Netflix’s Wednesday and Jenna Ortega’s impressive performance as the iconic Wednesday Addams is a hit. However, the show has hit some recent criticism over its portrayal of two prominent Black characters: popular girl Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday) and Lucas Walker (Iman Marson), the “normie” and son of Jericho’s sketchy mayor. Some fans viewed the characters as one-note bullies; however, that is not completely true. While it is worth acknowledging Tim Burton’s disappointing history with Black characters, there is more to Bianca and Lucas than being “antagonists.”
The Character Layers of Bianca and Lucas in Wednesday
Bianca plays a vital role in the show as Wednesday’s foil of sorts. They are both into their own goals, which makes others see them as antagonistic and perhaps selfish. However, we discover that Bianca isn’t just the popular and pretty “mean girl” stereotype. She exhibits a lot of depth and vulnerability as the show progresses, revealing the insecurities that lie beneath her tough exterior and projected confidence. Bianca often struggles with people not believing her sincerity. They assume she always uses her siren powers to get what she desires.
And, in some ways, she is being deceptive about her truth. She’s torn between her new life at Nevermore and her mother’s cult-like world. The complexity of Bianca wanting people to trust and love her and knowing that she’s lying about parts of her life is delicious. She grows to have a mutual respect and allyship with Wednesday, which leads her to becoming a protagonist in her own right in the B-plot of the show. The natural progression of her story feels authentic.
It is not quite as complex with Lucas, who is a tertiary character in Wednesday. He doesn’t as much screen time and development as Bianca; however, he does go through an evolution of his own. Lucas starts off a a town bully in a white friend group who hates outcasts. But, after actually getting to know Enid and spending time with Nevermore kids, he becomes a supportive ally. This transition is also gradual and happens with nuance as we get a peek into his life and thoughts. There are certainly merits to both characters that make them feel like real people.
The Real Issue with Wednesday‘s Black Characters
But, even if Bianca and Lucas had both remained antagonists, that isn’t the actual problem that people have with their portrayals. There is room for Black antagonists and protagonists in different stories because we deserve variety in our representation. The issue is that the writers didn’t fully take their Blackness into consideration. And we see that issue in elements their portrayals that come across as uncomfortable and odd.
For example, Wednesday rightfully calls Lucas and his friends out for dressing like colonizers. Lucas replies by saying his father Mayor Walker owns Pilgrim Land. Given the way that the large majority of Black Americans are descendants of enslaved people who were considered these settlers’ property, it is certainly odd to have a Black man own an institution idealizing colonialism. And the fact that Lucas defends—and never speaks against—this is also strange.
There’s also the optics behind the dynamic between Bianca, her on-off again boyfriend Xavier, and Wednesday. Bianca, a Black girl, consistently pursuing a relationship Xavier, a white boy who rejected her because he doesn’t trust her, is problematic. It leans into the stereotype that Black women are untrustworthy sexual aggressors who will seduce white men. Meanwhile, Xavier is pursuing Wednesday, who is Latina (as is Jenna Ortega) but some may see her as white passing within the show. Both Enid and Bianca remark about the “lack of color” in her face. Wednesday does not show interest in him, so he goes back to Bianca following her rejection. But Xavier still continues to favor Wednesday, even when he’s with Bianca. It is reminiscent of a frequent societal issue of non-Black women being prioritized, desired, and believed over Black women.
It is not necessarily incorrect for a show to include things that reflect real life. However, there’s nothing to counterbalance this. No one seems to value Bianca’s time and energy despite her skill and drive. It seems that others only want to defeat her or see what she can do for them. And, with Bianca being Black, that is an issue. For most of the show, they see her as a typical siren, a being of seduction and/or control.
With both Lucas and Bianca being Black people with darker skin, it also brings up a compelling argument involving colorism and racism. The show positions them to be (at least initially) disliked by the audience as opposed to nicer (and white) people like Enid and Mrs. Thornhill, who is literally the villain. It is understandable why many fans find an issue with this considering the history of Black people being inherently dangerous. Thankfully, despite their complex issues, they both got overall engaging redemption arcs. Their stories made them more than just “antagonists.”
Wednesday and Its Potential Future for Marginalized Characters
At its core, Wednesday is about discrimination, marginalization, and the persecution of the “outcasts” by “normies”…and at times, each other. This is clearly an allegory for racism and other forms of marginalization. So it would have made sense for Wednesday to include greater diversity in its prominent characters beyond Bianca, Lucas, beekeeper boy Eugene (who gets sidelined for a while), and Yoko, a student of East Asian descent. Yes, Wednesday and her family are Latine; however, many of the other supporting characters like Enid, Xavier, Tyler, and Principal Weems are white. And, if Wednesday gets another season and there is an increase of representation, perhaps the writers will give deeper thought and consideration into who is portraying these characters and how that translates into the storyline.
Wednesday is darkly charming and brings a fresh perspective to the Addams Family universe. The characterization and perception of Bianca and Lucas is certainly not perfect; however, there are merits to their characters and a potential promise for them (and others) to be better in the future.