The Hidden Message of 'Addams Family Values'
November 21, 2018 7:18 AM   Subscribe

The Addams Family — led by father Gomez (the late and much-missed Raul Julia) and mother Morticia (Anjelica Huston), and expanded by the additional presence of newborn son Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper) — may be socially mal-adjusted, but they’re also genuinely affectionate in ways that screenwriter Paul Rudnick intended as a sharp contrast with the behavior of conservative Americans who rallied behind the George H.W. Bush-era slogan of “family values.” In time for the 25th anniversary of Addams Family Values ’original theatrical release, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to some of the film’s key collaborators about family values, heavy makeup, and dropped eyeballs.
posted by uncleozzy (41 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
Carel Struycken, in the role of Lurch: I didn’t really see it as a political commentary.

I lol'd a bit because, well, yea.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:35 AM on November 21


A favorite film in our family. Aspirational, like the first one.
posted by doctornemo at 8:09 AM on November 21 [6 favorites]


Find someone who looks at you the way Gomez looks at Morticia.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:10 AM on November 21 [61 favorites]


I guess that explains quotes like


Young Girl: ...and then Mommy kissed Daddy, and the angel told the stork, and the stork flew down from heaven, and put the diamond in the cabbage patch, and the diamond turned into a baby!
Pugsley: Our parents are having a baby too.
Wednesday: They had sex.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:15 AM on November 21 [50 favorites]


I'm getting married next year, shortly before Halloween, and we've already agreed that we must be Morticia and Gomez. This just confirms it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:18 AM on November 21 [14 favorites]


I consider Addams Family Values to be the best Thanksgiving movie, so this article is both delightful and well timed.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:19 AM on November 21 [10 favorites]


Why is a Summer camp doing a Thanksgiving pageant? Well, mostly so we can have one of the greatest sequences in cinematic history.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:29 AM on November 21 [37 favorites]


AFV is one of my favorite movies. The creative voice of the film is, to me, strongly Jewish-American.

Even though Charles Addams wasn't Jewish (but, let's face it, the original characters didn't have much backstory), the movies have familiar cultural overtones to me as an Ashkenazi Jew. The feeling of being vaguely-yet-nonspecifically ethnic, white yet not White. The Old World weirdness of your extended family. The feeling of not being fully assimilated, but also not WANTING to fully assimilate because you don't really identify with the surrounding culture. If you look at the summer camp kids who are relegated to the role of Indians, they're all either nonwhite, disabled, or Jewish.

Debbie is great (she could also be viewed as a bit of a J.A.P. caricature), and if you notice, the Addamses love and accept her! They're only unhappy with the fact that she won't allow Fester to see them. They have no problem with her being a homicidal maniac, really. She's an Addams.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:38 AM on November 21 [65 favorites]


It's a fun article, but that anecdote about Raul Julia's eye falling out came as a bit of a shock. It was frustratingly short on detail about that as well. How and why did his eye just fall out all of a sudden?
posted by wabbittwax at 8:39 AM on November 21 [9 favorites]


Debbie is great (she could also be viewed a bit of a J.A.P. caricature), and if you notice, the Addamses love and accept her! They're only unhappy with the fact that she won't allow Fester to see them. They have no problem with her being a homicidal maniac, really. She's an Addams.

Bringing back Dana Ivey as Margaret Alford/Addams to provide an example of how a former antagonist can smoothly become part of the clan as a contrast to Debbie was a really great touch, I thought. In addition to the fact that her scenes are gold in and of themselves.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:43 AM on November 21 [13 favorites]


Aside from some of the soundtrack music choices, I have nothing but strong affection for this movie.

Wednesday Adams 'non-smile smile' has gotten me out of many a (terrible) family gatherings
posted by Faintdreams at 8:49 AM on November 21 [12 favorites]


It was frustratingly short on detail about that as well. How and why did his eye just fall out all of a sudden?

Thyroid condition, according to Angelica Huston. Maybe something like Graves disease, which causes bulging eyes. People with that sometimes have their eyes pop out. As long as the nerve isn't damaged, you just put it back in and there will likely be some redness, but otherwise you're okay.

the movies have familiar cultural overtones to me as an Ashkenazi Jew.

I think that's what Barry Sonnenfeld and Paul Rudnick bring to the table. Sonnenfeld really infuses his films with a sort of vague Jewishness (sometimes not so vague; he made the kids in Lemony Snicket explicitly Jewish.)

Anyway, it's a summer camp movie. All summer camp comedies are Jewish, while all summer camp horror movies are goyish. I don't know why this is, but it's true.
posted by maxsparber at 8:53 AM on November 21 [39 favorites]


They have no problem with her being a homicidal maniac, really. She's an Addams.

But Debbie ... Pastels?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:58 AM on November 21 [12 favorites]


I'm not Jewish but this movie resonated really strongly with me as well, and I think maybe being bi/queer is a big part of it? Feeling like for some reason you don't really fit in and the joy of seeing a family who loves and accepts you for who you are even if it's really different from them.

Also finding Christina Ricci/Wednesday Adams impossibly beautiful and glamorous, especially in her dress for Fester's wedding, and having confused feelings of both wanting to be her and wanting ...something else that I couldn't really define but was very strong and confusing .
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:58 AM on November 21 [23 favorites]


I was going to read this but I can't deal with eye falling out even if it's Addams
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:21 AM on November 21 [3 favorites]


It's all the way at the bottom (and it's an "oral history," i.e. a chain of quotes without any framing narrative) so you can just stop reading when you hit the "Gomez and Morticia" header.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:40 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]


And yet somehow, Pugsley grew up to be Senator Ted Cruz.
posted by condour75 at 9:40 AM on November 21 [7 favorites]


All summer camp comedies are Jewish, while all summer camp horror movies are goyish. I don't know why this is, but it's true.

Did Lloyd Kaufman never make a combination summer camp horror comedy for Troma? Missed opportunity if so.
posted by hyperbolic at 9:41 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]


All summer camp comedies are Jewish, while all summer camp horror movies are goyish. I don't know why this is, but it's true.

I know you're speaking metaphorically rather than literally, but I had to check if Jim Varney was Jewish, just in case.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:47 AM on November 21 [7 favorites]


It's a fun article, but that anecdote about Raul Julia's eye falling out came as a bit of a shock.

Raul Julia mentioned this in an interview once, also without many details, and I have never been the same.
posted by Mavri at 9:52 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


Addams Family Values: the idealized accepting family (self link)
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 AM on November 21


If you can find it (after a takedown notice), I highly recommend "Adult Wednesday Addams"
posted by jkaczor at 10:36 AM on November 21 [7 favorites]


Why is a Summer camp doing a Thanksgiving pageant?

Are you questioning Gary's vision?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:41 AM on November 21 [15 favorites]


"But soon, the money runs out..."
*looks at change on bedside table, nods at television*

Raul Julia mentioned this in an interview once, also without many details,

I remember there being rather a lot of details in that interview...I believe it was the Tonight Show...can't seem to find it though :/
posted by sexyrobot at 11:15 AM on November 21


And yet somehow, Pugsley grew up to be Senator Ted Cruz.

Not actually, but he is the unfairly-maligned "M'Lady" guy.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:26 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


Actually, that was a different Pugsley.
posted by ODiV at 1:35 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


The primary tragedy of Addams Family Values is the horrific product placement ad for the world's shittiest pizzas, but Rudnick was red hot in this stretch, when he wrote both a scathing satire on conservatism wrapped in a popular film and a comedy about AIDS back when anyone with sense would have told you that was impossible. Even In & Out, which is desperately dated and plays on far too many self-held gay tropes, was still a wonder in the nineties, a period only slightly less hateful for LGBT folks than the wretched eighties. People still want to credit the limp emptiness of Will & Grace for advancing the cause of gay folks, but Rudnick was there first, and better.
posted by sonascope at 1:44 PM on November 21 [6 favorites]


I met Rudnick once and had to figure if I should say how much I loved his early comic novel or how much I loved Addams Family Values.
posted by The Whelk at 1:56 PM on November 21


This movie came out when I was 7, and I loved it SO MUCH.

Wednesday Addams was one of my very first crushes. I remember this because my heart skipped a beat during the scene when the kid at camp tells her “if my mom uses fabric softener, I die” and she scootches closer to him. It must have been hilarious for my family to see their weird goth son discovering his interest in girls this way.

A couple years ago my girlfriend and I found this movie on one of the streaming things, and it turns out it was one of her favorite movies as a kid, too. I feel like this says so much about us both.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:56 PM on November 21 [6 favorites]


Actually, that was a different Pugsley.

SO. MANY. PUGSLEYS.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:16 PM on November 21


Ricci: Being 12, I wasn't really aware of what the Thanksgiving play scene would look like (though I may have known how amazing it was going to end up being). It was so incredibly theatrical. It was such an amazing set piece to be a part of. Stunt performers came out at one point, fires start and burn around me while I'm delivering this speech. So it was definitely one of the more dramatic scenes to shoot.

Rudnick: I had no idea that the movie would be released at Thanksgiving and, strangely, no one’s ever asked me why kids at a summer camp are celebrating Thanksgiving. I wrote the pageant because it presented so many ripe satiric possibilities, and was a way of weaving the Addams Family into American history. I wrote the song “Eat Me” with Marc Shaiman, who’s a legend for his work in theater and film. Marc and I are both Broadway addicts, so it was a treat to have the campers dress up as turkeys and sing. I’ve always been grateful that from early on, audience members always seemed to treasure this scene, especially if they’ve lived through the hell of summer camp. This scene also represents Wednesday Addams' ultimate revenge, on Republicans, blondes, mean girls and bullies.


Heh.

A Tribe Called Red put Wednesday's Thanksgiving speech to good use: Burn Your Village To The Ground.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:33 PM on November 21 [9 favorites]


Yeah, Jerry Messing played Pugsly in 1998's barely-remembed Addams Family Reunion, in which the whole cast was replaced (save for Lurch.) Jimmy Workman played him in the two Sonnenfeld films.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:52 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


This movie is, honestly, amazing. Nearly every single line is a joke most writers would kill to write, and every single performance is iconic. It is a thing of wondrous beauty and I love it beyond words.

And Wednesday Addams was also my first crush.

Gary, to children assembled at the end of a dock: “Now, one of you will be the drowning victim and the other one gets to be our lifesaver.”

Amanda: “I’ll be the victim!”

Wednesday: “All your life.”

The entire movie is like this. It’s just...amazing.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:01 PM on November 21 [20 favorites]


shoutout to Addams Family pinball machine
posted by thelonius at 3:04 PM on November 21 [23 favorites]


Interesting. Never thought of it before but real 'family values' is one thing Jackie Coogan (his life resulted in the 'California Child Actor's Bill') could have used more of.

Which makes the gold-digging imposter in this film the more delicious.
posted by Twang at 4:19 PM on November 21


I assistant directed a grade school Thanksgiving pageant the year after this movie came out. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut.

I grew up watching reruns of The Addams Family TV show and wishing Gomez and Morticia were my real parents. The same love comes through in the movies.

I was just thinking the other day that if the world were not a horribly cruel place we would be seeing Raul Julia as King Lear right about now.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:02 PM on November 21 [11 favorites]


Add another to the list of families who watch this movie ritually at Thanksgiving.

My own personal favorite moment dates back to the year of its release, when I saw it in a college theatre with some friends. The part where Fester and Debbie are about to have sex and he says "Gomez told me--no giggling! And no hand puppets!" resulted in a shout of laughter from me and my dear friend that surpassed the hilarity of that line (and it's funny in and of itself), all because I had recently broken up with a guy whose negatives included a little blue hand puppet, a dolphin named Pedro, who said all the things he wasn't supposed to say, in an unbearable lisp. I had warned him that if that puppet appeared at any stage of intimacy it would meet its sorry end. Gomez made a smart move with that warning.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:45 PM on November 21 [8 favorites]


John Astin's Gomez and Raul Julia's Gomez are different--Astin's is very Jewish, with a lot of physicality borrowed from Groucho Marx, while Julia plunged into the passionate, romantic, Latin stereotype--but they're both so funny and charming and valid that I could never choose a favorite.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:49 AM on November 22 [10 favorites]


Thank you for this post, I watch the pageant scene every American Thanksgiving as a matter of ritual and watching the pan of the audience of moms and dads with the Bush-era perspective added a lot to the experience as I gathered my children around me.

Unfortunately my 7-year-old ran out to the card screaming "I will scalp you and BURN YOUR VILLAGE TO THE GROUND" this morning, so we had to have a little talk about context.

*Morticia Addams shrug*
posted by warriorqueen at 7:16 AM on November 22 [13 favorites]


I was in high school when the first one of these came out and all my friends and I argued over which one of us was most in love with Christina Ricci, even the gay guys and straight girls. Two of my friends have named their daughter Wednesday in significant part because of the thanksgiving pageant scene.

I've also always appreciated Wednesday's approach to love, which she states in Addams Family Values: that if she met a man who was completely devoted to her, she would pity him.

In the larger focus, I've always loved Charles Addams' cartoons and everything about both of the movies just charms me to the core. It's one of the only movies centering a cis straight couple and with no LGBT characters that I feel this strongly attached to, because everything about the Addamses is about embracing being outside the mainstream, finding your people, and having a good time with them, and how this is what "family values" really means. I think this is especially borne out with Debbie - the Addamses would have loved having her as a family member if she'd actually been in love with Fester. Homicidal maniac? Fine. Making Fester sad? Unacceptable! I've ended up identifying with both Wednesday and Fester, Wednesday perhaps for the obvious reasons around being a weird AFAB kid, and Fester because I'm often the weird friend with odd projects who's always hanging out with the happy couple but rarely in relationships myself.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:30 AM on November 22 [9 favorites]


Grown-up Christina Ricca in Morticia's dress (NSFW -- plunging neckline)
posted by wires at 11:45 AM on November 26


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