The Spooky World of Tim Burton: Representation & Wednesday Addams
Tim Burton is a well-known American director who is known for his films, “The Corpse Bride,” and “Nightmare before Christmas,” etc. Even though many of his films are iconic for inspiring a new era of distinctive animation with “Tim burton like” characteristics (droopy eye bags, big eyes, sharp eyebrows, hollow cheekbones, pale skin), Tim Burton was recently called out for the lack of representation and diversity in his films after a ‘Tim burton-esque’ TikTok filter went viral and many brown/other POC began to notice that the Tim Burton "aesthetic" was only catered towards white people.
For greater context, all of the characters in his films are presumably white and the only characters that are black/brown are represented as the villains (e.g... "the boogie man"). which tends to reinforce stereotypical ideas of these communities. Is this solely a coincidence? To respond to these claims, Tim Burton asserted that forced diversity is worse than having no diversity, stating in an interview that, "things either call for it or they don't" and that he does not like when shows such as "The Brady Bunch" throw in characters for the sake of diversity. To put it simply, he also says that he does not watch shows full of black people with the intent of wanting to ask for more white representation.
However, while I agree with Tim Burton's claims of token diversity as not ALL representation is GOOD representation (e.g. the reboot of Gossip Girl putting in a diverse cast for the sake of good audience reception, the stereotypical portrayal of Hijabi's in Western media), the need for representation of POC is stronger than ever. My main problem with Tim Burton's statements is that he ignores the fact that white characters and POC characters within the mainstream media do not enjoy the same amount of praise, or recognition. Just think of all your favorite action movies from Marvel to Star Wars to Hunger games: why are most of the main leads white? Tim Burton has also said that when he envisions his stories only white characters come to mind, not only in his creative process but also in his dreams. But isn't there a larger problem with only viewing a white character as the default? (e.g. the amount of backlash of a black Hermoine/Ariel received). If we continue down this pattern of thinking, we will never be able to portray people of color, or worse even begin to imagine them in media. What is your take on this?
This discussion also brings me to the crux of my argument -- the new show adaptation on Netflix "Wednesday" which has been directed by Tim Burton. Unlike his other projects, Wednesday is quite refreshing in the world of Tim Burton as a Latinx family is at the forefront. Wednesday Addams is a revolutionary strong female lead who likes to make decisions on her own and has her love interests following her rather than her following them. For instance, she never pursues Tyler/Xavier, instead, she repeatedly turns them both down in order to accomplish her mission of finding out who is the monster. She also does not fit the stereotypical overly "sexual" or "innocent" Latina character we see on screen due to her dark, mostly modest clothing. However, she still reigns as a probable love interest without her ever having to actually appease the men (though - is the trope of "she's not like the other girls" (e.g. Bianca) being employed here as well as a fantasization of the male gaze?). To see a woman of color being presented on screen and to show her in places of immense power (e.g. winning the Poe Cup/having the whole school scared of her) is really revolutionary. Not to mention, Morticia and Gomez's relationship also breaks down gender roles and Gomez is portrayed as being deeply affectionate and even more feminine than Morticia who is taller and calls the shots in the family-- again breaking down barriers of a typical latinx family.
However, even within these storylines, there is still an emphasis on reverting to traditional archetypes and storylines as a way to appease the audience and make them commodifiable. For example, what is the need for a love triangle and making Wednesday involved with Tyler - when it otherwise goes against her character who strives to be independent and hates the fact that her mother settled down and got married? Why is Netflix not allowing the audience to express their wishes for Wednesday and Edit to get together when they display greater chemistry? Why is Wednesday's skin so pale in comparison to most latina's? Another question that comes to mind revolves around the entire sub-plot of indigenous history being whitewashed and erased through activities like "pilgrim world" in the tvshow which is a step in the right direction, but considering the director is Tim Burton -- are we really to believe his motives behind this project are genuine? And again... as Tim Burton mentions: is Wednesday Addams just another token Latinx character?