Gothic Elements of ‘Paint It, Black’ in Tim Burton’s Netflix Original Series ‘Wednesday,’ Episode 1

by Julie Gomez

“Wednesday.” Tvinsider, 23 Nov. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

In just the first episode, titled ‘Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe,’ of this playfully macabre series adaptation of characters created by Charles Addams, a plethora of gothic mise-en-scène elements is present. These range from clothing, lighting, actors, sets, and make-up. While I could dedicate a substantial amount of text delving into how these mise-en-scène elements are gothic, there is another formal element I would like to focus on for this blog post: the presence of sound. Not just any sound, but rather the careful choice in having Wednesday play The Rolling Stones song ‘Paint It, Black,’ released in 1966, on a violoncello around forty minutes into the episode. While the lyrics of this song are not present, they are very much still important in understanding why Wednesday chooses to play this tune. Additionally, the tempo and dynamics Wednesday adds in her rendition of this song are highly heightened, giving the tune a much more suspenseful, dark, and exaggerated feel overall.

The beginning of this first episode consists of Wednesday’s parents, Gomez and Morticia, bringing Wednesday to Nevermore Academy, a school comprised of children with supernatural abilities. This is due to Wednesday putting piranhas in her public school’s pool to hurt a group of boys that tied up and locked her younger brother, Pugsley, in his own locker. She was subsequently expelled and required by court order to attend therapy sessions. Her act of defiance towards those boys is mirrored well in a few middle verses of ‘Paint It, Black.’

I’ve seen people turn their heads
And quickly look away
Like a newborn baby
It just happens everyday

I look inside myself
And see my heart is black
I see my red door
I must have it painted black

Maybe then, I’ll fade awayAnd not have to face the factsIt’s not easy facing upWhen your whole world is black

As Wednesday pulls Pugsley from his locker, she says “I want names…Pugsley, emotion equals weakness. Pull yourself together. Now!” Wednesday’s supernatural ability to have visions, which is certainly gothic as it’s other-worldly and fantastical, enables her to see who hurt Pugsley. Fed up with the way children look at and treat her and her brother, she resorts to violence. Wednesday exhibits repressed emotions as she’s unable to cope with her anger in a healthier way. This is especially reflected in the ‘Paint It, Black’ lyrics “…No colors anymore I want them to turn black…” Another gothic layer gets added from the song because most members of her family are seen as outcasts. She says with a cool tone before dropping the piranhas into the pool, “The only person who gets to torture my brother is me.”

Once at Nevermore Academy, she’s surrounded by children much like her, and she sees the academy’s private therapist. Incredibly disapproving of her predicament, Wednesday is in no mood to interact with anyone. Her dorm mate, Enid, is her complete opposite and worst nightmare as she completely adores color, embellishing herself and the dorm room in every color of the rainbow. This leads me to the first few verses of ‘Paint It, Black.’

I see a red door
And I want it painted black
No colors anymore
I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by
Dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head
Until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars
And they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love
Both never to come back

Highfill, Samantha . “Wednesday Creators Take Us inside Nevermore Academy.” Entertainment Weekly, 12 Sept. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

Upon first meeting Wednesday, Enid asks her why she’s so pale, to which Morticia responds, “She’s allergic to color.” This is reflected in the song well as the lyrics read “I see a red door and I want it painted black.” As Wednesday settles in the first few days at the academy, she strips all the color from her side of the dorm room window and establishes with her roommate that she doesn’t wish to be friendly towards her, let alone be her friend. What she wants most is complete silence so she can write.

If Wednesday had any hope to somewhat relate to the children at Nevermore Academy, this is dampened by the presence of Enid, and then demolished when she becomes a quick target. The “self-appointed Queen Bee,” as Wednesday affectionately labels her, Bianca snidely says “Oh, you must be the psychopath they let in.” Wednesday, not willing to back down, challenges her to a fencing match. She’s been an outcast before, but she’s determined to not be treated poorly, certainly not being called a psychopath. When Bianca cuts her forehead, Wednesday becomes even more closed off from everyone. Though there are some that Wednesday shows an inkling of liking towards, such as Xavier and Tyler, Wednesday is determined to find a way out of Nevermore Academy. Her first therapy session with the academy’s private therapist goes so terribly that it only furthers this desire. Wednesday finds out that the therapist gained access to her manuscripts as part of a psych evaluation, and she feels completely violated. She states to Thing, a legendary member of the Addams Family, “Our first order of business is to escape this teenage purgatory.”

All these events bring the audience to the scene of Wednesday playing ‘Paint It, Black’ on her dorm room balcony at nighttime. This tune slightly helps soothe Wednesday, and the audience sees that it soothes many others that night at Nevermore Academy including the principal, a teacher, and Tyler. This then leads me to discuss some of the later verses in this song.

“Wednesday Addams Paint It Black Plays Cello.” YouTube, uploaded by Xjohnny88k, 23 Nov. 2022,

“Wednesday Addams Paint It Black Plays Cello.” YouTube, uploaded by Xjohnny88k, 23 Nov. 2022,

No more will my green sea
Go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing
Happening to you

If I look hard enough
Into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me
Before the morning comes

I see a red door
And I want it painted black
No colors anymore
I want them to turn black

Once she finishes playing the tune, Thing gestures toward Wednesday from the music stand, to which she replies, “No, I don’t really feel better. There’s just something wrong about this place.” Wednesday does not make this statement because she’s still an outcast even in the company of those most like her, but rather because her supernatural ability allows her to sense a deeper, darker secret at Nevermore Academy. And why might she gain a little comfort from playing such a dark tune? It’s familiar, it represents what she’s going through, and that offers solace. Why play this tune on a violoncello instead of having the original song play through a radio for example? This musical instrument is an outlet of expression for Wednesday, just like writing is, and it’s an incredibly personal activity as well. Moreover, expression through use of a classical instrument adds to the gothic appeal.

Worthy of mention, is that this song ‘Paint It, Black’ resembles a traditional gothic poem written by Edgar Allan Poe, titled ‘Spirits of the Dead.’ This poem offers gothic imagery that highlight themes of darkness while simultaneously emphasizing beauty, which emulates Wednesday as a character almost perfectly. The imagery that the ‘Paint It, Black’ tune Wednesday plays mirrors the emotions she feels not only at Nevermore Academy, but with her life overall. She’s been an outcast her entire life and she’s most comfortable in the darkness. This poem also criticizes the mortal hope of life after death “As a burning and a fever” in the third stanza. This strongly reflects the verse of ‘Paint It, Black’ that includes “…If I look hard enough into the setting sun my love will laugh with me…” As Wednesday plays the tune, it’s nighttime and this most closely correlates with how Wednesday views her goals. She takes her writing and music very seriously because she will not settle for mediocrity. She won’t live on after death, such a belief is foolish to her, but rather she will live in the present through her creative work, her only light. Her beliefs go against tradition, making them gothic. This connects to when the poem expresses the connection between divinity and nature when it describes the mist in stanza five as “…shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken…”. While Wednesday does not believe in life after death, she certainly believes in her own divinity, her own capability. Every part of her is dark, her emotions, her style, her attitude, yet she is not broken, or even a psychopath like Bianca called her. She’s entirely unique and that makes her godly.

Starkey, Adam. “Here’s Every Song on the ‘Wednesday’ Soundtrack.” NME, 19 Dec. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

Starkey, Adam. “Here’s Every Song on the ‘Wednesday’ Soundtrack.” NME, 19 Dec. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

The last verse of ‘Paint It, Black’ perfectly represents Wednesday’s life, especially in this first episode of the original Netflix series.

I wanna see it painted
Painted black
Black as night
Black as coal
I wanna see the sun
Blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted
Painted black, yeah

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