"Wednesday," the new The Addams Family adaptation on Netflix, follows the moody, pig-tailed character Wednesday Addams during her teens and has become a huge success. What is it about Wednesday that makes her so interesting, and what psychological reasons could there be for why Wednesday is different?
Wednesday Addams is the ultimate outsider, continuously defying categorization regardless of social context. She displays many of the traits of the "dark triad."
The dark triad consists of three personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
These three personality traits have symptoms that overlap. Occasionally, a person may exhibit one or all of these characteristics.
Dark empathy is a type of emotional intelligence that allows you to identify the thoughts and emotions of others, then exploit them for your own benefit.
Wednesday, the Addams family's oldest child, is a darkly precocious young lady. Addams won't just joke about stabbing you — she just might do it. At least, that's what her quirky, unwelcoming behavior would suggest. She is an icon of nonconformity in her black uniform (which of course has to be slightly different from the rest of the pupils) and her set of braided black pigtails.
In "Wednesday," Jenna Ortega's Wednesday, now 16 and in the throes of adolescent rebellion, is severely acerbic and often vicious in her deadpan bombshells, and she is actively employing it as a weapon to circumnavigate her hardest difficulty yet: high school.
What makes Wednesday unique?
There are various probable explanations for her psychopathic behavior. She could be suffering from PTSD as a result of being bullied by her peers. She mentions electroshock therapy, which could mean she underwent that treatment at some point.
She could have a narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder. She exhibits narcissistic traits, such as believing she is better than others and the brightest person in the room. On the other hand, Wednesday does not demand attention or recognition; therefore, the diagnosis does not appear to match.
She could also have an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), or, because ASPD isn't officially diagnosed until the age of 18, conduct disorder, the diagnosis given to youngsters who exhibit ASPD characteristics. ASPD and conduct disorder are both marked by a lack of empathy and regret, as well as a lack of respect for social norms and rules.
The dark triad
Wednesday Adams exhibits several characteristics of the "dark triad" of personality traits. For example, she displays narcissistic tendencies, such as a sense of entitlement and an inflated sense of self-importance. She also exhibits Machiavellianism, or a tendency to manipulate others for her benefit. Additionally, Wednesday displays some characteristics of psychopathy, such as a lack of remorse and a tendency towards impulsive behavior.
In the opening scene, we get our first glimpse of her psychopathic behavior when Wednesday discovers her brother is being bullied. She finds the bullies in the pool and proceeds to drop bags of piranhas into the swimming pool while taking a short pause to enjoy the terror in their eyes. This is the only time she smiles throughout the entire episode.
Dark traits in Wednesday's own words
It is important to note that these traits are not necessarily mutually exclusive and that people may exhibit traits from more than one of the dark triad categories.
Narcissism is a personality trait that occurs on a spectrum. It could also be a mental health condition. A narcissist may be self-centered, arrogant, lack empathy, brag, and be hurt by criticism or insults. They can also have a constant sense of entitlement and superiority.
Wednesday's narcissistic tendencies may lead her to alienate others. These comments from Wednesday show her Narcissistic tendencies:
“For the record I don't believe I am better than everyone else, just better than you.”
“I act as if I don't care if people dislike me, but deep down, I secretly enjoy it."
“I like being an island, a well-fortified one surrounded by sharks."
“Emotions are a gateway trait; they lead to feelings, which trigger tears, but I don't do tears."
Machiavellianism is not a recognized mental health disorder. People with this trait are highly manipulative and willing to deceive people mercilessly to gain what they want, while maintaining a pessimistic outlook on the world.
Her Machiavellian tactics allow her to get what she wants.
These comments from Wednesday show her Machiavellian tendencies:
“Every day is all about me, this one comes with a cake and a bad song.”
“You read Italian?" "Of course, it's the native tongue of Machiavelli."
“Friends are a liability and can be exploited, that makes them weaknesses.”
“I will ignore you, stomp on your heart, and always put my needs and interests first."
Psychopathy is not listed as a diagnosis in the DSM-5. Psychopathic traits are covered under a condition called antisocial personality disorder. Psychopathy is characterized by antisocial behavior, manipulativeness, emotional instability, an absence of empathy, and a lack of regret.
Wednesday's psychopathic tendencies manifest themselves in impulsive behavior and a lack of remorse. Here are some comments that show her psychopathic tendencies:
“When I look at you the following emojis come to mind: rope, shovel, hole.”
“Sartre said hell is other people; he was my first crush."
”I see the world as a place that has to be endured, and my personal philosophy is kill or be killed."
“I actually filet the bodies of my victims and feed them to my menagerie of pets.”
He lost a testicle. I did the world a favor — people like Dalton should not be allowed to procreate."
Wednesday the Dark empath
Dark empathy, or fractured empathy (neither of which is an official mental health symptom or diagnosis), occurs alongside the dark triad. For dark empaths, the ability to identify other people's emotions is used to their advantage. A dark empath will try to figure out what someone else is feeling and use it for their gain or to control them. They can understand someone's predicament without feeling sorry for them.
There are three kinds of empathy — cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Cognitive empathy is knowing how other people's feelings. Emotional empathy involves physically feeling the emotions of another person. Compassionate empathy is understanding someone's emotions and being moved to help them.
Wednesday unquestionably operates through cognitive empathy, because she understands how to destroy other people's emotions:
“You're so fragile and frail that you'll never succeed. I'll give you two months to live without me, tops."
“It's not my fault. I can't interpret your emotional morse code.”
“Honestly, I wish I cared a little more”
“I knew I should have worn my plague mask.”
While Wednesday's eccentricities are exaggerated for our entertainment, and they are part of what makes her appealing, understanding her through the lens of the dark triad can help us recognize and understand these traits in ourselves and others, and may even give us tools for coping with people who exhibit these traits. If you notice any of the above traits in yourself and find them problematic, consider seeking help from a therapist who specializes in personality traits and disorders. They can assist you in developing appropriate coping mechanisms.