“The Stepford Wives” follows a New York couple, Joanna and Walt, that moves to Stepford, Connecticut - a town centered on men being the breadwinners and women accepting the role of housewives, ready to attend to their husband’s wishes - with their two kids, in the hopes of rekindling their marriage. The main characters are outsiders in this society and they soon find out that all of the women are robots with remote controls controlled by their human husbands.
“The Stepford Wives” is a utopian film meant to resemble life in 1950s America. It takes place in the suburban town of Stepford, Connecticut, where all of the houses are grand and all of the families are replicas of each other, since the men have created robots out of their wives. This town is meant to serve as an example of perfection because everyday is mundane and centered around routine in order to avoid any strife that is natural in households today. All of the women are housewives and they mold their lives according to the demands of their husbands and children. Families never get into any arguments and everyone is always content. These robot women do everything together because they all have the same schedule every day, centered around housekeeping and the men gather together away from their robot wives to discuss their marriage lives. Like in all of the works we’ve read, this movie shows us that attempts at creating utopian societies fails because humanity is destroyed in the process. This movie makes itself unique in that the rebellious character is a woman; as opposed to all of the rebellious characters in the works that we’ve read were men.
The point of this movie was to show society that men will always want the same characteristics in a woman, despite the change in time- this movie came out in 2003 but the theme was from 1950s America- and that men and women should know their places. Men should be the breadwinners and women should be the housekeepers. These characteristics will create a perfect society, where everyone is always happy at work and at home. Furthermore, this movie is meant to show us that men should always exhibit a certain nature to themselves. For example, there was a homosexual man in the movie who always spent time with the Stepford wives. However, the men decide to create a robot out of him in the hopes that he maintains his homosexuality but dresses and acts like the other men in the society. This entails having a deep voice, short haircut, and always wearing suits as opposed to the funky clothes he used to wear.
The themes that are present in this movie intersect with themes present in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Kurt Vonnegut’s, “Welcome to the Monkey House”. In the former novel, Mustapha Mond claims that by creating people through a machine process, humanity is conserved because all conflicts are resolved ahead of time. The same theme is present in “The Stepford Wives”. All of the men are at a general consensus of how the perfect woman should behave and look like. They created robots out of their wives in order to create a perfect family life where women always abide by the men’s rules. By creating a perfect family life, a financially stable society is created and there is never any strife in the community.
In addition to that, there is a lack of individuality in the people in both works. In the movie, the women are all clones of each other. This is illustrated in the Stepford wives book club scene. When Joanna, the main character, speaks at the Stepford Wives book club, she mentions a book she read about Lyndon Johnson and there is a unanimous look of confusion from the other Stepford wives. They all read another book, about creative ways to make Christmas ornaments. This scene was meant to identify Joanna as an educated outsider as opposed to the uneducated clones who center their lives around superficiality. Similarly in Brave New World, all of the residents follow the same routine every day. When John Savage, the outsider is introduced from the Reservation, he talks about Shakespeare to everyone and all of the residents find him amusing because this book and its themes are unrecognizable to their lifestyles and routines.
The men in the movie try to dehumanize their women by making them robots. In “Welcome to the Monkey House”, the women are also dehumanized because they have either spent their lives as virgins or they take special birth control so they won’t feel pleasure from sex. This is important because it raises awareness with women’s rights. This is extra evident now, with Hillary Clinton running in the presidential campaign, as she is advocating rights for women in modern day society. Furthermore, in “Welcome to the Monkey House”, the rebel is successful in convincing the member of the society to rebel against her society. This movie ends with the overthrow of the society as well.
In order to completely evaluate this work, the life of the author of The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin, must be mentioned. He spent two years in the army and he wrote many bizarre novels after that. The time in the army could have affected him in such a way to provoke these radical ideas present in all of his novels.