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I Thought We Agreed Working Through Sickness Was Bad For Everyone—’Wednesday’ Disagrees

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in 'Wednesday'

Even if you have not watched anything from Tim Burton’s newest remake/reimagining Wednesday, if you’re on TikTok, you’ve likely seen people dancing in a particular way to The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck” (like in the show) or Lady Gaga‘s “Bloody Mary.” Choreographed by Jenna Ortega herself (who plays the lead, Wednesday Addams), people have recreated the dance, meme’d it, and used it in a way that relates to their other videos. (This one is my favorite.) Unfortunately, the fun slowed for a bit upon learning that Ortega was sick with COVID-19 at the time of shooting.

In an interview with British magazine New Musical Express (NME), Ortega revealed that she felt like she’d “been hit by a car” and then listed several symptoms of COVID-19. At least one person on set knew and gave her medication while they awaited the test result. The results later came back positive. The only comment further about this moment from Ortega was that she wanted to redo the scene but that they didn’t have time.

Yeah, I woke up and—it’s weird, I never get sick and when I do it’s not very bad—I had the body aches. I felt like I’d been hit by a car and that a little goblin had been let loose in my throat and was scratching the walls of my esophagus. They were giving me medicine between takes.

NME wrote that an MGM representative confirmed Ortega’s story. The production company also stated “strict COVID protocols were followed” and that she was removed from the set after. Still, why, if someone was experiencing symptoms, was she not removed while awaiting the test?! She likely exposed people on set if not before then, too. Also, at the time of the shooting (between September 2021 and March 2022), the host country (Romania) saw its biggest death spike and two different waves.

COVID-19 safety on set for Wednesday

The backlash that this news has received has fallen into two camps generally. Some are blaming Ortega for working while experiencing symptoms, and others are pointing the finger at leadership on the production team (which includes Burton, as he was the director for this episode) for continuing. It’s probably a bit of both, but obviously, the leadership on site had a responsibility to keep everyone safe.

It isn’t easy to see this and to separate this from the recent comments from Black Panther director Ryan Coogler about Chadwick Boseman. The director revealed that when Boseman revealed his battle with Colon cancer near the end of his life, Coogler realized he was sick when he met the actor. Boseman wasn’t a part of Wednesday, but battling cancer made him more at risk of dying from COVID-19 because he was immunocompromised. Behavior like what happened on the set of that episode (and in theaters) would have been a risk to his life and the millions more like him.

@crutches_and_spice Disability is often what we point to as evidence of imperialism, colonialism and slavery on our bodies but disability would not go away absent of those things or with increased presence of technology. Disability is a natural part of humanity. #greenscreenvideo #chadwickboseman #wakandaforever ♬ original sound – Crutches&Spice ♿️ :

See TikTok here, too.

Another disconcerting element is shaking off going to work knowing you’re sick. Even if it wasn’t COVID-19, she wasn’t feeling well. Everyone knows their own limits, but we need to give ourselves the room to back up and heal if we have the privilege (that should be a right) to do so. Early on in the pandemic, people reflected on how wild it is that it’s “normal” practice (and the only option for many) to send kids to school or have someone clearly sick stay at their jobs and risk getting everyone else sick for what was at the time a respiratory illness with lots of unknowns. At the time of filming Wednesday, we knew how to limit exposure to COVID-19 and keep our peers safe, and yet like many other cases, the show went on.

(featured image: Netflix)

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(she/her) Award-winning digital artist and blogger with experience and an educational background in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. A resident of the yeeHaw land, she spends most of her time watching movies, playing video games, and reading.