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Illustration by Alya Al Zaabi

Wednesday Addams TikTok Trend: Reviving goth and monster aesthetics

Does this iconic show, and the subsequent dance trend trivialize subcultures or does it offer an outlet for expression for the underrepresented, underheard and misunderstood? Spoiler alert!

Feb 12, 2023

Since its release on Netflix in Nov. 2022, the Tim Burton show Wednesday has reached an impressive level of popularity. Starring Jenna Ortega as the titular character, the Addams family-inspired series attracts a global audience, with its dance scene in season one, episode four (titled “Woe What a Night”) being imitated all over social media platforms such as TikTok. Its most famous imitators even include Lady Gaga and Madonna, whereas the former’s song “Bloody Mary” has often been dubbed in such imitations instead of the original background music, “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps. The “Bad Romance” singer, further interacted with the fictional character’s account on Twitter, saying that “You’re welcome at Haus of Gaga anytime (and bring Thing with you, we love paws around here)”.
The Wednesday phenomenon, aside from its well-executed plotlines, quirky yet relatable characters, and glamorously dark aesthetics, can also be seen as yet another sign of goth cultural revival in 2023. Its recipe of coming-of-age struggles sprinkled with supernatural entities is nothing new; from the early 2010s’ Monster High franchise to the more recent example of Stranger Things (2016), monsters seem to be a favorite metaphor-companion of teenage angst. All the more fun when you add a lurking shadow of horror on top of all the social anxiety, unhinged hormones and peer pressure, no?
While some enjoy the revival of the gothic genre as the Wednesday dance encourages people to be themselves, to belong and yet maintain their own idiosyncrasies, others worry that the gothic culture is diluted by such shows, arguing that it is not true to the spirit of the original Addams’ Family, as it trivializes the whole subculture into a facet for teenage edginess and fails to offer even “a slightly new take on the worn-down supernatural trend.”
Moreover, “goth” can have some serious undertones to its message. Rebellion to the status quo, yes, but also the dubious reputation of supporting self-harm and glamorizing certain mental issues. While the stereotype of a depressed, self-harming goth teenager may not always be true, the popularization of the genre may lead to an anesthetized attitude towards self-harm, where actual traumas might be treated as yet another dismissable gesture of wanting attention.
The monster trope has also historically been a manifestation of oppression, with the Salem witch trials being a prime example of misogyny where women were accused of being, according to the Bible, “weaker vessels and therefore more susceptible to evil and Satan’s wile.” There is a fine line between obscuring the real underlying oppressions, many of which are still plaguing the world we inhabit, and reviving the goth and ghoul by poeticizing, beautifying and ultimately commercializing them. It all depends on the way it is perceived, and once we reduce the monsters to pure spectacles instead of metaphors of oppression and fears in complex social semiotics, the “monster story” becomes lightweight and ultimately insignificant.
However, Wednesday did really well in this regard. In season one, episode five, when Wednesday and her mother Morticia confront the mayor of Jericho regarding her father Gomez's innocence in a murder case, their outcast identity symbolizes historical minorities, whose voices have often been ignored or demonized by those in charge. Moreover, these minorities have been many times used for the incompetencies of the powerful as well. What distinguishes Wednesday from the many productions that fetishize goth aesthetics and use it as an eye-catcher is precisely that; Wednesday manifestly recognizes the subversion at the core of its own deployment of goth and monsters. Instead of a kitschy imitation of the style just because it looks cool, it knows what goth wants to accomplish and that goth has the power to do so: inclusion of the marginalized and a drastic change to the status quo. It understands itself to be a trope but does not shy away from its own rebellion so much so that it becomes a mere freak show without a message.
Goth is inherently subversive, a choice made to distinguish oneself from societal expectations through fashion, music and bodily modifications. In many ways, such rebellion also stems from a disapproving attitude towards social evils, with Christina Ricci’s iconic Wednesday Addams in 1993’s Addams Family Values burning a youth camp to the ground as they celebrate Thanksgiving without regard to the attacks on Indigenous people from the Pilgrims. As the cliché goes, goth is certainly undead. It can be a fruitless effort to attempt a definite demarcation of what goth really is; I would not call this new trend of goth revival trivial or insincere, just because it is not its original form. However, it may be easily dismissed as a mere trend and may mask the real problems underneath. I do have hopes for it, though; shows like Wednesday demonstrate that monsters and the gothic obsession with the unconventional can still be a clear outcry for those historically underrepresented, underheard and misunderstood. The gothic genre’s real hope of survival lies precisely in its subversiveness and its acknowledgement of its own power to initiate dialogues and social transformation.
Zhiyu Lindy Luo is Senior News Editor. Email her at
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