Michaeline: Addams Family Archetypes

In a gazebo in winter, Morticia is looking at an X-ray, Gomez is showing the children and Grandmama a shrunken head of himself, and Uncle Fester is busying himself with a mysterious instrument. (A piccolo? A hacksaw? A stereopticon?)

Before the TV show, there was the cartoon. The Addams family share a warm family gathering. (A bookcover, via Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Halloween, y’all! Today, I have a little fun with the characters from the Addams Family. If you don’t know about them, please take some time to dig up (har-har) some of the old Charles Addams cartoons from the New Yorker. Or the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation. Such a lovely, spooky sensibility that plays with the border between “normal” and “weird.” Perfect for today, the traditional border between autumn and cold, hungry winter.

Morticia Addams: She is the Goddess stereotype. As a tempting maiden, she drives her husband crazy. But she also is a fruitful mother of two children. And her calm demeanor and mysterious taste in all things home and hearth make her rather crone-like. She owns her domain, and dominates it.

Gomez Addams: He’s apparently an entrepreneur and he’s obviously a very rich man. But his role in this drama is the wise fool. His passion for his wife turns him into a complete idiot – but he’s happy. He bumbles around the house and sometimes with his business, but he always comes out right. A cliff could be crumbling at his feet, and he’d find a vine to cling to. He’d escape the crisis with scarcely a stray piece of lint on his tidy three-piece suit. In order to be so

A family grouping of the monstrous Addams Family from the old TV show

Ah, the good old days! When men were men, women were women, and butlers were monsters. (The Addams Family, r to l, Gomez, Wednesday, Morticia, Lurch, Pugsley) (via Wikimedia Commons)

foolish, he must have some hidden depths. We rarely see them. But his athleticism is astonishing. And, well, there’s the money. Morticia is not foolishly in love with him, but I do think she deeply loves him, and we can see why.

Lurch: Lurch is the tall, monstrous butler. He’s got that Frankenstein quality about him, and may have been constructed rather than born. Lurch is the silent critic. He is eloquent with his moans and groans, and sometimes a grunt and a pained look on his stiff face is enough to steer the rest of the madhouse to sanity. Sometimes, he just suffers while the chaos continues. He works on a variety of levels. He is often the moral center of our drama, even though he rarely contributes a single word to the dialog.

Wednesday and Pugsley: The children. I am tempted to class them as simple comic relief, but in many ways, little Wednesday is a goddess in training, just like her mother. And Pugsley could easily grow into the kind of wise fool that his father is. They may be a motif.

Thing: Thing is my very favorite character. He (She?) is a hand in a box that moves about mysteriously in the house. What is Thing doing in this drama? I’m not quite sure, but I love it. Perhaps, Thing is the Hand of God. Thing is very wise, knows just what to bring to the situation, and is eloquent in its silence.

Cousin It: Another favorite of mine. On the surface, Cousin It seems to be a bit of a hippy. Everyone has an embarrassing relative in their family tree, although the Addams never seem to see Cousin It that way. Perhaps It’s charm lies in It’s visible appearance. It looks like haystack of hair. I’m not sure how to class It in a more classical way. I am intrigued to find that Cousin It rounds out a trio of characters who don’t use English as a method of communication. Maybe these three speak more to our right brains than our left.

Uncle Fester and Butler Lurch posing stiffly in a 1966 TV show PR photo.

Talk about your odd couples: Fester and Lurch are the boy in the basement vs. the inner censor. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Uncle Fester: Uncle Fester looks like a wise fool, and I’m not quite sure which branch of the family he belongs to. But Uncle Fester is the one character who demonstrates a sort of real magic: he lights up a light bulb with his mouth. This isn’t useful magic, but he does often enlighten us when the plot becomes a bit murky.

Grandmama: Like Uncle Fester, her family tree is a bit tangled. I’m not sure whose mama she is. She says she’s a witch. I can’t remember any of her magic spells working. If Uncle Fester is the crazy guy in the basement, she’s the crazy woman in the attic.

Did I miss one of your favorite Addams family characters? Which Halloween archetypes do you like best?

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: Addams Family Archetypes

  1. My favorite cartoon was one of a deliveryman at the door with two tiny pet carriers. Morticia calls up the stairs toGomez, “It’s the children, darling–home from camp.” If you look closely, you can see Wednesday and Pugsley’s faces in the little screens doors of the pet carriers.

    The TV show was, as Woody Allen once described elevator music, “run through the deflavorizer machine.”

    • The Addams Family cartoons look like great fun. I always feel rather cheated that Halloween isn’t a bigger deal over here. There’s fancy dress and trick-or-treat for little kids now (there was none when I was growing up), but nothing like the tradition of house decorating and family fun that you Ladies all share.

      I love Terry Pratchett’s Igors – there are more than a dozen different ones dotted around his Discworld novels. They’re a clan of servants from a Gothicky mountainous country called Uberwald; they have a tendency to lisp (out of politeness, because people expect it) and a tradition of surgery and inheriting useful body parts.

      According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igor_(Discworld) ‘Igors have a particular code of honour, which makes them very loyal and hard-working. The code is explicit on certain matters: Never question the master (“No, thur, that’th an artery”); never pass judgment (“What do you want a hundred virginth for?”); never grumble (“Where am I going to find a brain at thith time of night?”).’

      • (-: We’re all told it’s British pre-Christian ritual. Although, I think Wikipedia mentioned that American Halloween was made popular by Irish immigrants.

        Robbie Burns (Scotland!) was a good source of traditional Halloween fun with one of his poems.

        (-: It’s taken more than 20 years, but I finally feel that this year, Japanese people are “getting it.” Halloween for the last 10 or so years has meant dressing up from the dollar store in vampire costumes (for boys) and witch hats (for girls). But this year, there have been a lot of “accident victims” and the bloody nurse has been extremely popular. (accidents, zombies, etc.) I heard from one of the teachers that they had trick-or-treaters last year!

        I love a good modern Igor. One who quethtions the mathter. I think the first time I saw this was Marty Feldstein in Young Frankenstein. I loved his Igor-type. (-: And of course, Pratchett did Igors wonderfully. Pratchett really drew on a lot of lore, and I would love to go to a Pratchett-themed Halloween.

    • (-: I still love the show. It doesn’t compare at all with the cartoon, of course. The cartoon was a one-shot knife throw to the heart of the matter. The show was at least 20 minutes long, and had to follow TV conventional wisdom.

      I loved the romance in the TV shows. Gomez was obviously infatuated with Morticia, and she was supposed to be strong, cold woman. But sometimes, you could see her be moved by her emotions. There’s a great YouTube mashup to “Take My Breath Away” that shows a montage of Gomez kissing Morticia in all sorts of places. (-: Sigh. I always loved the wrist-to-neck kissing marathon, myself.

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