Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard the new teenage thriller-comedy Wednesday recently dropped on Netflix. A darling show for fans of the original Addams Family Values, supporters of the more recent spinoffs, or anyone who wishes they could sleep in a casket, Tim Burton’s latest work portrays Wednesday Addams (played by Jenna Ortega) as every bit as hilariously miserable as her younger versions in other installments. Sent to a boarding school and determined to find a monster on the loose, our Addams family black sheep is precisely how I imagined she’d be in her adolescent years—strong-willed, quick-witted, and not easily distracted. Well, until I picked up on how writers turned her into an object of desire in a one-dimensional, all too played-out love triangle trope.
Though I wouldn’t expect anything less than slightly cringe-invoking “romance” in a dramedy aimed at my fellow Gen Zers, I’m not one for getting on board with harmful tropes. In the show, Wednesday is supposed to choose between Tyler, a nice guy and slightly pretentious barista, and Xavier, a misunderstood artist who loves to stare into the horizon. Tim, I hate to tell you, but the love triangle has got to go. Besides not making sense for Wednesday’s character at all, I can’t help feeling like simplifying the woman your story is all about into a geometric point is more than a tad demeaning.
It’s been proven time and time again, but strong female characters don’t need to go through a “tough” romantic situationship to be seen as vulnerable. Let’s dive into the evidence, shall we? But reader, be warned: spoilers lie ahead.
The love triangle trope just makes zero sense in 2022
Before we really get into why it doesn’t make sense to put Wednesday Addams smack in the middle of a love triangle, let’s start at the root of the problem. By definition, a love triangle, as you would’ve guessed, involves three people, two of whom compete for the attention of one party known as the point of the triangle. And if the word “compete” isn’t enough to give you the ick, know that the trope is an easy way to make a woman character appear confused and unsure of herself as she flips back and forth between her two potential love interests. Fans of the romance genre generally agree a love triangle is a cheap way to add drama to a story at the expense of what would’ve been a relationship we’d root for.
Not only does the love triangle trope distract from a female character’s development and her non-romantic related actions but it’s kind of lazy writing. OK, I haven’t directed a major Netflix show, but as an avid fan of the rom-com genre, I’ve figured out which tropes are the ones worth remembering. Give me friends to lovers (spicy), enemies to lovers (even spicier), or the good ol’ one-bed trope (I’m practically melting), and I’m definitely going to manifest that type of alluring affair in my own life. But the love triangle? I have enough decisions to make as it is. The last thing I want to think about in a piece of escapist fiction is choosing between some guy who has daddy issues and another who’s way too close to his ex.
That’s not to say there aren’t love triangles that work. Some of the best romantic movies I’ve seen involve the trope—umm, hello Twilight and Love Actually. But at the very least, how much depth can you really squeeze into two potential love interests? We spent so much time watching Tyler pine over Wednesday that I can’t help but feel Xavier was snubbed. We get about 50 scenes of Tyler arguing with his dad and getting us to feel sorry for him, meanwhile Xavier bonds over a creepy painting he made with Wednesday for like two whole minutes. With two love interests, we can’t really root for anyone because there’s always one leg of the triangle that receives more screen time, dialogue, or odd camera zoom-ins than the other.
I’ll say it—Wednesday had better chemistry with Enid
When Wednesday arrives at Nevermore, she’s determined to escape, not make lifelong connections with her peers. But after meeting the bubbly Enid, Tyler, and Xavier, she soon becomes close with her peers—well, if you define “close” as restraining oneself from smothering others in their sleep.
Throughout the eight-episode story arc, I loved watching Wednesday open up and slowly become more vulnerable and human-like. But my favorite gooey Wednesday moments didn’t include the guys; they were all with Enid. From holding back her true feelings about that black-and-white scarf thing (what even is a snood?) Enid gifted her, passing up on dividing the room with tape when Enid moved back in, and Enid’s concern for Wednesday’s safety after turning into a werewolf for the first time, the two share a truly special friendship. One that’s worth rooting for.
Meanwhile, these guys were picking up any crumb of kindness Wednesday left and taking it as an invitation for ill-timed affection. That public tantrum over the signals Tyler felt Wednesday was giving? Dude, she Kubrik-stared into your soul a couple of times and asked you to drive her to a train station (and therefore, away from you). The manipulation Xavier pulled about Wednesday not acknowledging his contribution to her birthday cake? Please, give her a break and the gift of some peace. Was there ever really any chemistry between Wednesday and her guys anyway?
And even Ms. Ortega herself is against the trope
OK, I’ll admit I might be a little biased against this trope because I wasn’t excited over either Tyler or Xavier. So sure, take my opinion with a grain of salt. That being said, even Wednesday herself, Jenna Ortega has publicly said she was against the love triangle trope from the very beginning. According to the actress, who wanted to fight the love triangle trope “so hard,” she didn’t think the romantic conundrum would suit Wednesday’s character at all. And yeah, she has a point.
With a plotline that paints Wednesday as a hardened, yet still sometimes vulnerable teenager, she’s someone that other students would rather avoid than run to. Besides having literally zero nice things to say to her peers, she’s also very focused on herself. I mean, carving out writing time every day (I took notes) and dealing with normies and a small-town police department to prove her father’s innocence and figure out where this mysterious monster was coming from, on top of being a student? In what Addams family universe would boys be Wednesday’s main concern? Relying on the trope to make her seem more human-like or give her character an opportunity to open up could easily have been done with more scenes with Enid, Bianca, or Eugene.
At the end of the day, Wednesday was a truly enjoyable, chuckle-inducing teen flick, love triangle trope and all. Between a thoughtful, Easter egg-filled depiction of an iconic character and an exciting modern interpretation of the Addams family, the show almost flawlessly carried on the legacy of the fairly odd characters that have been around for decades. But when it comes to empowering strong female leads, considering what makes sense for a character, and listening to feedback (I hear you and support you, Jenna), Wednesday shouldn’t have ever had a love triangle trope.
Judging by the success and cliffhanger ending of season one, I’m definitely anticipating an equally thrilling and cheesy second season. But if the writers want to develop and celebrate Wednesday Addams, they’ll chill on the whole trope-y romance for a bit. Personally, I’d love for Wednesday and Xavier to get closer as platonic friends—and hey, maybe he can join her for therapy, too. Though we probably won’t get what we want (sigh), I’m also siding with a good chunk of TikTok and shipping Wednesday and Enid. They were roommates after all. Regardless of where season two takes us, one thing’s for sure—if Wednesday starts romanticizing whatever she had with Tyler, now a known killer, I’m turning off the TV.