Netflix's 'Wednesday' Is The Nuanced Latine Representation We Crave

Jenna Ortega's character doesn't have to lean into the "spicy Latina" stereotype or adopt a fake accent in order for us to understand her as a Latine character.
Jenna Ortega attends the Nov. 16 world premiere of Netflix's "Wednesday" at Hollywood Legion Theater in Los Angeles.
Jenna Ortega attends the Nov. 16 world premiere of Netflix's "Wednesday" at Hollywood Legion Theater in Los Angeles.
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

The most interesting thing about Wednesday Addams as we know her now is that she鈥檚 a powerful psychic whose best friend is a disembodied hand.

Addams also happens to be Latina 鈥 but that鈥檚 not supposed to be the point. The recent record-shattering success of the Netflix series 鈥淲ednesday鈥 feels like a new type of win for Latinx representation at a time when the word 鈥渞epresentation鈥 is often a stand-in for tokenism. It鈥檚 evidence that we can have diversity without being reminded of that diversity at every waking moment, and for once it feels like a TV show gets it.

For example, Wednesday Addams, played by Jenna Ortega (who is of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage), doesn鈥檛 have to highlight her Latinidad in order to be comfortable with that part of her identity. We get passing references to her heritage 鈥 from the way she dances to nods at Dia de los Muertos 鈥 but it doesn鈥檛 feel performative. She doesn鈥檛 have to lean into the 鈥渟picy Latina鈥 stereotype or adopt a fake accent in order for us to understand her as a Latinx character. In fact, her authentic portrayal of Latinidad is one of the things that Ortega expresses when she talks about what she loved so much about her role as Wednesday Addams.

鈥淚 feel like a lot of [the Latinx representation is Hollywood] is very calculated diversity, in terms of they hire people to check off a box,鈥 she said in a recent interview. 鈥淚 do hope to see a world where we start to see Latinos being cast as everyone and not just a side character where their heritage is their entire personality.鈥

Ortega鈥檚 sentiment about Latinx characters basing their entire personality on their cultural heritage definitely resonates. While Latinx representation is broadening, shows that brand themselves as 鈥淟atinx shows鈥 tend to overplay their character鈥檚 culture to the point where it starts to feel inauthentic. I remember thinking this about the Netflix show 鈥淥n My Block,鈥 in which the characters seemed to remind each other that they were Latino way too often. It felt contrived. While it was nice to see so many Latinos on screen, it felt like the Latino expression was for the others 鈥 not us.

Personally, I can understand the impulse to play up our culture; it鈥檚 something I arguably do in my writing, too. To an extent, it comes from a fear of not being perceived as 鈥淟atino enough鈥 because there鈥檚 a certain way that our culture tells us what Latinx people are supposed to look like and how we鈥檙e supposed to act. When we鈥檙e 鈥渢he only ones鈥 in certain spaces, there鈥檚 also a pressure to try to display all aspects of our culture.

Maybe it鈥檚 the reason that producers, even from our own communities, exaggerate the stereotypically Hispanic traits of their characters 鈥 otherwise, how are we going to know that they are really Latinx? The beauty of 鈥淲ednesday鈥 is that it doesn鈥檛 seem to concern itself with making the main character Latina enough. She simply is. And that鈥檚 more than enough proof that we are not a monolith.

Still, Wednesday鈥檚 Latinidad is an essential part of the story. In fact, I鈥檇 argue that Addams would not be the hero she becomes if it weren鈥檛 for her cultural heritage. That鈥檚 because Wednesday is doubly an outsider: one, for having psychic powers, and two, for being Latina. Her status as a cultural 鈥渙ther鈥 makes her more sensitive to the struggles and motives of others, expertly illustrated in a scene where she calls out the town鈥檚 Pilgrim-themed amusement park for glorifying colonialism.

But even beyond that, the entire series revolves around the historical tensions between Evermore Academy, a so-called school for outcasts, and the people of the nearby town of Jericho. It鈥檚 not hard to see how this tension resembles the real political climate between certain Americans and their misguided fear of those who are different. This is what makes 鈥淲ednesday鈥 a fundamentally Latinx story, too.

Through Netflix鈥檚 Wednesday Addams, we finally got a main character whose Latinidad informs their world view but doesn鈥檛 define it. In the series, Latinidad expands her vision of the world and the possibilities of what she鈥檚 able to do, instead of limiting who she can become. It makes me excited for what the future of Latinx representation holds.

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