10 years of experience
In 2015 she created and promoted her project about Nizhny Novgorod,, after which she created a course called "Storytelling: How to Tell Your Story" based on it. Over 4,000 students have taken the course.

A linguist by education, she quickly masters new areas. Now she is actively studying screenwriting and storytelling in movies/serials, and writes about it in her project's blog.
Right at the end of 2022, all the Instagrams of the world were blown up by Jenna Ortega's dance from the TV series Wendsday. And not only the dance, including the series won the hearts of all fans of school stories and the dark aesthetic of Tim Burton, who finally took up directing an interpretation of The Addams Family.

Let's find out what's so unique and interesting about this series in terms of storytelling.
The story itself is based on the narrative of the Addams family, a flamboyant and slightly "gothic family" that appeared in the 1960s comic book and TV series. The family was notable for being almost the only example of a healthy family on TV with a good relationship. Yes, that's right! Despite their love of black, dark humor and peculiar style, the Addamses love and support each other and always act as if that's the way it's meant to be.

The Addams family consists of Mom Morticia, Daddy Gomez, a "darling"-daughter and son, and a balding Uncle Fester. Many other characters appear around the family in different adaptations, such as the grandmother or the nanny. And there have been a lot of screen adaptations in 60 years! And both cinematic and animated. The best-known ones are probably from 1991 and 1993.

So that's what's important to us here: at the very beginning of this story, in the first interpretations, the little girl with the two black pigtails didn't even have a name! Then the creators came up with the idea of calling her "Wednesday," after a children's song:

"Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living.
And the child born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, good and gay"

Wednesday's child is full of woe -

means that a child born on Wednesday will have many sorrows and problems in life.

The character of Wandsday became more and more important, so that she eventually became the main character of the story around which the narrative is built!

And all this, and the fact that Wandsday is played by Latin American actress Jenna Ortega, is definitely a tribute to a modern world full of diversities, minority rights and feminism.
The plot of the series
A gloomy 15-year-old Wandsday Addams is sent to a special school, Nevermore, after an incident at her last "regular" school. At Nevermore, she meets many different teenagers with different abilities.

Together they fight a strange evil that frightens the neighboring town. Addamsday also unravels a family secret of her ancestors, learns an amazing story of her parents from the times when they also went to this school, and falls in love with half of the male cast of the series.

Season 1 ends with a cliffhanger - Wandsday gets the message that, as it turns out, not all the mysteries have been solved and not all the characters have been killed off yet, so there must be a sequel.

Nevermore School

Let's start by taking a closer look at the setting of the series-the Nevermore School and its inhabitants. What immediately catches your eye is the Harry Potter reference.
Nevermore Academy looks like a castle, but in general, of course, all wizarding schools remind us of the most famous "boy who survived. For example, in "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," we have exactly the same association.

And we have to admit: running a story in a school of magic is almost a win-win. Because there are so many lines you can run there and explain everything so nicely that both the young viewer and the adult will love it.
The next reference here is the name Nevermore itself. These are words from Edgar Allan Poe's first truly American poem, The Crow. And this Nevermore (= "nevermore") is pronounced very ominously in the poem by Raven and repeated as a refrain in various ways. A very interesting element of such a "gothic" and "dystopian" aesthetic of the series.

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Nevermore is an Academy of adventure, where anything can happen - teachers can be villains, kids can go missing, and so on. We've seen schools like this before in our childhood favorites Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville Mysteries.

Do you remember?

Also, the academy is a trope of School of No Studying, a school where everyone only solves their own problems and doesn't study at all. We see that Wandsday is constantly either participating in extracurricular activities, or running away from school to the woods, or, if she does sit at her desk, only writing her book. When she does her homework, what her classes are, where the other teachers are, etc., it's not at all clear.
This, by the way, has been the sin of most "high school" series for centuries. Remember the "veteran" of this trend, Beverly Hills 90210. There the school was clearly purely a setting for the developing dramas. And even contemporary followers like "Elite," "Riverdale," and "Sexual Enlightenment," even if they try to maintain some sort of educational line like creating a collaborative project or going to school for writers, by some season they still slip into a lack of an educational line.
At Nevermore Academy we see the same caste system as at any other school. Think of Mean Girls, The Princess Diaries, or any of the early 2000s Olsen sisters movies: they move to a new town and one of the characters gives them a "clique tour"-shows them different groups of students and explains who's who, who's better to be friends with, and who's a bit of a renegade. Here Inid does the same thing for Wandsday, only this time the castes are werewolves, sirens, gorgons, vampires, and mermaids.

It turns out that all the students in the school for outcasts are monsters. And this is no accidental metaphor at all. Because we can say that teenagers are monsters, whether they can turn to stone with their eyes or not. Growing up is a complicated process, even if you don't have any special abilities. And this, by the way, isn't the first show to give teenagers supernatural powers to emphasize the monstrosity of the process of transformation from child to adult. The best way of realizing this metaphor is with Very Strange Things.
But the main thing we see in Nevermore Academy, as in the whole line with the Addams family, is that everyone here accepts each other's oddities.

Not only do each of these complicated teenagers have their own special abilities, but they also have some inner depth that helps their inner compass not to go astray. They are all used to all sorts of different things happening around them, so they perceive everything and everyone as perfectly normal and respond appropriately to any weirdness.

If Wandsday doesn't want to cuddle, wears only black and never blinks - everyone acts as if nothing happened, doesn't judge her or teach her how to live. They just genuinely accept that, well, that's just the way she is.
Each of these teenagers also has, of course, a certain amount of pain and sadness, but more about that later. For now, let's take a closer look at the main character, Wandsday.

Wandsday is a toxic friend and a complicated person

In fact, the main character is not at all the kind of person you want to be in the same room with in college or to have any kind of activity together at all. She is constantly setting up her friends, tricking them into trouble, manipulating them, and instead of thanking them, she is only rude. Wandsday Addams is an anti-hero with just a huge amount of archetypes and tropes packed into her.

She is not only a Goth and a Sociopath, but also, for example, an Action girl, a skilled martial artist. She is also a representative of a very rare and unusual trope, "Eyeore". This is the kind of pessimist and melancholic who sees life in a black light and is always sure that bad things will happen. You won't believe it, but we know this trope best from Donkey Eeyore.
Wandsday shows little or no emotion - she even smiled once in all eight episodes when she saw Uncle Fester, and only at the corner of her mouth. She is not a woman who doesn't care - when The Thing gets in trouble, Wandsday is willing to do anything to help her, just as when Eugene gets hurt because of her, she constantly visits him and feels guilty about it. So perhaps all this unemotionalism is just a facade to help the teenager not seem vulnerable.
Wandsday is very conservative - we always see her only in black, and if this is an expression of her personality now, then as an adult we can count her among the adherents of the normcore style. Nor does she use the telephone or other means of modern communication. Sometimes we do meet such characters, realizing the "New technology is evil" trope. Even in our Russian TV series you can find one of the brightest examples - Rodion Meglin from "Method" has no phone.

Another groovy trope we see in her behavior is "Bad is good is bad."

It is realized when she and Inid joke that the most important torture for Wandsday is watching the early 2000s movie Blonde in Law. It tells the story of a girl named Elle Woods who sets her sights on becoming a lawyer. And by the way, this moment also shows on Wandsday's erudition, because I personally know few 15-year-olds who know about Legally Blonde. Well, either that's the erudition of the show's writers.

On the other hand, though, Wandsday writes her novel to overtake Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein to 18, so we don't have to doubt her intelligence either.

The main themes of the narrative

In eight episodes, Wandsday undergoes a meaningful transformation - she becomes less afraid of her feelings, recognizes the value of friends (we see all this in the scene when she finally hugs Inid), finds common ground with her mother. And not only Wandsday, many characters are transformed - Enid finally finds her place in the pack, Bianca makes a number of important decisions, Xavier also becomes closer to her inner world. Thus, the development of personality is one of the central themes of the series.
Another important line is the relationship between fathers and children. Which is, of course, logical, for a school and teen series, even if it was directed by Tim Burton. Namely, the so-called Mummy issues - complicated relationships with mothers and attempts to somehow come into harmony with them, at least internally - are dealt with a lot here. We start with Wandsday, who keeps saying that she's not going to be like Morticia the star of the school, we continue with the apparent difficulties in dealing with the mommy-unfriendly Enid and Bianca, and we end with Tyler, who constantly charges his father with insensitivity toward his dead mother.
The series is feminist, which is why more attention is given to the relationships with the mothers than to the male characters. In fact, they are virtually absent from the show at all. Although we can see this "I am not my mother" trope in a variation of "I am not my father" in so many works of cinema. For example, this is the very thought put into the head of the corporate heir by the heroes of the brilliant film "Inception.

What other interesting tropes and techniques do we see in the series?

  • The allusion to Stephen King's "Kerry" story is the most obvious. It was in "Kerry" that a barrel of pig's blood overturned at the prom, leading the entire school to disaster--the Kerry scum with telekinesis powers just blew up the entire assembly hall.
  • Product Placement - very vividly we see Taco Bell in a city where there are no other signs, as well as "apple" products, such as the iPhone Wandsday at the end. It is clear that they did not arise here by chance.
  • The "Light feminine - Dark feminine" contrast is the juxtaposition of a girl with a distinctly light image (clothing, mood, position in society) with a dark one. We have as many as two such pairs here - in addition to Inid and Wandsday, Morticia Addams and Headmistress Weems make the same contrast.

    By the way, a lot of such contrasts could be found in the book Tanya Grotter by Dmitri Yemets, if you remember such a book.
  • Actor allusion is not just an allusion to some other movie or book, it is an acting reference, specifically Christina Ricci playing Professor Thornhill. She also played Wandsday Addams in the 1991 and 1993 films. Which kind of initially hints to us that although her role is "the only normies in the academy," she's probably still very significant to the plot.
  • But the referent to the same franchise in another time dimension is Mythology Gag. Very often the characters give us references to the 1991 film, such as Wandsday's words about her style of dress.
  • Big bad is the main evil, which twists the plot in such a way that everyone else has to clean up the mess. I think you know who that is. But I would also add that the same trope is used, for example, in The Avengers, and there it is Thanos.
  • The Noodle incident is what happened to Wandsday at the other schools, where she was also kicked out before the piranha incident. I mean, we know for a fact that something happened, but we don't know exactly what it was. This is the Noodle incident. It's very common, by the way.
  • With the adult representatives of the Addamses, we see the tropes of Famed in story - Morticia in the alumni album, how James Potter never got to be the genius catcher of Hogwarts, and Fiction 500 - the Addamses are somehow so fabulously rich that it's not even clear where from, like Scrooge or Tony Stark. I mean, it's like they don't care about any kind of spending.
Of course, the Wandsday series, as a very complex contemporary work, is literally full of tropes and archetypes, so we have only dealt with a few of them - and it seems that my article is very long.

What were your favorite moments from the show? And in general, what did you personally love about the show? I loved The Thing! Even though the only people who understood her were Wandsday and Inite, she was a really good hand at it.

If you have read this article till the end and you liked it, gave you some food for thought and helped you look at the series from a different angle, please write me feedback on my personal Vkontakte page (in posts or in the comments). It would be very nice for me and inspire me to keep introducing you to the wonderful world of storytelling!