Horror AND Social Commentary? The Stepford Wives

The 1975 version of The Stepford Wives is a science fiction horror film based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin. The basic plot of the movie is that a group of men devise the ultimate plan to control women. The men create robot duplicates of their wives, which have no free will whatsoever and succumb to a life of domestic servitude.

In the movie, Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) and her family move to Stepford, Connecticut to escape their hectic life in New York City. Upon arriving in Stepford, Joanna and her new friend, Bobbie (Paula Prentiss) notice that the wives of Stepford all seem to be perfect housewives devoid of intellectual interests. Joanna and Bobbie become suspicious, especially when the last “free” wife suddenly changes into a devoted housewife who gives up her beloved tennis court and her maid. They start investigating, even going so far as checking the town’s water for biochemical contaminants. Eventually, Bobbie is changed as well and Joanna, after discovering that Bobbie is now a robot, tries to flee the town with her children, who are nowhere to be found. Joanna ends up at the mansion that plays home to the Stepford Mens’ Association, where she finds her replacement robot and is, presumably, killed by the robot.

In my paper, I’d like to discuss how the changing role of women in contemporary society coupled with apprehensions about technology in the 70s helped to shape the creation of  the horror film The Stepford Wives, a genre film with substance.

Three possible topic sentences for my essay are as follows:

1) Changes in the fashion industry in the late 60s and early 70s worked to form the binary for the preferred women’s’ body type within the film as well as an understanding of fashion as a societal norm.

2) In Stepford, men considered the archetypal woman the ideal. The liberated women of the early 70s stood as potential threats to the patriarchal order in their outspokenness, aggressiveness and career drive.

3) The abuse of scientific and technological knowledge by the husbands of Stepford suggests a sense of apprehension about the possibilities stemming from the rise in technological advances at the time.

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