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|“||Stepford is Connecticut's family paradise. It has no crime, no poverty and no pushing.||„|
|~ Mrs. Claire Wellington about the town of Stepford in The Stepford Wives (2004).|
Stepford, also known as Stepford Village, is the idyllic, modern-day suburban Connecticut town in the United States of America and it is home to its iconic and creepily beatific (and bio-mechanical) housewives publicly dubbed the "Stepford Wives. It is the titular main setting of the popular 1972 satirical thriller book by writer Ira Levin as well as of its 1975 science-fiction horror movie The Stepford Wives along with its 1980 made-for-television sequel Revenge of the Stepford Wives and 1987 made-for-TV sequel/remake film called The Stepford Children, of its 1996 TV movie adaptation The Stepford Husbands, and of its 2004 sci-fi horror comedy movie adaption of the same name. This seemingly humble but dangerously very clean township is where all the married men (particularly those consisting the conspiratorial Stepford Men's Association), and their fawning, submissive, impossibly beautiful wives calls this eerie place home, but the town itself represents the very concept of men wanting obedient but mindless women instead of the real thing.
Because of the very thriller novel and its eponymous film adaptions it spawned, Stepford even gave birth to its coined symbolic notion known as "Stepfordization" (which the novel's "Stepford Program" is based on), which is transforming into or creating such a conventional upper-class-like environment populated by materialistic people (who too are "Stepfordized" in some ways) where the men are soulless strivers and the women who are automatons (robots as one can say), therefore the said term is the need of perfecting, the desire to beautify.
Joanna Eberhart, a talented photographer newly arrived from New York City with her husband and 2 children, eager to start a new life. As time goes on, she becomes increasingly disturbed by the zombie-like, submissive Stepford wives, especially when she sees her once independent-minded friends – fellow new arrivals to Stepford – turn into mindless, docile housewives overnight. Her husband, who seems to be spending more and more time at meetings of the local lodge of male citizens called Stepford Men's association, is mocking her fears.
As the story progresses, Joanna becomes convinced that the wives of Stepford are being poisoned or brainwashed into submission by the men's club. She visits the library and reads up on the pasts of Stepford's wives, finding out that some of the women were once feminist activists and very successful professionals, while the leader of the men's club is a former Disney engineer and others are artists and scientists, capable of creating lifelike robots. Her friend Bobbie helps her investigate, going so far as to write to the EPA to inquire about possible environmental toxins in Stepford. However, eventually, Bobbie is also transformed into a docile housewife and has no interest in her previous activities.
At the end of the novel, Joanna decides to flee Stepford, but when she gets home she finds that her children have been taken. She asks her husband to let her leave, but he takes her car keys. She manages to escape from the house on foot, and several of the men's club members track her down. They corner her in the woods and she accuses them of creating robots out of the town's women. The men deny the accusation, and ask Joanna if she would believe them if she saw one of the other women bleed. Joanna agrees to this, and they take her to Bobbie's house. Bobbie's husband and son are upstairs, with loud rock music playing – as if to cover screams. The scene ends as Bobbie brandishes a knife at her former friend. In the story's epilogue, Joanna has become another Stepford wife gliding through the local supermarket, and has given up her career as a photographer, while Ruthanne (a new resident in Stepford) appears poised to become the "perfect" conspiracy's next victim.
In Popular Culture
- The Stepford Cuckcoos, the female characters in the X-Men comics were based partly on the Stepford Wives and also named after the 1957 science-fiction book The Midwich Cuckoos and it's film franchise whose main villains known as "The Children" and their deadly psychic powers the Stepford Cuckcoos were based on).
of Desperate Housewives, Rex Van de Kamp tells his wife, Bree, that he wants a divorce because she is "too Stepford".
- In the Season 11 episode "The Stepford Peg" of the hilarious hit TV sitcom Married... with Children, Magarget "Peggy" Bundy bumps her head on the coffee table after slipping on a candy wrapper, and becomes a stereotypical housewife due to Al Bundy implanting suggestions that Peggy herself does do housework.
- In the 1998 sci-fi horror movie Disturbing Behavior, the film's main villain Dr. Edgar Caldicott developed the clean-cut "Blue Ribbon" program to aid teenage children walk through adolescence he sees as a minefield. Doctor Caldicott shortly took advantage of the broken mindset of the picturesque island town called Cradle Bay in the Washington state's Puget Sound region (due to the bloody 1995 Saturday night car wreck caused by four late drunken senior students of Cradle Bay High School that claimed the lives of Cradle Bay's beloved citizen Mrs. Elaine Bosco and her 8-year son Scottie on the two's way home from the local eating establishment called Roscoe's Yogurt Shoppe as explained by the school janitor Dorian Newberry in the film's TV-edited deleted scene) to test and nearly finishing the Blue Ribbon program with the help of his "Blue Ribboners as well as the aid of his late enigmatic accomplice Officer Cox, though he first tested the program from its very beginning on his own surviving biological daughter Elizabeth "Betty" Caldicott and the group of her ten followed teenagers dubbed "Bishop Flatts 11" (which Caldicott himself calls them his "Children") who are all now locked up at the Bellhop Psychiatric Facility in Bishop Flats, Washington as the unsuccessful result of his misguided experiment.
- In the TV show Desperate Housewives' Season 1, Bree Van de Kamp is said to be running for the "mayor of Stepford" because of her perfection which is why her husband Rex Van de Kamp tels her he wants a divorce. In the pilot episode, her son Andrew Van De Kamp calls her "Stepford Mayor".
- In one episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, there were 3 "perfect" girls in the class, and Moze thinks they are robots.
- In an episode of My Hero, Pierce is asked if it is possible to make the Stepford wives a reality.
- The original American rock band known as The Rainmakers have made a song called "Good Sons and Daughters", from the album Skin that contains the line "Step daughter of a Stepford wife".
- English rock band Radiohead have a song called "Bodysnatchers", that draws major inspiration from the 1975 movie, though the song's name is the popular alias of the Pod People from the 1955 American science fiction horror novel The Body Snatchers . Singer Thom Yorke mentioned the connection when the band premiered the song in Copenhagen on May 6, 2006. It is not the first Radiohead song related to The Stepford Wives. "A Wolf At The Door", the final track on the band's 6th album Hail to the Thief, also contains a reference, "Stepford wives, who are we to complain?"
- Norwegian singer-songwriter Ida Maria has a song called "Cherry Red" (released on her album Katla) whose chorus includes the line, "I wanna be your Stepford wife."
- The term "Stepford wife" has emerged as a form of common usage within the English language and entered the pop culture lexicon along with the name "Stepford" as a popular sci-fi concept after the publication of Levin's novel and it is often generally used as a derogatory term which refers to a submissive and docile wife who seems to conform blindly to the stereotype of an old-fashioned subservient role in relationship to her husband. It is sometimes used in reference to any woman, even an accomplished professional lady, who had subordinated her own life or her very career to her male spouse's interests and who affected submission and devotion to him even in the face of the husband's public problems and disgrace.
- The fictitious community of Stepford like its eponymous novel, serves as the theme of oppression of women under patriarchy; the challenges to established and traditional roles amidst the second wave feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s; the white flight phenomena where Caucasian middle class families abandoned urban areas en masse to rural retreats driven by anxieties over race, drugs, crime etc.; corporations and technological paranoia; allegorical male backlash over perceived challenges such as women’s liberation to authority and power. Underneath that thinly disguised subtext of the novel is a sub-subtext warning that the suburbs suck the humanity out of anyone foolish enough to venture there, replacing even the most vital and progressive individuality with reactionary selfishness and empty-headed conformity.
- In a March 27, 2007 letter to The New York Times, Ira Levin said that he based the town of Stepford on Wilton, Connecticut, where he lived in the '60s. Wilton is a "step" from Stamford, a major city in Connecticut lying 15 miles away.
- Both the 1975 and 2004 versions of the film's titular town were filmed in various towns in Fairfield County, Connecticut, including Redding, Westport, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, and Norwalk. The 1975 version had several locations in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield, including the Eberharts' House and the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. Additional scenes from the 2004 movie were filmed in Bedminster, New Jersey, with extras from surrounding communities.