When you think of scathing political satire from the early-90s, the last thing you probably think about is the less successful sequel to the unlikely hit reboot of The Addams Family. But, according to a new oral history of the film from The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter Paul Rudnick intended both the title and plot of Addams Family Values to be a spoof of the George H.W. Bush-era Republican idea of “traditional family values.”
“In Republican terms, ‘family values’ is always code for censorship and exclusion, and Republicans still refuse to respect or even acknowledge, for example, LGBTQ families,” Rudnick says. “I like to believe that the Addams Family is far more loving and accepting than their enemies.” This analysis seems to hold up when you reexamine the film. For all the Addams family’s quirks and morbid fascinations, they’re still objectively better people than the money-hungry black widow Debbie (Joan Cusack) or the straight-laced kids and parents at Camp Chippewa. We rejoice in seeing these more conservative characters get taken down a peg by Wednesday’s sarcastic barbs or Gomez’ blithe indifference.
Still, not everybody involved with the film agrees with Rudnick’s interpretation. “I didn’t see the film as a political commentary, but I was only 12-years-old at the time. So, you know, I might not have caught that,” Christina Ricci tells THR. Similarly, Christopher Lloyd, Carol Kane, and Carel Struycken (who plays Lurch) all admit to not seeing a satirical take in the film. The only exception being Wednesday’s violent rebellion during the Camp Chippewa Thanksgiving pageant, which Rudnick says represents the character’s “ultimate revenge, on Republicans, blondes, mean girls, and bullies.”
Anjelica Huston, however, totally gets it. “It was definitely a political commentary,” she says. “‘Family values’ was a phrase that was used by the Republicans to describe what should be normal, or what should be right in America. Which is, of course, preposterous.” While the irony at play in the film’s title is easy enough to see, calling Addams Family Values a full-on satire might be a bit of a stretch. Just to be sure though, we should probably re-watch it with our conservative relatives at Thanksgiving this year.
You can read the full oral history here.
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