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File:Stepford-wives-1975 4151.jpg

The Stepford Wives started life as a 1972 novel by Ira Levin. In it, Joanna Eberhart, her husband Walter, and their two young children move from New York City to the eponymous Connecticut commuter-town. Joanna becomes friends with fellow new arrival Bobbie Markowe, as the two of them also become more and more concerned with the behavior of the other housewives in Stepford, who are all impossibly beautiful, housework-obsessed and totally submissive towards their husbands, who in turn are all members of the "Men's Association." The novel was successful enough to be made into a movie in 1975; William Goldman's script was fairly faithful to the original, with the major difference being a far more explicit finale showing what was happening to the wives. In both versions, the wives were robot duplicates that replaced the original women after their husbands had them murdered. Both versions of the story had Downer Endings.

While just a modest hit in theaters, the film quickly sprouted a meme in the 1970s, with the term "Stepford Wife" becoming a catchphrase used to describe female homemakers who were sexually repressed and only concerned with domestic chores.

No theatrical sequels were made, but the movie spawned, over the course of two decades, three made-for-TV "sequels": The Revenge of the Stepford Wives, The Stepford Children, and The Stepford Husbands. The lack of Levin and/or Goldman's involvement was painfully obvious, and all three films were also victims of bowdlerization: in Revenge and Husbands, the victims were not killed and replaced but instead merely brainwashed, while Children had the replaced teenager left alive for no readily-apparent reason, allowing in all three cases for a rescue and happy ending.

In 2004, Frank Oz directed a more overtly comedic remake of the original film. The production suffered from severe behind-the-scenes turmoil, including actors walking off the project and some last-minute reshoots. Many viewers found the revelations of the resulting finale to come completely out of left field and contradict the rest of the movie, but as always, Your Mileage May Vary.


The orginal film/novel, and its sequels, provide examples of:

The 2004 version provides examples of:

Cquote1.svg

 Joanna: Let me ask you something. These machines. These Stepford Wives. Can they say "I love you"?

Walter: Mike?

Mike: Of course. In 58 languages.

Joanna: But do they mean it?

Cquote2.svg
  • Aw, Look — They Really Do Love Each Other
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Joanna. In the beginning, her pet project at the network she works at is a Reality TV show similar to Temptation Island. At a press conference, while hyping up her show, she is confronted and shot at by a man whose marriage was ruined by the show, and who shot his cheating wife and her lovers in rage. Afterwords, Joanna is already planning out the reunion show to exploit the carnage she has accidentally inflicted, only to not only be fired from the network, but also blacklisted from television due to her utterly irresponsible decisions in programming.
  • Downer Ending: Subverted. Walter destroys the computer controlling the wives, freeing them of their brainwashing.
    • And then either reinstated or double subverted kind of awesomely when the end, without showing the wives, implies that the WIVES are now in complete control and keep their husbands as docile servants.
    • It was said they were under "house arrest", so it's safe to assume the wives considered this was a fitting punishment in lieu of jail time.
  • Gay Conservative: The gay couple in the 2004 remake includes one Straight Gay who is a Gay Conservative. His partner is a Camp Gay.
  • Heroic BSOD: Joanna.
  • Married to the Job
  • Not His Sled: The 2004 remake had its own shocking surprise ending, where it's revealed the wives weren't replaced by robots.
  • Old Shame: Several members of the production crew, including Oz, have been quoted as taking this view.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: One of the Wives malfunctions while attending a square dance.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Hank, the disgruntled reality show contestant, at the very beginning.
  • Scream Discretion Shot
  • Stepford Smiler: In addition to the obvious, Walter is also one of these, until he cracks.
  • Take That:
    • Towards reality TV; see Corrupt Corporate Executive above.
    • "So I wondered, where in the world would nobody notice a town full of mindless, lifeless automatons? And then I thought, of course! Connecticut!"
    • The original's Disney reference is updated to a dig at America Online ("Is that why the women are so slow?"). Most of Disney's pioneering work with animatronics was done in the '60s and '70s, making the reference somewhat dated by 2004.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The viewer is lead to believe that Mike is behind the operation, but really he's just a Stepford Husband created by his "wife" Claire, the real Big Bad of Stepford.
  • Troubled Production
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: What appears to be the villain's main motive for turning the women into robots.
  • With or Without You
Cquote1.svg

 Joanna Eberhart: It's... It's not our world. It's not us. And I'm picking up our kids from camp right now, and we're getting out of here. With or without you.

Cquote2.svg


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