Name: Wednesday Friday Addams
Ethnicity: Ghoulish human
Date of Initial Interview: November 19, 1993
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton
Wednesday’s teacher, Susan Furkins, referred her for treatment after she turned in an assignment about a person who she loved and admired. While Wednesday’s classmates selected people such as Barbara Bush, the New Kids on the Block, and Jane Pauly, she brought in a picture of her Great-Aunt Calpurnia, who was burned as a witch in 1706 after dancing naked in the town square and enslaving a minister. When Ms. Furkins told Wednesday’s mother about it, Morticia responded, “Don’t worry. We’ve told Wednesday that she has to go to college first.” Because Morticia and Gomez (Wednesday’s father), did not see any problems with their daughter’s behavior at the time, they initially ignored the referral. In addition, they felt reassured by Ms. Furkins’ comment that Wednesday was generally an excellent student. However, when their youngest son was born two years later, they grew concerned about Wednesday’s aggressive behavior and decided to schedule a psychological evaluation.
Family Background & History
Wednesday was born into a ghoulish, yet close family. In her younger days, Wednesday was described as intelligent and by her father as “a child of woe is wan and delicate….sensitive and on the quiet side, she loves the picnics and outings to the underground caverns…a solemn child, prim in dress and, on the whole, pretty lost…secretive and imaginative, poetic, seems underprivileged and given to occasional tantrums…has six toes on one foot.” At the time of intake, she resided with her mother and father, who had a loving and passionate marriage, her younger brothers (Pugsley and Pubert), her Uncle Fester, her grandmother, their butler (Lurch), and Thing. Wednesday reported that their family credo was, “Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc,” which is fake Latin for, “We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” In general, the Addams family bonded over their macabre interests, which included pain and the grimmer aspects of life. Therefore, when Wednesday exhibited behavior that would be considered unusual by typical families (e.g., burning her dolls with a blowtorch, rarely smiling), it did not particularly distress them. However, they grew concerned after Wednesday attempted to kill Pubert three times shortly following his birth.
All assessment information was obtained through watching The Addams Family and Addams Family Values. Due to the nature of her parents’ concerns, Wednesday was evaluated for disruptive behavior problems and was found to meet diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, conduct disorder is defined as “a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated, as manifested by the presence of a minimum of 3 criteria in the past 12 months, with at least 1 criterion present in the past 6 months.” Examples of behavior for each criterion that Wednesday met are listed below.
1) Often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others
She regularly harmed her brother, Pugsley (e.g., tried to electrocute him), intimidated a nanny by saying she would clean her room in exchange for the nanny’s soul, and told another nanny to, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” After a girl scout asked Wednesday if the lemonade at her lemonade stand was made from real lemons, Wednesday responded in an intimidating manner, “Are your cookies made of real girl scouts?” Finally, Wednesday also attempted to scare a boy who had a crush on her to death.
2) Has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun)
Wednesday frequently used a crossbow and has used other dangerous weapons (e.g., a guillotine) that can cause harm to others.
3) Has been physically cruel to people
She helped to bury two people alive after they had wronged her family and also tied up a peer at summer camp. Wednesday also attempted to kill her infant brother by dropping him off the roof, throwing him down a stairwell, and putting him in a guillotine.
4) Has been physically cruel to animals
Wednesday buried a live cat with her grandmother and brother.
5) Has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage
A nanny was telling Wednesday and Pugsley that she would teach them to prevent forest fires, and Wednesday responded by lighting a match and asking quizzically, “Prevent them?” In addition, she led a group of children to destroy (including through the use of fire) their summer camp while performing a play.
In summary, Wednesday appeared to meet full diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder, and it caused significant impairment in her social interactions with peers and family members, as well as physical and emotional harm to property, people, and at least one animal. Currently, there are evidence-based treatments for conduct disorder in adolescents that have been tested in rigorous scientific studies. These evidence-based approaches include strategies focused on intervening in multiple areas for behavioral change (e.g., parent and family, peers, school, community via multisystemic therapy). Treatments that have been shown to potentially exacerbate conduct disorder problems for some individuals, and therefore should not be used for Wednesday, include boot camp and Scared Straight programs.
THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST
1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
Some of the symptoms that Wednesday Addams exhibited were consistent with some true manifestations of conduct disorder (e.g., animal cruelty, fire setting). However, her main purpose as a character is to deliver dark humor in a comedic film. Therefore, aspects of her behavior are extremely exaggerated and entertaining, but not typical of real cases of conduct disorder.
2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Wednesday hurts others and destroys property yet remains a fan-favorite, so there must be something about her depiction that evokes a level of compassion. Perhaps viewers place Wednesday’s behavior in the context of her family and home life and see her conduct problems as a product of her environment, which often applies in nonfiction cases of conduct disorder as well.
On a scale of frolicking with unicorns to writhing in agony, we rate this portrayal as staring into the abyss!