Why Morticia Addams is a Feminist Icon: Her Healthy Attitude Toward Sex, Marriage and Motherhood
When I was growing up in the ’90s, it’s not like there was a shortage of female role models. From Samantha Jones’ thoroughly selfish orgasms to Topanga schooling Cory on destructive gender-based thinking to Buffy Summers literally coming back from the dead to save the Scooby Gang, these women really knew how to lean in.
But now that I’m older (and wiser? Sure, let’s go with that), I’ve realized that finding strong female characters who happened to be moms, well, that wasn’t so easy. There was the saccharine, sweet variety (Goody-Two-shoes Annie Camden from 7th Heaven), the totally clueless (I’m sorry, Barbara Mack, but how did you not know that your daughter could shoot electricity from her fingers?) or the nagging wife cliché (no lack of examples there).
But with both Halloween and an election on the horizon, I’m making a case for why the matriarch of the spookiest family around is the role model we all needed—then, now and into the future. I’m talking, of course, about the creepy, kooky, mysterious and, yes, totally kickass Morticia Addams, played by the fabulous Anjelica Huston in The Addams Family and its sequel, Addams Family Values.
First of all, can we talk about her body positivity? Sexually liberated, intensely passionate and friggin hot, Morticia is a helpful reminder that women, too, have needs and desires. She communicates openly with her partner about what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it (“Last night, you were unhinged. You were like some desperate, howling demon. You frightened me. Do it again.”) while avoiding the Jessica Rabbit hyper-sexualized trope. (Seriously, whose idea was it to show that movie to a bunch of 12-year-old girls?!) Particularly boundary pushing for the PG set, Morticia shows that S&M can be safe, enjoyable and consensual. Remember when she tells Gomez to stop torturing himself because that’s her job? Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that way sexier than anything in Christian Grey’s Red Room.
A healthy attitude toward sex aside, Morticia and Gomez could also teach a class in family values. They share child-rearing responsibilities (like both making an appearance at the dreaded school play), come together as a team in times of crisis (like when Uncle Fester returns home after being lost in the Bermuda triangle for 25 years) and make time for their shared interests (death, dance and demons) as well as their separate ones (you know, like gardening and black magic).
But it’s her parenting style I find most refreshing: It’s hands-off yet engaged. Loving yet direct. (When asked how babies are made, Wednesday cooly responds, “Our parents had sex.”) It’s in moments like these that you really get the sense that Morticia is priming her daughter to be equally empowered. Of the family’s great-aunt Calpurnia, she explains, “She was burned as a witch in 1706. They say she danced naked in the town square and enslaved a minister… but don’t worry. We’ve told Wednesday: college first.”
She’s also upfront and honest about her childcare needs—hiring a nanny after realizing she no longer has time to “seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.” In an era when TV and movie moms were either expected to stay home or do it all (or be dead…hi, Full House, Blossom and My Two Dads), Morticia was demanding the radical notion of help. Is it too much to say she anticipated the concept of self-care?
And perhaps this is what it all boils down to: Morticia is multi-faceted. She’s sexy, she’s maternal, she’s independent and she’s weird. And it’s thanks to this dimensionality that both films so easily pass the Bechdel test. Reminder: The Bechdel test requires that at least two women converse with one another about something other than a man. So, whether it’s talk of murder, family history, witchcraft or gardening, this one definitely fits the bill.
And so, with both Halloween and an election on the horizon, I urge you to take a second look at this brilliant, feminist-minded mid-90s franchise. At the very least, you’ll learn a thing or two about spicing things up in the bedroom.