Strong Female Characters: Morticia Addams

For those of you that don’t know, Morticia is the matriarch of The Addams Family, a comic strip turned TV show turned movie series about a family of supernatural creatures/borderline psychopaths who don’t sparkle. The plot of all three incarnations revolves around the various family shenanigans the Addamses get up to, and Morticia – as the wife of Gomez and the mother of Pugsley, Wednesday and Pubert – is often caught in the middle of it. A cult classic, The Addams Family has become a staple of popular culture (and an endless source of Halloween costumes) and Morticia herself has become an instantly recognisable character.

But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

 

NOTE: This review will be mainly focused on the two 1990s films with Anjelica Huston, but I will be referencing its other incarnations from time to time.

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

For the most part, Morticia is very happy with her life as it is. She only really tries to change things after the Addams family is threatened in some way, and then she becomes a much more active player. She’s perfectly capable of confronting people who try and harm her family, and does so on more than one occasion, but often chooses not to.

As such, it’s actually pretty tricky to make a definite judgement about how Morticia has shaped her own destiny as most of the time, her life and the world around her are presented as things that are already shaped to her liking. We never really see her act unless something is taken away from her – most of the time it’s her husband and children who drive the plot forward.

SCORE SO FAR: 0.5

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

Like the rest of the Addams family, everything Morticia does has a very macabre twist to it, and this is reflected in her pastimes. She enjoys gardening –

In a manner of speaking. (image: giphy.com)
In a manner of speaking. (image: giphy.com)

– music and ballroom dancing, but only if these are all done in a particularly melodramatic and kooky way. As far as her beliefs go, she seems genuinely distressed by all things wholesome and saccharine and loves all things dark and spooky – but she also puts the welfare of her family above everything else and would go to any lengths to make them happy. This also informs her goals, too – throughout the films her main aim is to protect her family and make sure her children grow up happy, if a little twisted. She’d also like to seek out the dark forces and join them on their hellish crusade – but hey, what modern woman doesn’t?

SCORE SO FAR: 1.5

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

Morticia is a very cool, collected woman with seduction (and sometimes smoke) literally coming out of her ears. She’s a very loving person who’s proud of her husband and children, even if they are all super weird, and is fiercely loyal to her family. She does all of this behind a thin patina of creepy, but overall she means well. As far as her skills go, we see that she is very good at foreign languages and music, and has an impressive pain tolerance – although this is usually just played for laughs.

SCORE SO FAR: 2.5

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

A creepy, kooky yet loving mother who only wants the best for her adorably strange family.

SCORE SO FAR: 3.5

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Most of Morticia’s decisions are influenced by her love for her family, and there’s no getting away from the fact that her husband, Gomez, is a huge part of this. In the first film, she goes to confront the villains primarily because Gomez has become depressed – in the second, she goes to confront the villains because their actions are causing Gomez pain.

Because that's her job. (image: giphy.com)
Because that’s her job. (image: giphy.com)

While she is concerned for her children and her mother, most of her on-screen interactions – and therefore, decisions – are centred around her husband. However, it’s still made pretty clear that she isn’t just acting for his sake – she does what she does for the good of the Addams family as a larger whole. I’ll give her half a point.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

Not really. Morticia doesn’t learn anything or change in any substantial way. At the end of the films she’s pretty much the same character as she was at the beginning.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Again, Morticia doesn’t really have a weakness. Her love for her family sometimes puts her in danger, but this doesn’t really count as a weakness. Likewise, her creepy, kooky demeanour never extends much beyond a source of comedy – it doesn’t really hold her back.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

As I already mentioned, Morticia doesn’t actually influence the plot all that often – it’s usually her husband and children who provide us with most of the action. When she does step up to the plate, more often than not it’s in a supporting role or she’s cast in the role of damsel in distress – so she doesn’t pass this round either.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

Morticia is actually a really interesting character in terms of gender stereotypes. Her character is very clearly informed by some existing stereotypes, and most prevalent of all of these influences is The Vamp. The Vamp is the epitome of a sexily evil lady who uses her feminine wiles to get what she wants, and at first glance, Morticia would definitely seem to fall into this category. She’s got the whole ‘evil sexy’ aesthetic sorted.

And most of it comes from her flawless eyeshadow. (image: tumblr.com)
And most of it comes from her flawless eyeshadow. (image: tumblr.com)

However, this is all completely subverted by the fact that she only looks the part. She’s a loving mother, a supportive wife and does everything she can to keep her family happy. This is really what set The Addams Family apart from other sitcoms when the TV show first aired in the 1960s. In many sitcoms about the typical American family, all the humour came from the mother’s endless nagging, and she was often the source of pointless family dramas. In The Addams Family, the humour comes from how much they all love and support each other – it’s everyone else who provides the drama.

The upshot of all this is that Morticia is a surprisingly subversive character. When the show and the movies first came out, it was unusual to see a married couple so utterly besotted with each other – and it’s still not exactly common even today. Morticia subverts the trope of the Vamp by being a fundamentally loving person, she subverts the trope of the housewife by being really, really strange, and she and Gomez subvert the trope that married life is boring by all the crazy sex stuff the movies drop hints about.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Morticia relates to a wide range of female characters, but these relationships aren’t always developed. She loves and supports her daughter, Wednesday, but this relationship isn’t really explored in any great depth. She loves her mother, welcomes Margaret into the family when she marries Cousin It, and tries to do the same with the serial killer, Debbie – although as you’d expect, this doesn’t pan out quite so well. She has plenty of relationships with other female characters, but these aren’t really explored in any great amount of detail, so I’ll give her half a point.

FINAL SCORE: 5.5/10

 

Morticia is a consistent character with some well-developed goals, beliefs and hobbies and a refreshing take on gender stereotypes. But at the end of the day, she just isn’t quite fleshed-out enough to pass my test. Her relationships aren’t really developed enough, she doesn’t develop over the course of the story, and she doesn’t really have a weakness.

But is this going to stop me from watching her movies? Absolutely not.

Not least because of her psycho daughter. (image: tumblr.com)
Not least because of her psycho daughter. (image: tumblr.com)

Next week, I’ll be looking at one of the classic Dickens characters. Nancy, I’m coming for you.

 

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.

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2 thoughts on “Strong Female Characters: Morticia Addams”

  1. Yeah…if I ever do a “good child character”, I might pick Wednesday, but picking her never occurred to me. Not a bad character, but not a particularly good one either.

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