It seems "The Stepford Wives" is enjoying a revival. However, it has been a cult movie since its release. As Gregory J. Paris writes, the act of losing one's personality while adjusting to conformity is an important issue in this film. In addition, it deals with man's obsession with "creating", until the day he realizes that the act of procreating is perhaps humanity's greatest gift for creation. It also reminds us of the cult to the mother figure, of the dangers of modern technocracies, of phallocracy
All these concepts are expressed in a peculiar form in "The Stepford Wives", a movie that deserves to be included among the best of Hollywood's second golden era, the 1970's. Director Bryan Forbes, producer Edgar J. Scherick, and, among the performers, actress Paula Prentiss, recognized comedy as an intelligent genre to make a social comment about society, with Stepford as a metaphor. With moving dolls bestowed with graceful movements, dressed in long dresses, wearing hats and carrying parasols, the tone of the sophisticated American comedy seems appropriate to tell this horror story. The connection with dolls is established since the first sequence, when --following husband Walter's unilateral decision-- the family is moving to Stepford, and the kids call mother Joanna's attention to someone carrying a mannequin across a street in New York City: this aspect is used again, most notably when Joanna hosts the Stepford husbands, dressed in a flesh-colored suit. In Stepford, a liberal suburb, with good schools, low taxes, pure air, and business dedicated to electronics, you can sleep with your doors open. Wives are all dressed up, they have no interest in women's rights, and except for Bobbie Markowe and Charmaine, the rest –-when not cooking or ironing-- complain of not being able to bake every day, or would promote for free a brand of starch spray, just because it is such a good product. The funny thing is that the husbands are as boring and robot-like as their wives. They're all successful professionals, who obediently have joined the men's association, which turns into Joanna's headache and builds the tension of the film. There is little suspense in "The Stepford Wives", as we know it in other motion pictures: since the beginning we know that something is wrong, but the filmmakers make us watch the anomalous situation, with Michael Small providing music that is far from horror or suspense scores. What Forbes and company do is to tease us, because we know that Joanna will become Playmate of the Year (check the poster!), following the drawings of an ex illustrator from Playboy magazine, and the technical specifications of a former Disney executive. When she understands why Carol acts like a zombie, why Charmaine hangs her tennis outfit, and why Bobbie turns into a 'chic' housekeeper, Joanna is confronted with her own replica. Why? Because the males can. As simple as that: "Me Tarzan, you second person, you stick to the loser position in a game that I always win". "The Stepford Wives" reminds me of another movie, L.G. Berlanga's "Tamaño natural" (Life-Size), in which Michel Piccoli buys himself a plastic doll to replace his wife. Berlanga and his writers Rafael Azcona and Jean-Claude Carrière emphasized psychological aspects. On "Stepford", while many of its comments add spice to the story (someone affirms that blackmail is what makes America great, another male has been sent to Panama maybe to arrange things for a new revolution or a new invasion), they also point to social and political reasons for this state of things, of this dehumanized community that money and know-how can buy. The technological paranoia enters the main bedroom. The male, confronted with the agony of some of his gender's privileges, his false attributes and wrong values, hits against the female. This may seem pessimistic, but it is also very realistic. The points "The Stepford Wives" made, created a controversy when it was released in 1975. Since then science has advanced. Maybe now they can make better Stepford wives, that cannot be altered by liquor or a stab, but many things related to the human heart remain the same. The problem is still there, because our egomaniac approach to our fellow human beings of any gender has remained basically the same, making the film actual still today.