The general history of Thanksgiving movies is pretty rocky: Compared to the venerable Christmas film, there are very few highlights, and the ones that do stand the test of time tend to be melancholy. Movies like Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Hannah and Her Sisters; and The Ice Storm are about fractured families, reunions gone wrong, and the overwhelming stress of the holiday. Even the comedies tend toward the bittersweet.
Read: Where are all the Thanksgiving pop-culture classics?
Fittingly, Addams Family Values centers on a schism in its Gothic household of well-dressed, joyfully macabre aristocrats. Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) falls in love with a murderous babysitter named Debbie (Joan Cusack), and they quickly wed. Aiming to seize the Addams fortune and unable to kill the seemingly immortal Fester, Debbie turns her new husband against his brother, Gomez (Raúl Juliá), forbidding the two from interacting. She also manages to ship Gomez’s kids Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) off to a summer camp. There, Wednesday comes up against a malevolent force: aggressive, chipper homogeneity in the form of campers and counselors who just love to have fun.
The joke of the Addams family lies in how their glaring, horror-themed peculiarities clash with the world at large (a famous illustration shows the household vacationing by the sea in clothing worthy of morticians). Addams Family Values succeeds in making the deeply antisocial Wednesday into a protagonist that viewers can root for, while framing regular folks as the real weirdos. Wednesday’s nemeses at summer camp—the belligerently cheerful directors Gary Granger (Peter MacNicol) and Becky Martin-Granger (Christine Baranski)—are dictators who punish any deviation from the norm.
But Wednesday eventually triumphs over the Grangers by sabotaging their pseudo-historical Thanksgiving pageant, for which she’s been foolishly cast in the role of Pocahontas. “You have taken the land which is rightfully ours,” she declares in one of the film’s climactic scenes. She then leads the other young misfits who were cast as Native Americans in a violent insurgency, burning the camp to the ground. Having the chalk-white Wednesday dress up as Pocahontas is absurd, and the campers’ revolt offers a simplified portrayal of Native Americans—even though the film uses these scenes to critique a racist performance. The destruction of the camp is meant to be a rebuke of the Grangers’ toxic worldview: For them, only the supposedly ordinary campers are fit to play the Pilgrims, while everyone else gets treated as the “other.”
In Addams Family Values, being on the “ordinary” side is a terrible fate. In fact, normalcy is a literal disease contracted by both Gomez’s wife, Morticia (Anjelica Huston), and their infant son, Pubert, after Debbie splits the family apart. When Pubert is born at the start of the movie, he has black hair and a mustache, just like his father. After Gomez’s rift with Uncle Fester, the baby bizarrely turns into a blond-haired, blue-eyed cherub. “He could stay this way for years! Forever! He could become … a lawyer. An orthodontist. President,” the Addams grandma (Carol Kane) intones sadly, as Gomez rends his garments in agony, screaming, “Take me instead!”