Dark academia, mythical creatures, and youngsters with powers and abilities that ostracize them from ‘normal’ people have always been cherished by young audiences of series such as the Twilight saga and The Vampire Diaries. On November 23, 2022, the hit Netflix show Wednesday starring Jenna Ortega joined this roster.
The Addams Family has been around for almost a century, from the original comic release in 1938 to its several movie and TV adaptations starting from 1964, but Wednesday is the first to focus solely on the famous family’s daughter as she navigates attending a new boarding school and teenage angst. On top of that, Wednesday is the character’s first introduction to a Generation Z setting. With ‘pick me girl’ being a popular term in Gen Z vocabulary to describe a girl who goes out of her way to appear quirky and different, especially to attract a man, one can’t help but wonder if this modern version of Wednesday Addams qualifies as one.
Linked to the classic ‘manic pixie dream girl’ trope, the pick me girl often stands out among her female peers by being self-deprecating, loud, and resistant of anything ‘girly’ just so the male protagonist can select her as his love interest — bonus points if she has dyed hair and no filter. Both tropes give the illusion of appealing to women by depicting characters who are unique but, in reality, these girls lack any development beyond getting a man’s attention. The pick me girl goes a step further than the manic pixie dream girl, since she usually explicitly acts out for male attention, putting down other girls and outright stating how special she is.
The attempts of girls to emulate the manic pixie dream girl might result in a pick me girl, which stems from internalized misogyny. But this character trope is evoked in Western media so often that it’s nearly lost its original meaning. For example, if a girl is an odd one out based on her personality and appearance, she is often labeled as one or both of these tropes, and it is assumed she is only the way she is for a man’s attention.
With Wednesday, there are many aspects of her character and story to consider when deciding if she belongs to the pick me girl trope. At the start of the show, Wednesday lives with her family and attends public high school before being expelled for tormenting her brother’s bullies. Transferring to her parents’ alma mater, they assure her she will fit in, as the student body is equally eccentric.
Nonetheless, Wednesday remains the odd one out, as her black braids, death stare, psychopathic tendencies, and resistance to social media and technology have students who are sirens and werewolves calling her the “weird one.” Wednesday doesn’t help her case in showing zero interest in bonding with any of the other female characters such as the headmistress, her therapist, her roommate Enid, and her classmate Bianca. Moreover, when Bianca’s on-and-off boyfriend Xavier begins showing interest in Wednesday, leading to a conflict between the two girls, it all crosses into pick me territory.
In a Netflix question and answer session after the show’s release in December 2022, Ortega revealed that Wednesday channeling pick-me energy was the show’s initial intention until Ortega put her foot down. In a TikTok of this question and answer period that user @dannyraeee posted, Ortega discussed how she was shocked by some of the lines in the original script and simply refused to say them. The lines were little remarks that depicted Wednesday as fake and boy crazy, and Ortega quickly deemed them too cringey.
Admittedly, it wasn’t like the writers were taking a fully developed character and simply modernizing her for Gen Z tastes. In most Addams family adaptations, Wednesday is younger and less developed. The show treads new water in trying to explore her teen years, which might lead to moments where the show emulates other common teen TV tropes, which are especially abundant on Netflix in series like Riverdale or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. However, Ortega wanted to make sure that the show’s love triangle didn’t take centre stage.
Overall, Ortega’s portrayal of Wednesday is successful in sidelining the love triangle and any pick-me tendencies, since the main storyline focuses on the mystery plot. It’s evident the boys fancy Wednesday for her quirks, but she hardly acknowledges their interest, let alone returns it. Wednesday spends most episodes trying to uncover mysteries and secrets of the school, her family, and the townspeople. She only interacts with her ‘love interests’ when she needs their help. It’s pretty far-fetched that she would maintain her peculiar persona just to win their affection.
Though she’s antagonistic toward other women at the beginning of the narrative, her relationships with all of them shift over the course of the show. With each passing episode, the female characters and their dynamics are deeply explored and Wednesday eventually bonds with several of them, despite their differences. Wednesday’s character development is almost the reverse of a pick-me girl, as she becomes an active member of the student body, forms loyal friendships, and feels remorse.
Ultimately, Wednesday is a likable female character because she does not compromise who she is for the male gaze and is a perfect balance of being unique, while not putting down other girls. While most young women can’t relate to her homicidal tendencies, they can relate to her being intelligent, awkward, and assertive. As for her ouija board, typewriter, and mommy issues, she is far from the only teenage girl with all three. Rather than being quick to shame and label girls for being different, there is strength in realizing every girl is unique in her own way.
Wednesday shows the power of focusing on yourself, no matter how weird you are, which is a message that has made fans of all generations fall in love with her. Underneath her icy and dark persona, she is just another teenage girl who wants to let her guard down.