Science Fiction Films discussion

The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Feb 08, 2009 07:38AM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 342 comments Mod
This is what science fiction does; creates a viable and believable allegory based upon facts...facts that allow us to suspend our disbelief but not sever them entirely. I haven't seen the Frank Oz remake and don't plan on doing so. Check this one out!

THE STEPFORD WIVES (Bryan Forbes, 1975, USA) Stepford Connecticut is a Disneyesque nirvana for the patriarchal hierarchy, the template for male entitlement, which allows abusive relationships to prosper: a prescient and dire warning concerning domestic violence awareness. The film is a satire about male entitlement, ultimate power and control, representing the social enslavement of the burgeoning feminist movement. The film begins with a blind female mannequin being carried by a man: a plastic metaphor foreshadowing the inhuman narrative. As Joanna and Walter leave the city, Michael Small’s derivative score plays like some TV soap opera, which will contrast the brooding horror to come. Director Bryan Forbes sets the film amid the beautiful friendly suburbs, bathing the film in bright daytime afternoon delight; he allows the friction between the couple to crescendo as a family melodrama. But monsters lurk in the shadows of Stepford and gather at a dark secluded mansion, home of the Stepford Men’s Association. Joanna befriends Bobbie, another braless newcomer in town; they attempt to subvert the superficial and wholesome aura of this strange environment. When they finally convene a meeting of Stepford wives to create their own feminist association, they discover a mindless and one-dimensional attitude: these women exist only to clean and serve their husbands. They spout commercial jingles and speak earnestly of their housework, like drones…or robots. William Goldman’s script builds the suspense like tiny cogs that firmly fit together: from Joanna’s cluttered kitchen to Charmaine’s new attitude, and when Bobbie finally succumbs to the disease that proliferates the town Joanna believe she is going crazy. When Joanna voices her concerns, the horror cannot be explained in mere words, and she veers towards a nervous breakdown. Finally, her doppelganger sees through her eyes darkly, and she is subsumed into the great American Dream. (B+)

message 2: by Kandice (new)

Kandice What I found most terrifying about this movie, was that the husband's chose these mindless drones. They married women one would assume they fell in love with, and then chose to replace them with something more useful and convenient.
As a wife, I want to believe my husband loves me for who I am, not how well I cook his dinner, or clean the toilet. Much less, how cheerfully I perform these tasks. Marital love feels like a sacred covenent. Unlike your family, you choose one another and make a concious decision to spend the rest of your lives together. "In sickness and in health. For richer or poorer" etc. It's scary that these women are taken unawares by their replacement. It's such a betrayal of all that a life partnership should mean.

THAT's what's so scary to me. Not the technology that allows it to happen.

message 3: by Phillip (new)

Phillip oh yeah, this is SUCH a great film. one of my favorite films about post-war america and convenience. this was a good lesson in staying as far away from the armerican dream as possible.

message 4: by Manuel (last edited Feb 10, 2009 04:22PM) (new)

Manuel | 144 comments Im still amazed this movie was made when the Women's Movement was still so young. I remember in 1974 most of my friends were shocked my Mom worked, in those days most of their Moms were still staying home.

Even in TV, most women's characters were still based around the house. Carol Brady not only stayed home, she also had a housekeeper.
Shirley Partridge worked in the band, but only because she was a widow, and had to support her children, but she also stayed home while the kids were in school.
I think the only working woman in 1974 was Mary Tyler Moore.

Somehow the movie felt ahead of its time.
You have a bunch of reactionary (men)husbands who want to turn things back to what they imagined life was like in the 50's, when the roles of men and women were much more defined.
The man as the primary bread winner, and the woman as the keeper of the hearth and children.

message 5: by Daniel (last edited Feb 11, 2009 03:28AM) (new)

Daniel | 39 comments King Dinösaur wrote: "Hmmm...I've always considered this one a horror film. It's one of those that really straddles that SF/horror line."

I suppose, but building robots to replace people sounds pretty "SF" to me.

It really is a period piece from fairly early in the modern women's movement. The remake made no sense because most people (in the modern world, at any rate) wouldn't dream of turning the clock back. But in the early '70s this was new and threatening to many, and so this was a dystopian vision of a backlash.

Ira Levin (who wrote the original novel) had a knack for creating nightmare versions of people's concerns. (See, also, "The Boys from Brazil" and "Rosemary's Baby.")

message 6: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 342 comments Mod
What I find terrifying with THE STEPFORD WIVES is that this ideal of male entitlement hasn't really changed very much. It exists today like a splinter under the surface, still present and infectious. Our office prosecutes hundreds of domestic violence cases every year and to understand the phenomenon, just do a search of the Duluth Model Cycle Of Violence: two points, Power and Controll. Every abuser wants total control and what better way than to kill the spouse and replace with a replicant sex-doll who worships on command?

Daniel, I agree that most people wouldn't want to turn back the clock, but there are still many violent abusers who have never moved it foreward. And Daniel, thanks for mentioning this film in another thread because it inspired me to watch this one again, and realize what a great film it is!

message 7: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 144 comments I loved this movie,
it generates a lot of questions about the society in Stepford.
I think I mentioned it in another thread on this movie.......
Many of these men are fathers of girls. I keep asking myself if they will let their daughters experience the same thing if and when they get married in Stepford?

message 8: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Has anyone seen the 2004 version? I vaguely recall the 1975 version, but it's been a long time since I've seen it.

message 9: by George (new)

George | 63 comments I watched parts of it. there's a reason why you don't know anyone who's actually seen it. no one is willing to confess. the original was interesting, the second is a travesty.

message 10: by Phillip (last edited Feb 12, 2009 07:37AM) (new)

Phillip Manuel wrote: Im still amazed this movie was made when the Women's Movement was still so young.


PG: really? why does it surprise you?

i think the stepford wives is a feminist film. it's not like the filmmakers are positing that this idea of replacing wives with subservient robots is a GOOD thing. as just about everyone has commented, the film is horrifying.

yeah, the remake was ridiculous. it couldn't decide if it was a comedy or if it would somehow tap into the horrific aspect of the original.

message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Manuel wrote: "...Many of these men are fathers of girls. I keep asking myself if they will let their daughters experience the same thing if and when they get married in Stepford?..."

I doubt they thought of it, Manuel. Hard to believe, but I wouldn't doubt it. I have a daughter & it's amazing how big my denial of her as a female is. Grow up & get married? Date? "Father of the Bride" wasn't funny, it's too true. Sounds ridiculous - it IS ludicrous - but it's a fact of my life.

What really brought it home was an episode of "House" when a young girl had the hots for him. She gave House a calendar with her 18th birthday marked. I said, "Go for it!"

My daughter said, "You know she's 6 months younger than me, Daddy?"

Ruined the moment, let me tell you, but it also really brought it home that even though she'd gone out on dates & stuff, I never really thought of her as a sexual creature. Complete denial.

message 12: by Angie (new)

Angie I have only seen the 2004 version and am waiting for the other one from the library!

message 13: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I think the 2004 version was awful. I think it was supposed to be something like a black comedy, but it just came off as hokey. The original was genuinely scary to me, and I have read the book a few times. I had really looked forward to the remake, but was incredibly disapointed.

message 14: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 144 comments Huge plotholes in the remake.
Some of the women are machines and some are just drugged.

message 15: by Angie (last edited Feb 13, 2009 09:09AM) (new)

Angie The best thing about the remake is Christopher Walken. Love him!

And one of the coolest things he's ever done:

message 16: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I think Walken's being in the film was part of why I was soooo disapointed. I love him in almost everything he has ever done. He played his part well, but the movie around him was such a stinker. As an actor, you can only deliver the lines you're given.

message 17: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 144 comments Regarding your question Phil
as to why I was surprised the film was made when it was made?

The neighborhood in Stepford was a reaction against the woman's movement when the woman's movement had barely taken off.

In 1974 most women were still working at home and most women identified themselves as house wives, In 1974 many gender barriers had'nt yet been breached. I still remember the big deal Barbara Walters caused when they had her read the evening network news in 1977, women had'nt yet entered the military academies and most women in offices were still just secretaries.
In fact I still remember those sexist commercials where a short skirted stewardess would sing "Comm'on, Fly Me"

That's why I found the movie ahead of its time. Women's roles had barely started changing and you have a corner of America clamoring to return to the good ole days, when a man was king of his castle.

message 18: by Phillip (new)

Phillip i guess even as a young man, i was really "ready" for emancipation. to my young mind, it just made sense. anything else seemed ludicrous.

thanks for explaining!

message 19: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I've started watching the original & thought it was perfect for the time. Women were becoming emancipated & so many men felt threatened. What if the men could do something about it? These guys could & did. Start the horror show.

message 20: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I finally finished the original & it was pretty good. I wasn't thrilled with some of the end. Why she gave up the poker is a mystery to me. She fought so well & hard to that point. I think she would have whacked everyone & all equipment in sight. My wife thought so, too. Still, it was a spooky ending.

message 21: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 144 comments I was devastated when I saw the ending Jim,
I think I must have been 12.

All those sun bonnets in the supermarket.

message 22: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Yeah, Manuel. The new couple lacked a woman in a bonnet, though. A black couple, the first in the neighborhood & she was arguing with him!

It spoke volumes about spreading the disease. No one is safe. Soon all the women will be marionettes moving through the isles to the music (which was perfect), saying "Hi. How are you? I am fine. How are your kids?"

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