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the market parking lot

In her immaculate kitchen she said, “Yes I’ve changed. I realized I was being awfully sloppy and self-indulgent. It’s no disgrace to be a good homemaker. I’ve decided to do my job conscientiously, the way Dave does his, and to be more careful about my appearance. Are you sure you don’t want a sandwich?”

Joanna shook her head. “Bobbie,” she said.  “I—Don’t you see what’s happened? Whatever’s around here—it’s got you, the way it got Charmaine.”

Bobbie smiled at her. “Nothing’s got me,” she said. “There’s nothing around. That was a lot of nonsense. Stepford’s a fine, healthy place to live.”

from The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin

 

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it was only late in life that i realized this film was a speciesist objectification of robots.

“Stepford wife” is one of those labels I have used without knowing exactly where it came from or what it originally meant. To me it generally means “cookie-cutter wife,” or “tries too hard to be perfect,” or maybe just, “has big boobs and I don’t like her.” Then I actually read the Ira Levin book and saw the original movie.*

1. The genre is horror/science fiction, not pop fiction or comedy. Though it can be funny in places.

2. The narrative arc has more to do with women and friendship than marriage. Joanna, the main character, moves out to the suburbs and is thrilled to find a thoughtful friend, a woman named Bobbie. Joanna and Bobbie make life worth living for each other, until (spoiler alert) Bobbie is murdered and replaced with a robot.

3. There’s a running feminist gag unfolding at the same time, a parody of gender roles, housework, advertising, and consumer conformity. It’s an interesting little wedge on the feminist “wheel of fortune.” Ever spinning.

4. Finally, the husbands have formed a civic men’s club, like the Elks (Connecticut version), and they are actually killing their wives. When the wife is out of the way, the club replaces her with a robot who never, ever acts like a bitch. The robot wife considers sexual intercourse a daily delight. (like I said, horror/science fiction)

* The 2004 remake does not have anything to do with this discussion. I didn’t see it and only know that either Naomi Watts or Nicole Kidman was the star. Here end (my) thoughts on the remake.

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