It's been said that big things come in small packages, and few characters in pop culture embody (or should we say "disembody") the sentiment quite like Thing of "The Addams Family." Known as the severed hand servant and longtime companion of the family Addams, Thing has remained a vital member of the world of entertainment inspired by Charles Addams' original cartoons and has evolved into one of the most beloved characters in the family. Thing exists in an interesting space in the Addams family dynamics, serving as both a protective figure, assistant, and almost pet-like role. There's no other character in pop culture quite like him, who can say so much about a situation without saying a word.
Thing also has a fascinating history throughout nearly century-long portrayals of "The Addams Family" characters, undergoing several evolutions to become the cherished palm pal audiences adore the world over. The helpful hand has always been willing to do the family's bidding, not because Thing is a faithful flunkey, but because he is a vital member of the family and loves them all unconditionally. Now, with the Netflix series "Wednesday" upgrading Thing to his most prominent role yet, it's important to understand where Thing came from, and why he's managed to capture generations of fans.
Thing In The Charles Addams Comics
Fans of all things Addams might be shocked to learn that Thing, as he is commonly viewed, was not the original design of cartoonist Charles Addams. "The Addams Family" cartoons first appeared in The New Yorker in the 1930s, but it wasn't until 1954 that Thing first appeared. In Addams' 1954 book "Homebodies," one of the cartoons includes a panel of the Addams mansion with a sign reading, "Beware of the Thing," and a terrified mailman. This is the first reference to Thing in "The Addams Family" lore, but what exactly that thing was, had yet to be established.
When David Levy was first producing "The Addams Family" TV series in the 1960s, he asked Charles Addams what exactly Thing was supposed to be, and Addams declared that he always envisioned the character as a disembodied head. Knowing that a head rolling around a spooky mansion would never fly on a sitcom, Levy had the idea of turning Thing into a hand, as long as the audience never knew where the hand came from or what it was attached to. "You wouldn't know if it was attached to a body," he said. "I wouldn't call it The Thing, but let's call it Thing — just Thing."
While it hasn't been confirmed, in a "The Addams Family" cartoon published on March 20, 1954, a panel is shown with two disembodied hands protruding from a record player and changing the record. Many fans have concluded that the inspiration for Thing as a hand may have been inspired by the TV producers seeing the panel in preparation for the series.
Thing In The Addams Family TV Series
Thing played a pivotal role in "The Addams Family" television series, serving as the family's hand servant, but portrayed as an arm protruding from a box, sometimes all the way down to the elbow. Thing was usually played by Ted Cassidy, the larger-than-life actor who also played Lurch, but occasionally by assistant director Jack Voglin, especially when Thing needed to interact with the barrel-voiced butler. Thing made for a fantastic visual gag, popping out of mailboxes, curtains, potted plants, and other assorted locations for spontaneous hijinks.
Morticia Addams is particularly fond of Thing, with actress Carolyn Jones' delivery of "Thank you, Thing," becoming one of the most commonly spoken lines on the series. From a generational standpoint, Wednesday takes after her mother in regard to her love of Thing, and is just as gracious for Thing's assistance. This would become a definite influence on the Netflix series over 50 years later.
Despite his silent role, Thing often served as "the straight man" character of the comedy show, giving the creepy, kooky family someone to play off of. Thing would often snap to gain attention or tap his fingers in morse code, a way to indicate to the audience that Thing was far more intelligent than most realized. Seaman Jacobs, a series writer on the show, has said that Thing was written specifically in a way to inspire the audience to wonder what was on the other end of the arm, rather than become fixated on the hand as a solo character. This was something that was changed for the 1990s live-action films, which changed the course of Thing's portrayals in every incarnation that followed.
Thing In The Barry Sonnenfeld Films
Thanks to the advancements in digital effects, Thing, played by magician Christopher Hart, was released from the box and given the autonomy to roam the Addams mansion, not unlike a spider or a family pet. In both "The Addams Family" and "Addams Family Values," Thing is seen performing his usual hand servant tasks, but also driving a car, operating a roller skate, and even playing Chess. He offered plenty of comedic relief, and the sleight-of-hand talent of Hart gave the character a big personality.
Seaman Jacobs, who wrote for the original television series, has said that the original show creators hated the change made to Thing in Barry Sonnenfeld's films. "We did Thing," Jacobs told the Television Academy. "And they did that wrong in that picture." Jacobs said the original team viewed Thing running around on all five fingers as ruining their original gag. "The gag was: What is at the end of the hand?" he said. "That made no sense to see Thing all by itself."
Executive producer Scott Rudin and director Barry Sonnenfeld have both defended their decision to give Thing some autonomy and refer to his release from the box as an "update" to the original character. "In the series, Thing was always in a box," Rudin explained. "We knew we could never get away with that in a movie." Rudin had a great point, and the update to Thing was clearly well received, as Thing has been a sentient severed hand in just about every version of "The Addams Family" moving forward. While the box is usually alluded to or shown in some capacity, Thing is no longer confined to popping out of it.
Thing In Animated Appearances, The 'New' Series, And The Musical
"The Addams Family" has had numerous revivals, reinterpretations, and adaptations over the years, but since Barry Sonnenfeld's films, Thing has consistently been portrayed as autonomous. In "The Addams Family Animated Series," the art style resembles Charles Addams' original comics, but Thing is disembodied and ready to run around. In the "New Addams Family" live-action series, Thing is given a bit of backstory, with the episode "The Tale of Long John Addams," showing that Uncle Fester's look-alike great-great-great-great-uncle Curly's hand is severed and lives on as "Pinky," which is implied to be one of Thing's ancestors. This is a departure from the original TV series episode, "Thing Is Missing," where Gomez and Morticia find a portrait of Thing's parents, a male hand and a female hand, but of course, in a box.
Most recently, Thing has appeared in the CG animated films but often wearing accessories to indicate a way to "see" the world around him. The 2019 film shows Thing wearing an eyepatch and sunglasses while the sequel has him donning a wristwatch, using the watch face as a way to express emotions like "eye rolls." He's also shown to have a foot fetish, because … of course, he does. The only time Thing has ever been portrayed in his "original" form post-Sonnefeld has been in "The Addams Family: A New Musical," as the stage production doesn't allow for movie magic. Thing appears as opening the curtain at the start of the show, and Pugsley later carries Thing on a pillow as the ring bearer for Wednesday and Lucas' wedding.
Thing On The Netflix Series, Wednesday
In his latest incarnation, Thing appears on the Netflix series "Wednesday" almost like an amalgamation of all of the Things that came before. Played by Victor Dorobantu, Thing is assigned by Gomez to look over Wednesday while she attends Nevermore Academy, in the hopes that he can serve a Godfather-like role to the teen. Thing is always looking out for Wednesday's best interests and takes an active role in helping her solve the mysteries of the school and throughout the town of Jericho.
Thing is presented as a stitched-up, Frankenstein-esque appearance, a clear reference to the character's origins of being a part of a bigger body, while still running around the Academy as the sentient hand from Barry Sonnenfeld's films. Despite an inability to speak or provide facial expressions, Thing has a big, distinctive personality, which is why one of the most powerful scenes of the entire series involves Wednesday and her beloved Thing.
So much can be conveyed just through hand gestures and positioning, but Thing is also the key to one of Wednesday's most important relationships. The Addams family are typically the only people who fully understand Thing, but "Wednesday" shows that werewolf classmate Enid Sinclair can also communicate with Thing, indicating that she's an important figure in Wednesday's life.
Why We Love Thing
While Thing is without a literal speaking voice, he is by no means incapable of making his voice heard. As a member of the family, Thing's hand gestures serve as his own, complex language that only the Addams family can understand. As viewers at home are also capable of understanding him, it allows the audience to feel right at home with the family Addams. Thing also provides a bit of disability representation, sometimes incorporating American Sign Language, morse code, and military hand signals to get his words across. For the viewers, this provides an immediate bond with Thing, as if the audience has their own "secret handshake" with the character.
Thing is so much more than just a disembodied hand for some useful sight gags, he's the heart of the family. Whether it's providing a much-needed head massage to relieve stress, bringing in the mail, flipping over a record, or helping investigate a murder, Thing is a ride-or-die companion that represents the best possible type of friend to have. He's unafraid to flip a specific finger to tell you exactly what's on his mind, but at the end of the day, he's here to lend a helping severed hand in whatever way possible. If more people were as loyal and loving as Thing, the world would be a much more enjoyable place to exist.
Read this next: The 15 Best Final Girls In Horror Movies Ranked
The post How Wednesday's Thing Became So Beloved Without Saying A Word appeared first on /Film.