The new Netflix series “Wednesday” offers a modern spin on The Addams Family, focusing on daughter Wednesday Addams’ years at a supernatural boarding school. With Tim Burton as executive producer, the show leans heavily into the iconically gothic, macabre nature associated with the franchise. However, one scene in particular from the season’s third episode has kicked up significant debate: a solo dance sequence featuring actress Jenna Ortega, the 20-year-old star playing teenage Wednesday.
Late Night Dance Floor Sparks Divisive Opinions
In the scene, Wednesday finds herself alone at night in her school’s ballroom when The Cramps’ 1981 song “Goo Goo Muck” comes on over the speakers. Moved by the music, she launches into a jerky, jolting interpretive dance filled with aggressive movements both alluring and off-putting. This sequence comes shortly after Wednesday facing bullying from her classmates over false accusations of getting another student expelled.
Ortega conceived much of the unorthodox choreography herself, wishing to channel Wednesday’s angst and repression into something cathartic. The scene gained great traction online for Ortega’s committed performance and dynamic physicality. But it also drew criticism for potentially sexualizing the underage actress through her revealing academy uniform and provocative motions.
Debating Artistic Intent Versus Audience Interpretation
Explicitly, the “Wednesday” showrunners likely aimed for an energized, titillating dance piece communicating the main character’s internal strife and ostracization. However, releasing such shocking content starring a 20-year-old playing a 14-year-old into the social media entertainment pipeline courts predictable outcomes too. Namely, the sexual objectification of Ortega herself along with teenage girls more broadly.
Some defend the scene and Ortega’s creative liberties controlling her choreography. Yet others argue regardless of intent, portraying a sexualized vision of any performer playing a minor remains fundamentally irresponsible and dangerous in today’s media landscape. There are no easy takes on this issue. Perhaps the wisest perspective sees flawed execution from the showrunners while still validating Ortega’s agency over her art.
The Bigger Picture Behind Public Reaction
Beyond just this one instance, the public response speaks to larger social questions about young female autonomy, self-expression, and how modern entertainment chooses to depict young women. Wednesday Addams always leaned more mature and world-weary than her actual age. Yet today’s media norms don’t necessarily allow similar latitude.
There are vitally necessary conversations happening around reforming unhealthy Hollywood tropes and better protecting young talent. At the same time, young artists like Ortega also deserve to embrace their creative visions without unfair scrutiny or policing of their self-determined image. There’s a balance still lacking in many ways.
Moving Forward with More Care
For Netflix and entertainment studios broadly, this Wednesday dance debacle represents why established safeguards and further precautions are needed when depicting younger performers. Consulting advocacy organizations, actively soliciting input from a diversity of cultural perspectives pre-release, or even simply erring conservatively regarding suggestive youth portrayals could help mitigate much backlash.
Additionally, news and social platforms must take responsibility for curating discourse around these issues judiciously, not fanning the flames further. There exists complexity meriting discussion but the priority should remain on protecting real adolescents from harm first and foremost.
Ultimately no perfect solutions exist yet for resolving these tensions between creative freedom, ethical depictions, and corporate accountability. But with care, nuance, and compassion directing all sides, perhaps ecosystems fostering both youth empowerment and their healthy development can mutually take shape.