Family Values

I can’t make it too far past Thanksgiving without watching Addams Family Values.

It’s because of the scene where they do a First Thanksgiving play. I’m not sure how actual Native American’s would feel about this scene today, but we always enjoyed it. The movie came out when my brother and I were about the same age as Wednesday and Pugsley and my family latched onto it. A funny thing happens when you watch movies from your youth, though. For starters, you hear all the sex jokes that you glossed right over back then, but something else happens too. If the movie is still awesome, many of them lose their luster when I do this, then I start to think of my family watching the movie together back then.

You see, we were also the same sizes and dispositions as the two children in the movies. Even though our family wasn’t quite as different as the Addams, we didn’t feel like we were like other families either. This movie and it’s predecessor were the beginning of realizing that it wasn’t just okay to be different in my family, it was expected. My dad cackled at almost everything Wednesday said. In retrospect, he’s kind of anti-establishment. We enjoyed that the movie was about the family and how they never conformed to the world around them. This also didn’t stop them from anything they wanted to do, and that was a good thing to see too. Wednesday was an iconic character and I loved her. She always said the things I wish I could think to say in the moment, and she never apologized for her opinion.

While it didn’t happen in a single “aha” moment, this movie definitely contributed to the idea in my upbringing that it was not just okay to be different, but it was expected. It was what made you different that made you special and fun to be around. My family reveled in these kinds of differences, both in enjoying the movie and in each other. That we were never those kids doing things just for attention at school was a good thing to my parents. We were allowed to be just exactly who we wanted to be. There was no pressure to be a cheerleader or an athlete, no pressure to be a straight A student or be in advanced classes. We just were who we were. They were only disappointed when we tried to be someone we weren’t, there always seemed to be consequences for that.

I didn’t know until this year, and many people still don’t seem to get it, but that’s the point of feminism. Be who you are. Make choices based on what your life, not societal expectations.

Many women and men struggle with family burdens, expectations, and obligations. Learning in middle and high school that it was okay to be different, gave me the experience that it was okay to go against societal norms in my life. It has made it a desired trait that my husband not be stuck in the man box way before I even knew what it was. Everything in a family requires compromise, but many people don’t realize that compromise is between the two people who are doing the work of it and that it should have nothing to do with what other people think of you and your choices together. I would never have even dated my husband had I thought for one second that he would ever mandate that I do anything. That’s not compromise. If we talk and our decision happens to fall into societal norms, great. If not, then great too. Be who you are. Make choices based on your life, not societal expectations.

Boys and girls get stuck listening to the media tell them who it is acceptable for them to be. Many parents support it by buying gender specific toys of the appropriate color. This teaches our children to fit in. Don’t go against the grain. Blue is for boys. Pink is for girls. Boy toys emulate boy life and girl toys emulate girl life, right? We are letting toy manufacturers and tv producers teach our kids the lives they are supposed to lead when we don’t intervene. But we can all have different lives. We are different people and born with different talents and abilities that don’t always line up with gendered expectations. Be who you are. Make choices based on your life, not societal expectations.

Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Be an Addams!

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