Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Stepford Wives

I watched the 1975 version of this movie last evening and was taken aback by it! I expected it to be a saucy women's tale, a la Desperate Housewives but this was something.
The story runs thus:
A family of 4 moves to Stepford, CT from New York city, to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The husband takes to the place right away, joining the weird men-only organization, and having a good time, whereas the wife starts to feel lonely and disconnected from the women of Stepford, who are the epitome of so-called femininity. They dress in white smock gowns, are always presentable what with makeup and all, and spend all their time baking, cooking, cleaning their houses and taking care of the children. The wife starts to talk to a few of them about forming a women's group that could meet and talk once in a while but finds few takers. She realizes there is something wrong, something amiss about the whole society, and starts to investigate. Meanwhile, the husband is busy attending the secret meetings of the creepy men's organization, and starts to call the men home whenever the wife isn't home. We are also shown that one of the men actually makes a lot of sketches of women, and yet another has a habit of recording women's voices for some 'research'. Cutting a long story short, finally, we learn that the men of the town have actually killed their 'real' wives, and replaced them with perfect robots that only look like the dead women. The robots now represent the perfect wives the men always wanted: beautiful, well dressed (rather matronly), submissive, calm, respectful (rather fawning), devoted to keeping the house sparkly and having a supreme love for all housework. The movie in a sense conveys the message that men want their wives to be like the Victorian woman - one who runs a respectable household, and secures the happiness, comfort and well-being of her family. The movie ends with showing the city-wife also being turned into a bot (called a Gynoid)!
For almost a day after I watched it, the feeling of disgust, anger and fear stayed with me. I kept asking my husband the same question - didn't the men need their better-halves to be cerebral? Didn't they want to have a meaningful conversation with their wives? Would you like a wife who keeps saying `yes' to whatever you say, rather than actually disagree sometimes, and talk about her point of view?
Maybe the depiction of the perfect woman was taken too far in the movie, but I can actually see some 'stepfordian' wives in real life. Possibly the best example of such a phenomenon would be the Bachchan 'bahu'! What a transformation the marriage has caused in the way she talks, dresses, and in general communicates with people! In fact, I feel like the Bachchan 'Khandaan' (huh) does that to its women. Strip them of all their individual talents and emotions, and make them `family bots' who keep saying they are proud to be running the household. Don't get me wrong, I am all for women not being stereotyped into feminists, non-feminists, family types etc, but I also am a BIG proponent of a woman continuing to have a passion for something in life, especially if she used to be one of the top actresses of her time (applies to both Aishwayra and Jaya). You CAN follow your passions AND run an effective household. And the men? The Bachchan men seem to be big chauvinists, killing every iota of creativity left in their women. Someone tell me what Jaya has been doing all this while? Did she really do all the housework in spite of having a bevy of servants at her beck and call? Why do they make women so submissive? How come Abhishek is imposed on us in spite of being a lousy looker, a mediocre actor, and an utterly lousy dancer, whereas we haven't ever heard Shweta speak?
I guess Stepford wives and the Bachchan household give us a clue as to what would happen when men rule the world! And that is why I would say: more power to women!

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