When Joanna (Katharine Ross), her husband, and two kids move to Stepford from New York City they were met with a huge culture shock. Gone was the noise, the crime, and the overcrowding. But Stepford may have been too idyllic. It was filled with happy and boring families--everything New York wasn't--so something must have been wrong. When Joanna befriends Bobbie (Paula Prentiss) the two braless women, who can't stand the idea of women being happy at home, start investigating the goings on in Stepford. Of course, there was something going on, but the message sent was: you're either liberated or you're a housewife.
The principal conflict in the movie was that the women were too subservient and too concerned about their husbands' happiness, but it came off as too contrived. Like somehow the world was going to come to an end because a 1970's woman doesn't want to join a women's lib group and would prefer her house to be clean. In other words, you can get one or the other: a clean house with a pleasant wife or a dirty house with a shrew. And of course, these men want a pleasant obedient wife so bad that they'd do whatever ungodly or unethical thing they're doing in Stepford to get that.
But it wasn't even just a slight attitude adjustment that these Stepford wives had undergone. These women were now devoid of any authentic personality and they were essentially carbon copies of one another. So, what is it these men were now married to? Who cares!? Men are such pigs that they don't give two flips of the finger about the actual women they married so long as said women are cooking and cleaning. This movie set out to prove that the criteria men care about is very limited: pretty, perky, and domesticated is all they need.
I may be going a little over the top with my interpretation because it could be said that the movie is only about the tiny town of Stepford not the entire country. Yes, it could be. Blame it on the times. I found the movie obtuse and repulsive and I couldn't take Joanna seriously so long as her liberated nipples were boring holes through her shirts. I wonder if her blouses are permanently indented? If they could have been just a little less heavy-handed with their message the movie would have been more palatable. The remake with Nicole Kidman and Glen Close was far better.
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