In one of our conversations this week about Fahrenheit, the students were amazed at the shallowness of the women in Part II talking about their two-dimensional, passionless, superficial relationships with their children and many husbands. I mentioned that the scene was like watching The Stepford Wives.
The students had never heard of The Stepford Wives before. Since Fahrenheit 451 is a book which uses many allusions, I thought why not introduce one more and shared excerpts from the 1974 movie with them. When Katherine Ross discovers her bedroom replicated in the mansion where the Men’s Association meets (the organization responsible for the replacement of the wives–her husband a member, by the way) and then discovers her robotic double who after combing her hair walks toward her with the scarf that will eventually strangle her; and yes, at the end when the Stepford wives are walking down the aisles of the grocery store having all been converted into submissive automatons, I was still chilled to the bone 35 years after seeing this movie for the first time.
Certainly the feminist aspects of the original movie (not the 2004 remake) are not as stressed or carefully examined as they might have been, but the movie’s point is still hard-hitting and difficult to watch. The notion that this suburban group of unenlightened men would prefer the complacent, unthinking, non-controversial, mindless, docile, conformist, subservient robot doubles to their vital, spirited, willful, talented, assertive, self-assured, intelligent, and creative wives was and still is scarier than any horror film I have ever seen since. Chilling and utterly disturbing.
And then I read today that yesterday afternoon Phyllis Schlafly (remember her and her stand against the ERA in the 70s?), endorsed Michele Bachman, citing Bachman’s Christian and family values, her anti-abortion and same sex marriage stands. Schlafly, now 87 and still anti-feminist said, ”I hope you will take advantage of this golden opportunity to support a candidate we can all be proud of.” There is some irony here in endorsing a candidate for the highest office in the land while simultaneously espousing more traditional roles and priorities for women.
Maggie Astor continued in her report in the International Business Times that last August Michele Bachman said that she “had gotten a post-doctorate degree in tax law at her husband’s request, even though she didn’t want to: ‘ “Tax law? I hate taxes. Why should I go into something like that? But the lord says, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.”
But it was the cover of Newsweek that clinched it for me. A Stepford wife indeed! No question about it. Run! Run! Run for your lives! To the nearest polling place to vote for a candidate of reason, compassion, and intelligence with strong feminist and humanistic values.
Below is the last scene from Stepford Wives.