Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lessons We Can Learn From The Stepford Wives (2004)

Spoiler Alert! If you don't want to know what happens in this film or the ending please stop reading :)

After finding a photo of the Stepford Wives from the 2004 version of the movie, I decided to watch it again. In this film a powerful television executive (Nicole Kidman) was fired, her husband (Matthew Broderick) quit his job as vice president of the company, and they decided to move to Stepford. Nicole's character had short (very masculine) hair, a dominant presence, and always dressed in Black. She constantly argued with her husband and appeared angry and pushy. In Stepford she met Bette Midler's character who was a writer and she was also very pushy, loud, and a lousy housekeeper who dressed in that awful sloppy hippie style. All of the men in Stepford were rich and and went to a country club. The women were also very successful. But when the men became fed up with their wives they brought them to the club where they had computer chips placed in their brains to turn them into "perfect wives" who were gorgeous, feminine, totally obedient, and unopinionated...basically robots. Nicole and her husband devised a plan to have her pretend to be a robot so that they could destroy the computers at the club. In the end it turned out that it was actually a woman who came up with the idea for the robots because she wanted women to be cherished and loved and for men to be men again.

I'll start off by saying I do not think women need to be turned into obedient robots and men should not force women to change (or do medical procedures) against their will!!! This was a COMEDY and the femininity and gender roles were exaggerated (e.g., Glen Close's skirts were so full no one would wear them today, they were vapid, totally obedient, and lacking of personality). The original version was a horror movie with strong feminist messages about women's independence. The original had a different ending because it would be horrifying to have your loving husband remove your free will and turn you into a robot slave.

There were some interesting messages about gender roles that we can take from the film. It basically showed what men like and dislike in women (but in an exaggerated fashion). The men wanted women who were not argumentative, hard, too busy for them, masculine looking, sloppy, untidy, loud, pessimistic, unfriendly, or embarrassing in public. The men preferred women who looked feminine and pretty and were easy to get along with, and passive (totally submissive in this case). They did not seem to care about the women's careers. It was interesting to note that all of the men were low-average to below average in attractiveness but the women were all very attractive after their robot makeovers (i.e., they looked like trophy wives). Even unattractive men want beauty queens it seems! I have to admit though, I thought the women did look better after their makeovers. Except for some of the exaggerated skirts, the dresses were very pretty, their hair looked better, and they looked happier. After the makeover Nicole Kidman looked the way she does at every awards ceremony so even she prefers looking like a Stepford wife! These are some of the important messages in the movie:

  • There is no need to argue over every little thing especially when it doesn't have an effect on your life. Choose your battles wisely. Be passive most of the time (don't sweat the small stuff) and assertive (not aggressive) when you need something or when you need to stand up for yourself. Men find it emasculating when they are questioned about everything they do (it would probably annoy you too to be constantly questioned). You can have an opinion, but you don't have to share your opinion on every single thing or get involved in everyone else's business.
  • If you decide to become a powerful career woman then you will have to work extra hard to make sure that you spend quality (peaceful) time with your husband and family. Your work can not be your whole life. If your time with your family is as serious and anxiety-provoking as your time at work then you may lose your family.  When you step into your house it is time to be relaxed and supportive instead of competitive, punitive, or dominant the way you may need to be in some careers. In other less stressful careers it will be easier to make the work to home transition. 
  • Looking more feminine can be achieved in one day. Well it will probably take some research into feminine clothing and hairstyles. But once that is done you would just need to go shopping and go to a salon (or wig shop) to get the feminine look. It's just clothes, make-up, and hair (improving posture and grace will take more time and can not be purchased). Making these changes is easy and I'm sure many of us have changed our style and hair numerous times so it isn't that serious but the rewards may be great. You can still express yourself with feminine clothing. People are likely to treat you differently (probably better) if you look feminine rather than androgynous or masculine. 
  • Feminine traits can be expressed instantly by smiling more, being polite and friendly, controlling emotional expressions, and not being argumentative or snarky. We all know how to be nice but sometimes we don't feel like being nice or we don't think it is important. Many of believe we have the right to express any emotion or thought we want and everyone has to just accept our behaviour. This will eventually push people away or keep them from ever approaching you. You know your behaviour is unpleasant because I'm sure you aren't overjoyed when someone is angry or sad whenever you see them. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. It's only human to be emotional and unhappy sometimes (no one is ever happy all the time) but if you are always angry or sad then something needs to change. If you are constantly in a negative mood then you need to make some changes in your life or seek help.
Remember, it was just a comedy! Even caricatures have a grain of truth!


  1. Really pathetic advice.. to become "more pleasing to men".
    Maybe you can then avoid being beaten as often

  2. Maybe you are right Anonymous. We should all be mean to our husbands, friends and family. If we are in a bad mood we should kick puppies too! Trying to be a nice and pleasant person is stupid and pathetic.

    I'd rather be nice :)

  3. Lauren S. from ATLMarch 30, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    I believe that the key is to be assertive and not passive; obviously constant questioning and commenting does not end well. BUT women in general are still fighting for equality. And, yes, a career woman still needs strong ties to the household BUT SO DOES THE MALE OF THE HOUSEHOLD. One thing for sure is that we must not put all of the pressure on the women of the households (leads to bitter angry women and arguments). Both parties NEED TO BE UNDERSTANDING in order for relationships to work. Oh, and there really is no such thing as being masculine or feminine. They are just shallow conceptions of how to judge one's appearance. In addition, "masculinity and femininity" vary from culture to culture.

  4. Hi Lauren S :)

    Why do you say there is no such thing as masculine and feminine?

  5. Lauren S. from ATLApril 4, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    "People are likely to treat you differently (probably better) if you look feminine rather than androgynous or masculine"; I was responding to this statement...But out of all of what was said, that's all you had to say?? I am not opposed to constructive criticism you know- that is how I grow to be a better woman...

  6. Hello Lauren,

    Were you expecting to start an argument or responses to everything you wrote? I don't want to argue with people on this blog because they are free to believe what they want and dislike what they want. I also don't respond to every comment.

    I'm not here to criticize you about your beliefs at all. It's up to you to think and decide what you believe and what works for you. I am no expert on femininity and I am trying to figure out the type of woman I want to be so I don't bother correcting people.

    Being passive hasn't hurt me with men so I prefer it and I'm only assertive when I need to be. On this blog I focus more on what I can do instead of what I think men should do because I can not control them. Instead, I just pick men who would be compatible and will not need me to lecture them about how to behave.

    I like to comment on what I observe and what I think is beneficial rather than whether it is right or wrong. This stance may be different from other blogs you have read.

    Thank you for your visit :)

  7. Sorry I came into this late but Lauren is right that masculine and feminine isn't real energy but cultural constructs.

    In most societies, both modern and old, femininity equaled: docile, pleasant, happy, warm, kind, generous. Masculine equaled: assertive, strong, dominant, etc.

    I think what Lauren is referring to is that there are some very obscure societies where it's the opposite. When I was in my first year of college, I took a class on Cultural Anthropology and we learned about various tribes on certain islands in the Pacific where the women had typically masculine traits (and were the dominant leaders of society) and the men had typically feminine traits. What "femininity" means and what "masculinity" means really has to do with your culture.

    HOWEVER... in the end I really agree with you article and pretense much more than Lauren's comment. The societies where femininity means something different than what we believe it to mean are so few that we needn't worry. Being pleasant, generous, kind, warmhearted, and obliging would never be seen as masculine on any continent... on an obscure island in the Pacific, yes, but in no modern society we'd go to. :)

  8. Well, I believe that women are meant to be the opposite of men. Women have feminine energy, but some curb it by putting on a mean mug, using profanity, taking on masculine gaits and gestures, wearing men's apparel, etc. There is and should be a very bold line between femininity and masculinity, and there has always been UNTIL RECENTLY. I, for one, enjoy being a feminine women who is loved, protected, cherished, adored, provided for, and honored in my home as the wife of a masculine man, the mistress of my home, and the mother of my babies. "When I have a brand new hairdo, with my eyelashes all in curls, I float as the clouds on air do; I enjoy being a girl..."