With a new incarnation of The Addams Family hitting theaters later this month, it's high time to address that pesky question that's surely in the back of everyone's mind.
The Addams Family … there's some creepy, kooky inbreeding stuff happening there, right?
No? That's not at the back of everyone's mind? It's just me? But still … right? Right?
The nuclear family unit that makes up the center of The Addams Family — in its various TV shows and movies, as well as Charles Addams' original New Yorker comics — is pretty much relationships goals, family goals, interior design goals, everything goals. Gomez and Morticia are a married couple who actually seem to enjoy being around each other and enjoy having sex, both things a far cry from the stereotypical "being married sucks, my wife is an an old ball and chain, tee hee" idea of heteronormativity that popped up — and keeps popping up — in so many mid-century sitcoms. They co-parent and they do it well, supporting their children even when their interests skew toward the morally degenerate, like enjoying The Cat in the Hat (baby Pubert in Addams Family Values) or wanting to join the Boy Scouts (Pugsley in "Morticia and the Psychiatrist," the second episode of the '60s sitcom). Gomez and his brother Fester clearly respect and admire each other. Hell, Gomez gets along with his mother-in-law.
But let's take a look at the wider universe here. Though largely looked upon with fear and disgust by members of the outside world, the Addamses exist seemingly at the center of a small group of misfits and weirdos who congregate at the Addams mansion for special events. An early scene of the new animated movie shows this group at Gomez and Morticia's wedding. Which is the bride's side? Which is the groom's? Who knows? It's all the same group of people. The Addams family is the linchpin of a nu-goth cult that has been marrying each other down through the ages.
Tilt your head and squint your eyes, and it all starts to make sense. In earlier centuries, inbreeding was prevalent among the royal families of Europe, leading to all sorts of mental and physical health problems. As the importance of monarchy has gone down and an understanding of genetics has gone up, it's no longer accepted in most corners of the world to marry your first cousin. So we can't say if, given a few more generations of cousin-schtupping, the Habsburg jaw would have evolved into, say, an ability to conduct lighting by putting a lightbulb in your mouth? We just don't know!
Speaking of bald, socially awkward Uncle Fester, several times in Addams Family lore he's cited as being desirable, charming, handsome — basically an in-universe Chris Evans. "You were so dashing, you could have any woman you wanted, dead or alive!" exclaims Gomez in The Addams Family. Or take Morticia in the '60s sitcom premiere, when Fester argues that he never went to school, so his niece and nephew shouldn't have to, either. "Looks, charm, and personality aren't everything. There's such a thing as learning and accomplishment!" What explains this sharp difference in male beauty standards between our world and that the Addamses move in? Script writers in search of a joke? Maybe. Probably. Definitely not. It's the inbreeding thing.
Though various versions of The Addams Family quite often show the Addams clan interacting with the people outside their relatively small social group, it's rarely in a way that suggests an eventual widening of the gene pool is possible. In fact, when outsiders do enter the Addams sphere in a romantic context, they tend to die. In Addams Family Values, Wednesday (it's implied) kills her paramour Joel Glicker, and Fester's wife Debbie Jellinsky — a perfect person in literally every respect — is electrocuted to death in the process of trying to steal the Addams money. The only person who successfully joins the family from the outside is villainous lawyer Tully Alford's wife Margaret, who marries Cousin Itt after the death of her husband.
Cousin It, of course, is notable for his full head (and body) of hair and the fact that he speaks in high-pitched gibberish. What's he saying when he meets — and seduces — Margaret at one of those elaborate family parties in the 1991 movie? "Hey girl, your ass looks as round as your hair?" Maybe. That would definitely work on me, anyway.
"Help, I'm stuck in a genetic nightmare. My voice box doesn't work and I can barely breathe due to centuries of intermarriage by a group of — at maximum — 200 people."
"Hey girl, your ass looks as round as your hair."