Jenna Ortega at the 21st Annual Warner Bros. adn InStyle Golden Globe After Party

I Can Celebrate Jenna Ortega’s Casting in Netflix’s Wednesday While Side-Eyeing the Show Cuz Tim Burton

Bet he'll try to bring Johnny Depp on board, too.

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Let’s start with the good. Jenna Ortega, known for Yes Day and Jane the Virgin, has been cast as Wednesday Addams in the Netflix series Wednesday. It’s an amazing opportunity for Ortega to reach a wider audience and show them what she’s got. It’s also a huge moment for her as a Latinx actress. Young women like her are the future when it comes to diversifying the kind of movies and shows we see. And it’ll mean something to Latinx women who love and know Wednesday Addams and now can connect with her on a whole new level.

The YA series is set to be a coming-of-age comedy, written by Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar. It’s set to be directed by Tim Burton and marks his first live-action show and TV directing debut. Wednesday tells the story of a sleuthing young woman who attends Nevermore Academy. While there, she works on mastering her psychic abilities while stopping monsters and solving a mystery that “embroiled her parents 25 years ago – all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships” according to Deadline.

 

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A post shared by Jenna Ortega (@jennaortega)

That’s where the good ends for me and when I start side-eying the fact that Tim Burton is involved in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, he’s not as talented as people think he is. And this is coming from someone who loves The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Corpse Bride, and Beetlejuice. Dark Shadows was a dud, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was just ok, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children could’ve been great if it wasn’t for the changes made and the glaring issue it exposed: the lack of diversity in Burton’s work.

Back in 2016, Bustle interviewed Tim Burton and asked him about the lack of diversity in his films. His response left a lot to be desired. He told Bustle, “Things either call for things, or they don’t. I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct. Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just… I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”

To this day, his response makes me angry. The ignorance in his answer is real and the white privilege seeps out of every corner. It isn’t about you, Tim. It’s about people who don’t see themselves in the content they consume or spend money on. And if you actually cared for your fans and your audience, you would know that this answer is lackluster and ignorant AF. It minimizes diversity and acts like it’s a phase or something. It’s not. Diversity is here to stay because it reflects the real world, and if you don’t buck up and get with the program, you will get left behind.

Your response also shows how little you understand how offensive your words come across, especially when saying you were more offended by Asian and Black actors being cast in shows you grew up watching. And it shows that in your world, the one you envision when you’re creating worlds to bring to the big screen, is totally white. Having a vision isn’t wrong, but it’s hella racist when you “cast only one race for a movie when race isn’t involved at all in the plot,” in the words of reporter Julian Lopez-Albany.

That’s why I’m conflicted on Netflix’s Wednesday. On one hand, I’m so happy for Jenna Ortega. Change starts with people like her. But on another hand, I can’t help but remember Burton’s ignorant words and wonder, did he pick her? Did he fight for her? Did he see her as an option? Did Netflix force his hand? Because he doesn’t seem to be about diversity according to his own words and I’m not going to drop a dime of “wow, he did such a good job” his way because I don’t trust him.

Do you know what I also don’t trust when it comes to Wednesday? The other people behind the scenes. Do you mean to tell me that a coming-of-age story of a young woman is being told mainly by men? How does that compute? Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar are writing it, Tim Burton is the showrunner and director, also executive producing are TV writer-producer Kayla Alpert, former MGM TV President Steve Stark, as well as several producers associated with the Addams Family IP: Andrew Mittman for 1.21, Kevin Miserocchi, Jonathan Glickman for Glickmania and Gail Berman, according to Deadline.

The only thing that would make this production worse, and that I’ve seen people floating around the idea of on the internet, is if Johnny Depp were involved. Like Burton, he isn’t as talented as people make him out to be. He always plays the oddball and has become a staple in Burton movies. How about no when it comes to casting Depp as the iconic Gomez? Because if you’re going to cast a Latinx lead, you’re gonna need Latinx parents. For Gomez, the choice is clear: Oscar Isaac should join Jenna Ortega in conquering The Addams Family-verse. He already does the voice for the animated version. Might as well bring him into the live-action version!

At the end of the day, I’m proud of Jenna Ortega and what she’s set out to accomplish on Netflix’s Wednesday. She’s got it in the bag and I believe in her to the moon and back. It’s those around her that I don’t trust, especially Burton, because of his track record and diversity excuses that he hasn’t touched with a ten-foot pole since the interview for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children came out. All we can do at this point, all I can do, is hope that Burton has grown past his ignorance and that Netflix has a team that supports Jenna Ortega, what she brings to the role, and her Latinidad.

(image: Amy Sussman/Getty)

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Author
Lyra Hale
Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.