Addams Family Values is known for its fright factor, but lest we not forgot its also the perfect homogenous blend of October spookiness and November turkey cheer (with an undertone of Sex Pistols’ anarchy). After all, what’s more punk rock than pre-teen Christina Ricci starring in a summer camp play about Thanksgiving? Nothing. And in case your nihilistic self needs further justification to avoid healthy food, apples will forever be ruined. The mid-afternoon pick-me-up snack just became synonymous with rebellious tween torture.
A brief synopsis for those who haven’t watched the early nineties hit this decade: In the iconic “Thanksgiving Play” camp scene, Ricci stages a coup to get revenge on her summer camp nemesis, leader of evenly tanned blonde girls everywhere, Mercedes McNab. McNab would later go on to portray another darling blonde we all love to hate: Harmony Kendall from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If that’s not an emotional character arc, I’m not sure what is.
This scene, while terrifying to most, served to me and the rest of my misfit brethren as a symbol of hope. Freaks finally getting their revenge on conventionally attractive, rich kids? Sounds like punk rock heaven. Being a misfit came easy to me. I was born with red hair, so genetics tossed me a softball on that one. Clearly my obsession with this scene is inextricably linked to my inert quirkiness growing up because, just like Wednesday Adams, I too knew the plight of having skin so pale you could see right through it.
Casting is our first sign of divide amongst the classes. Pilgrims are portrayed by the Regina Georges of camp, while Native Americans are cast as the ocular challenged, physically disabled and few children of color, overseen by their monarch: Christina Ricci, whose beauty alone warranted her to be a pilgrim were it not for her love of the color black and voodoo dolls.
The play opens with interspersing close-ups of camp co-directors, played by Peter MacNicol and Hollywood’s favorite Chris, Christine Baranski. Poor Ricci lost the title after Penelope. McNab flawlessly dispenses exposition in a monologue where Native Americans are unflinchingly referred to as “savages”, not once, not twice, but three times a problematic slur! Finally, Queen Ricci walks in flipping her signature Addams plaits and announces herself. “Hau! I am Pocahontas, a Chippewa maiden.” I didn’t see how controversial this was, re: 1993, and could’ve sworn I was staring at Patti Smith circa Horses.
Ricci summons a pleasantly plump boy dressed as a turkey and showers McNab in unsettling non-pliments like, “Your skin is the color of fresh milk”. Suddenly, in a completely off book moment I can only assume Wednesday garnered from her summers abroad at the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks, she states, “We cannot break bread with you.” My head nearly exploded. She went OFF SCRIPT?! Baranski hisses at Ricci that her improv skills are unwelcome- take that shit to Second City! But nevertheless, she persisted.
Ricci then states that her Gods have told her not to trust the Pilgrims. Therefore, she declares, “I HAVE DECIDED TO SCALP YOU AND BURN YOUR VILLAGE TO THE GROUND.” Because Wednesday Adams is THAT bitch. A week before high school graduation, a kid “accidentally” set our ceramics room on fire and I would have bet cold, hard cash that he was galvanized by this scene. Mayhem ensues: Misfits fly in on zip lines, a wheelchair bound tween shoots flaming arrows with the finesse of a Scythian warrior and homemade apple pies are catapulted into parents’ faces. A mass mutiny against the bureaucracy! My little heart was exhilarated. Wednesday not only stood up to authority, she decimated them. I was gonna stay home from school the rest of the week to binge watch Charmed- If Wednesday didn’t follow the law of the land, neither did I!
Then matters go from “Georgia Rule” dark to “Lindsay Lohan Beach Club” dark, as McNab gets tethered to a stake and doused with gasoline. The audience is a pastel sea of confused cardigans. Parents look to one another asking, “Is this part of the show?” No. Having a human girl be Salem Witch Trial-ed is NOT part of the summer camp play about Thanksgiving! And in the most iconic shot of all, where Addams Family Values proves its knowledge of situational irony, an apple gets shoved in McNab’s mouth by the boy dressed as a turkey. McNab wails as Ricci flicks a lit match at her feet. We get one lingering shot of MacNicol and Baranski being roasted over a spit, as Ricci paddles off in a canoe, disappearing into the dusk.
The implication of this scene does not age well and perhaps never aged well, but the spirit behind it is pure and simple: retribution. It supplied years worth of middle school revenge fantasies involving my flat-chested bullies, who didn’t understand why my Ashkenazi hips and breasts decided to present at 12 years old. Wednesday Adams has now been co-opted by Instagram models as their last-minute Halloween costume of choice, but this scene represents who she is at her core and the hope she instills in true misfits everywhere, even 25 years later.