The Stepford Wives  

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The Stepford Wives is the name of a 1972 novel by Ira Levin. The story is of a masculinist plot to replace women with perfect looking, obedient robot replicas.

The book has had two feature film adaptations, both using the same title as the novel: the 1975 version, and the 2004 remake. Edgar J. Scherick produced the 1975 version as well as all three of the television sequels. Scherick was credited posthumously as producer of the 2004 remake.

Plot summary

The premise involves the male inhabitants of the fictional town of Stepford, Connecticut, who all have eager-to-please, overly-submissive, and impossibly beautiful wives. The protagonist is Joanna Eberhart, a new arrival to Stepford from New York City with her husband and children, eager to start a new life. As time goes on, she becomes increasingly puzzled by the zombie-like Stepford wives, especially when she begins to see her once independent-minded friends turn into mindless, docile housewives overnight.

By the end of the story, Joanna becomes convinced the wives of Stepford are actually look-alike gynoids. She visits the library and reads up on the pasts of the husbands of Stepford, finding out that they were brilliant engineers and scientists, capable of creating such life-like robots.

At the end of the story, Joanna attempts to flee the town of Stepford as well as warn her new friend Ruthanne, the mother of the first black family to move into the town. The men find her and try to convince her that she's mistaken. They take her to her former best friend Bobbie Markowitz, telling her that Bobbie will cut herself and bleed, proving herself to be human. Joanne enters the house to hear loud rock and roll music playing upstairs and sees Bobbie taking a large knife, and realizes that the men told Bobbie to kill her and use the music to cover her screams.

In the story's epilogue, Joanna has become another Stepford wife shopping in the local supermarket, while Ruthanne appears to be on track to become the conspiracy's next victim.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

In 1975 the book was adapted into a feminist science fiction thriller directed by Bryan Forbes with a screenplay by William Goldman and starring Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Peter Masterson and Tina Louise. The film also marked the screen debut of brat pack actress Mary Stuart Masterson, playing one of Joanna's children. While the script emphasis is on gender conflict and the sterility of suburban living, and the science fiction elements are thus only lightly explored, the movie still makes it much clearer than the book that the women are being replaced by some form of robot. Goldman's treatment of the book differed from that of Forbes with the robots closer to an idealized 'Playboy bunny'; it has been claimed that the look was scrapped when Forbes' actress wife Nanette Newman was cast as one of the town residents. The look used for the robots is that of "sexy Soccer Mom".

A made-for-TV sequel was produced in 1980, entitled Revenge of the Stepford Wives. It was critically panned for poor acting and shallow writing (although Julie Kavner of later Simpsons fame stands out as a motormouthed victim.) In this film, instead of being androids, the wives undergo a brainwashing procedure and then take pills that keep them hypnotized. As suggested by the title, in the end the wives are broken free of their conditioning and a mob of them kill the mastermind behind the conspiracy.

Yet another made-for-TV sequel/remake was released in 1987 called The Stepford Children, wherein both the wives and the children of the male residents were replaced by drones. It again ends with the members of the conspiracy being killed.

A 1996 version called The Stepford Husbands was made as a third TV movie with the gender-roles reversed, and the men in the town being brainwashed by a crazed female clinic director into being perfect husbands.

An updated version of the original The Stepford Wives was released in North America on June 11, 2004. It was directed by Frank Oz with a screenplay by Paul Rudnick, and featured Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Roger Bart, Faith Hill, Glenn Close and Jon Lovitz. It was intended to be more comedic than previous versions and featured, among other changes, a Stepford-drone replacement for the male partner of a gay town resident. The film's production suffered much behind-the-scenes turmoil. The entire ending of the film was eventually reshot, creating numerous contradictions and plot holes.

Both the 1975 and 2004 versions of the movie were filmed in Darien, Connecticut, New Canaan, Connecticut, and Norwalk, Connecticut. The 1975 version had several locations in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield, including the Eberhart's House and the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. In an early scene with a school bus, many of the children were from the local elementary school. Template:Fact

In a March 27, 2007 letter to the New York Times, Ira Levin said that he based the town of Stepford on Wilton, Connecticut, where he lived in the 1960s.

In popular culture

The term Stepford Wife has been used to describe a woman who seems to conform blindly to an old-fashioned subservient role in relationship to her husband, compared to other, presumably more independent and vivacious women. The term has been used by critics to describe Laura Bush [1] and by critics of Scientology to Katie Holmes after her marriage to Tom Cruise [2].

British band Radiohead have a song called "Bodysnatchers", that draws major inspiration from the book (or to be more precise: from the 1975 movie). Singer Thom Yorke mentioned the connection when the band premiered the song in Copenhagen on May 6, 2006. It is not the first Radiohead song related to the Stepford Wives. "A Wolf At The Door", the final track on the band's sixth album "Hail to the Thief", also contains a reference.

The Stepford Cuckoos, characters in the X-Men comics, were based partly on the Stepford Wives.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Stepford Wives" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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