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.
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.