Monday, 13 July 2015

The Stepford Wives (1975)

Joanna: It'll happen to me before then. When you come back, there will be a woman with my name and my face, she'll cook and clean like crazy, but she won't take pictures and she won't be me! She'll be... like the robots at Disneyland.
Dr. Fancher: Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you a prescription that you get filled, then you get your children and GET THE HELL OUT! Don't tell your husband, don't tell anybody, just get in your car and drive somewhere you feel safe. (via)

"The Stepford Wives" is a novel written by Ira Marfin Levin (1929-2007, author of "Rosemary's Baby). His satirical thriller had a film adaption three years after being published, in 1975 (the 2004 remake with "the almost complete erasure of the powerful feminist message" shall be ignored here...). The protagonist, Joanna Eberhart, a photographer from New York City, moves to Stepford with her husband and children. She notices something strange about the people living there, i.e. all wives being "zombie-like" submissive to their husbands (via).
"THE STEPFORD WIVES is probably the only viable, intelligently conceived movie about women and their future made in the past decade … (it) is one of the select few genre films more important fo [sic] its ideas than its genre excitements." David Bartholomew
At the beginning, there was a backlash and feminists criticised the film for reinforcing "the patriarchal view of gender" (Ruben, 2012). Then, the film was neglected in film criticism for decades. According to Krugovoy Silver (2002), the "themes of The Stepford Wives dovetail so closely with those of second wave feminism that the film can be viewed  as a popularization of some of the most persistent concerns of the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. The film's examination of the plight of the dissatisfied middle-class housewife, its parody of the fetishization of housework, its explicit critique of the nuclear family, and its relentless focus on the constructedness and artificiality of female beauty are key issues to which second wave feminists - particularly radical feminists - drew public attention."

Director: Bryan Forbes
Screenplay: William Goldman
Cast: Katharine Ross (Diane Keaton turned down the lead role because her analyst did not like the script), Paula Prentiss, Peter Masterson, Mary Stuart Masterson, Patrick O'Neal
Awards: Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror films, American Film Institute Films (via)

The term "Stepford wife" entered common use and is "usually applied to a woman who seems to conform blindly to an old-fashioned subservient role in relationship to her husband, compared to other, presumably more independent women. It can also be used to criticise any person, male or female, who submits meekly to authority and/or abuse; or even to describe someone who lives in a robotic, conformist manner without giving offense to anyone" (via).

- Krugovoy Silver, A. (2002) The Cyborg Mystique. The Stepford Wives and Second Wave Feminism. Women's Studies Quarterly, 60-
- Ruben, J. L. (2012) Illusionary Strength: An Analysis of Female Empowerment in Science Fiction and Horror Films in Fatal Attraction, Aliens, and the Stepford Wives. Master Thesis: Wright Sate University
- images/screen shots via and via and via and via

The full movie on YouTube: WATCH