Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club
The Stepford Wives (1972)
10 Wow! Don't miss it
8-9 Highly recommended
5-6 Mild recommendation
3-4 Take your chances
1-2 Below average; skip it
0 Get out the flamethrower!
U Unfinishable or unreadable
- Skipped or no rating given
Ira Levin - The Stepford Wives
This is a skillfully written thriller. It moves at a good pace, yet includes enough mundane detail to build the tension slowly, as well as to make a point about how difficult it is to find satisfaction in everyday activities. For most of the book, it is easy to believe that Joanna's feelings of discontent with her day-to-day life are causing her to imagine everything. Unlike the film versions, the novel leaves this ambiguous right through the end.
More importantly, Levin uses the thriller plotline to frame some wonderful social commentary. This includes not just the obvious issues of feminism, but also some less obvious points: Joanna's feelings of guilt about her career, and not being as devoted to her home and family as the other Stepford wives; the assertion that men who have more progressive ideas about women are in fact simply less honest; the danger that two-career marriages will inevitably prevent spouses from paying each other enough attention. While our society has answered the central "women's lib" question of whether it's all right for women to have careers, these less obvious issues remain very relevant.
Today, for example, Joanna's guilt at not being a great homemaker can cut both ways. Women who have successful careers are made to feel badly about not devoting more time to their families, while women who are great homemakers are made to feel guilty about not being ambitious career women. And commonly, women themselves impose these unrealistic standards. What the men did to their wives in The Stepford Wives, women now often do to themselves, right down to augmenting their breasts to conform to an absurd ideal of beauty.
The folks in Hollywood who did the recent uninspired remake of The Stepford Wives missed a great opportunity. To update the story, it should be the wives in Stepford who, to their husbands' horror, willingly replace themselves with perfect robots.What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to
The Stepford Wives (1975) - movie
115 minutes. Fadsin Cinema Associates/Columbia. Screenplay by William Goldman. Directed by Bryan Forbes.
Starring: Katharine Ross (Joanna Eberhart), Paula Prentiss (Bobbie Markowe), Peter Masterson (Walter Eberhart), Nanette Newman (Carol Van Sant), Tina Louise (Charmaine Wimperis)
In addition, there's made-for-TV movies: Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980), The Stepford Children (1987), and The Stepford Husbands (1996)
Silver Anniversary Edition DVD cover (left)
The Stepford Wives (2004) - movie
93 minutes, Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Paul Rudnick. Directed by Frank Oz.
Starring: Nicole Kidman (Joanna Eberhart), Matthew Broderick (Walter Kresby), Bette Midler (Bobbie Markowitz), Glen Close (Claire Wellington), Christopher Walken (Mike Wellington), Faith Hill (Sarah Sunderson)