“Wednesday” and the Romanticization of Toxicity

Spoiler Warning. 

As shown by the millions of fans parading her around every social media platform, the titular character of the show “Wednesday” makes for an entertaining character to follow around for eight hour-long episodes. She’s a young girl fascinated by murder, working on an upcoming novel, figuring out her feelings for a boy she likes and, just for fun, constantly making eerily morbid remarks to show her affection for her roommate, Enid; what’s not to love? 

Even if she makes for an easy character to watch and quote, there’s not much motivation to root for her throughout the series. If such incentivizing moments exist, they are always in reference to other characters who were actually likable. One of these moments is her last hug with Enid in the last minutes of the final episode, a favorite among fans. But is it a good thing for Wednesday to be so praised for one act of affection so late in her arc? Does that constitute a good main character? 

This isn’t to condemn character growth; a lot of great main characters start in questionable places with their relationships and morals but learn to be better people through the outlandish shenanigans in which they find themselves. However, the main point of these arcs is that the character is unlikable when they start out; that’s usually the point for them growing in the first place. 

Equality across different identities on social media should mean that everyone is treated the same way, whether it’s praise for an accomplishment or calling out misrepresentation.

At first, it seems that “Wednesday” is going for this angle, depicting its protagonist unleashing piranhas on high school bullies and insulting the closest family she has in the first few scenes. However, the show then aims for her to be loved and celebrated by viewers with her witty comments and short moments of vulnerability that in no way make up for her cruel behavior. 

This intent is shown in one arc of the story where Wednesday almost gets her friends, including Enid, killed multiple times by tricking them into following her into the monster’s house. When Enid rightfully leaves their shared room and gives Wednesday the cold shoulder, she eventually comes back for no good reason other than realizing she might not like solitude as much as she had thought. This leads to a “touching” moment between the two that is in no way earned but still tricks viewers into sympathizing with Wednesday. Anytime she’s not threatening murder is seen as much more of a step forward than it actually is. 

Wednesday’s most egregious “mistakes” involve the two boys with whom she falls into a kind of love triangle with. She says it best herself: “For some reason I cannot fathom or indulge, you seem to like me.” Throughout the entire show, the characters around her continuously seek out her company, no matter the latest felony she’s just committed, with the two worst offenders being Tyler and Xavier. 

For Xavier, despite his constant attempts at displaying his affection for Wednesday, she is never upfront with him and instead leads him on while he’s useful to her. Her coldness comes to a head when she gets him imprisoned by accusing him of being the monster and never even fully apologizes to him after the ordeal. In favor of keeping up Wednesday’s sarcastic and nonchalant exterior, the show never lets her truly own up to her mistakes. Instead, it opts to give her yet another witty line. 

It leaves one to wonder what the fan response would be if the roles were reversed and Xavier was doing this to Wednesday. Fans might be more forgiving of Wednesday’s mistreatment of her friends because of her gender, deciding that her actions can be written off as girl empowerment. However, equality across different identities on social media should mean that everyone is treated the same way, whether it’s praise for an accomplishment or calling out misrepresentation. 

Anytime she’s not threatening murder is seen as much more of a step forward than it actually is.

As for Tyler, it seems the show’s on track to repeat Xavier’s storyline, with Wednesday willing to torture Tyler to confirm he’s the monster. However, they instead opt to transform him into a completely different person once it’s revealed he is the monster, shown in his unnecessary monologue to her in the police station. A previously timid, kind boy turns to a manipulative mastermind in seconds. Therefore, Wednesday is never blamed for torturing an innocent person, especially one who was willing to return to her again and again despite their complete lack of chemistry and her disregard for him. 

This leads into how Tyler was handled as a character all together; rather than making him a nuanced character who sheds light on the struggles of trauma experienced as a child, he’s instead split into two Tylers: a “normal” one and the one whose suppressed trauma from his mother dying turned him into a monster.

This kind of “switch” at least works for Ms. Thornhill – even if it’s boring – because she’s a villain who hates outcasts for the sole reason that they’re not like her. She should be mean and unappealing because that leads into how wrong her ideology is. However, Tyler’s arc suggests that his trauma made him a violent monster, instead of exploring a nuanced route that could show the struggles he’s gone through and the help he could get. The aforementioned reveal in the police station makes him out to have been scheming the entire show, making this underlying message even worse. There’s hope that the show kept him alive in the end to lead him down this path in the future, but for now, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. 

This is all made even more ironic due to Wednesday’s seemingly acute awareness of bias and injustice in the environment around her. Take one of her quotes: “Unrecognizable? Ridiculous? A classic example of female objectification for the male gaze?” The creators of the show choose to leave this quote in but don’t comment on how the internet’s recent adoration of her benefits from the very stereotypes she’s criticizing. To all filmmakers: Performative representation with quick quips about sexism and cultural appropriation is not the way to make an inclusive piece of art. 

I’ll be waiting for better in “Wednesday”’s second season.