Wednesday has finally snapped its fingers onto Netflix and, thankfully, it’s turning out to be a hugely popular reimagination of the Addams Family. While reviews aren’t wholly glowing, it’s still receiving the best critical notices for a Tim Burton project for many a year. Even better, though, is the fact that the new series has finally seen the beloved director pay attention to his fans and buck a troubling trend that’s defined the latter stages of his career.
To put it plainly, thanks to Latina actress Jenna Ortega playing the title role, Wednesday is the very first directorial effort from the Edward Scissorhands filmmaker to feature a person of color in the lead. Think about it, from Beetlejuice to Dumbo, every single one of Burton’s movies had a Caucasian protagonist. In making this move that’s seemingly small, but actually huge within the confines of his career, Burton is at last accepting mistakes he’s made in the past and moving forward the right way.
The lack of diversity in his projects previously caused a major headache for Burton in the run-up to his 2016 effort, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. An off-hand remark from star Samuel L. Jackson about being the only Black person in a Tim Burton movie caused people to realize that, while this was an over-exaggeration, it wasn’t as far from the truth as it should be. Unfortunately, Burton didn’t help things by making some, at best, ill-judged comments in response.
“Nowadays, people are talking about it more. Things either call for things or they don’t,” he told Bustle when discussing the need for better on-screen representation. “I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct. Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just…I grew up watching Blaxploitation movies, right? I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”
Naturally, these remarks caused a lot of blowback for Burton online and he wisely refrained from addressing the issue again… Until now. It seems Burton has reflected on the topic in the years since and has wisely decided to let his latest project do the talking for him. Aside from Ortega, Wednesday probably contains Burton’s most diverse cast across the board. For one, you have to appreciate it for giving us an almost fully Latinx Addams Family for the very first time (except Catherine Zeta-Jones, but she’s still awesome).
It’s unclear when or where Burton plans to return to the big screen next after Wednesday, but hopefully, he’ll carry the lessons he’s learned from the Addams teen’s tenure at Nevermore Academy with him into his future endeavors.