Androids and (anti-)feminism in The Stepford Wives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Since the early days of cinema the creation of artificial life with its various implications has been a popular topic on screen. Amongst the large number of films that deal with the theme of androids Bryan Forbes’ "The Stepford Wives" (1975) is noticeable for its focus on questions of gender and the relationship between the sexes. The film is set in a contemporary small suburban town where frustrated husbands have found a special way of dealing with their emancipated wives by replacing them with docile life-like robots. Mixing elements of the thriller and horror genres with farce and comedy "The Stepford Wives" was the first American mainstream film to deal explicitly with Women’s Lib. Unlike Ira Levin in his much more ambivalent novel that the film was based on, Forbes and his actors deliberately set out to make a feminist satire, and according to some critics succeeded in producing an important document of second wave feminism which soon acquired cult status. However, it also provoked a number of negative reactions from feminists who were very uncomfortable with a film in which men get away with murdering the female population of an entire town. A closer inspection reveals that the satirical element of the film is indeed not prominent and frequently counteracted, at times facilitating a misogynist rather than a feminist interpretation. This is mainly due to the ending of the film which implies the murderous elimination of the female protagonist. Unlike all other cinematic and literary works that feature androids "The Stepford Wives" shows the successful creation of artificial life which does not backfire. In addition, the film which clearly categorises itself as a thriller and horror movie, and specifically alludes to the tradition of threatened yet strong female characters in these genres, at the same time defies this convention in favour of a seemingly misogynist ending. Thus the way in which "The Stepford Wives" refuses to comply with the traditions of both the android theme and the horror genre, involuntarily serves to undermine its intention as a feminist social satire.
Translated title of the contributionAndroids and (anti-)feminism in The Stepford Wives
LanguageGerman
Pages209-233
Number of pages25
JournalAmsterdamer Beiträge zur Neueren Germanistik
Volume59
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Fingerprint

Wives
Feminism
Artificial Life
Satire
Misogynist
Farce
Robot
Novel
Husbands
Literary Works
Female Characters
Movies
Suburban
Cult Status
Cinema
Waves
Comedy
Protagonist
Intentions

Bibliographical note

Copyright of Rodopi

Keywords

  • cinema
  • artificial life
  • androids
  • Bryan Forbes
  • The Stepford Wives
  • gender
  • relationship
  • sexes
  • Ira Levin
  • feminist satire
  • feminism
  • feminist social satire

Cite this

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abstract = "Since the early days of cinema the creation of artificial life with its various implications has been a popular topic on screen. Amongst the large number of films that deal with the theme of androids Bryan Forbes’ {"}The Stepford Wives{"} (1975) is noticeable for its focus on questions of gender and the relationship between the sexes. The film is set in a contemporary small suburban town where frustrated husbands have found a special way of dealing with their emancipated wives by replacing them with docile life-like robots. Mixing elements of the thriller and horror genres with farce and comedy {"}The Stepford Wives{"} was the first American mainstream film to deal explicitly with Women’s Lib. Unlike Ira Levin in his much more ambivalent novel that the film was based on, Forbes and his actors deliberately set out to make a feminist satire, and according to some critics succeeded in producing an important document of second wave feminism which soon acquired cult status. However, it also provoked a number of negative reactions from feminists who were very uncomfortable with a film in which men get away with murdering the female population of an entire town. A closer inspection reveals that the satirical element of the film is indeed not prominent and frequently counteracted, at times facilitating a misogynist rather than a feminist interpretation. This is mainly due to the ending of the film which implies the murderous elimination of the female protagonist. Unlike all other cinematic and literary works that feature androids {"}The Stepford Wives{"} shows the successful creation of artificial life which does not backfire. In addition, the film which clearly categorises itself as a thriller and horror movie, and specifically alludes to the tradition of threatened yet strong female characters in these genres, at the same time defies this convention in favour of a seemingly misogynist ending. Thus the way in which {"}The Stepford Wives{"} refuses to comply with the traditions of both the android theme and the horror genre, involuntarily serves to undermine its intention as a feminist social satire.",
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Androiden und (Anti)feminismus in The Stepford Wives. / Gremler, Claudia.

In: Amsterdamer Beiträge zur Neueren Germanistik, Vol. 59, 2006, p. 209-233.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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