Feminism, Pygmalion and the Stepford Wives

1960, the world of women (especially American women) was limited in very many aspects, from the workplace to family life. American women who were employed in 1960 were largely restricted to jobs such as being nurses, teachers or secretaries. Women were in general not welcome in professional fields. Friedan’s work, The Feminine Mystique, captured and detailed the lives of quite a number of housewives from across the United States in the late 1950s to the early 1960s who felt trapped in their marriages (The Feminine Mystique, 1963: I).

Friedan’s work had such a huge impact that it re-ignited the American feminist movement. Ira Levin’s novella, The Stepford Wives, is basically a social satire which is a little bit horror, a little bit spooky, was written and published during the “second wave” of feminism in the United States (Wulandari). The Stepford Wives is a novel that takes the reader through the life of Joanna, a white, thin, upper-middle class New York City housewife and liberated young woman. She reluctantly moves to Stepford, upper class suburbs with a husband, who is a lawyer, and their two daughters. While in Stepford, she wrestles with conflicts over her roles as a mother, wife and a freelance photographer. Joanna becomes then becomes wary and alarmed by the fanaticism of a majority of the Stepford wives who attend to each of their household chores and give in to their husband’s every whim and demand. Through The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin beautifully gives us the bigger picture about what women really needed during the second wave of feminism. In the novel, the Stepford husbands neither give nor allow liberation and empowerment of their wives. Men ridicule women who try to liberate themselves and break free from the shackles of patriarchal power (Wulandari).

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Literature Review

The Stepford Wives is basically a novella that describes the effects and conditions of the Second wave of the American feminism movement in during the 1960s through to seventies. The Stepford Wives (1972) by Ira Levin takes the reader through the life of a young, upper-middleclass woman named Joanna Eberhart who moves together with her young family to Stepford Connecticut. Even though Joanna is a housewife, she enjoys freelance photography which is a passion and hobby of hers and seeks to turn it into a paying career. When she gets to the new neighborhood, she meets and converses with a lady in the Welcome Wagon. She talks to the lady specifically since she wants her to draft an article for the local paper to organize a meeting between her and other liberated open minded women (Wulandari).

While in Stepford, Joanna’s husband, a lawyer named Walter, joins the local Men’s association. Joanna manages to talk to the Men’s association when her husband gets to host the Men’s association committee in his house. Joanna conveys her idea of organizing Parent and Teachers forums in one of the local schools’ auditorium to the association’s president Dale “Diz” Coba, and other influential members such as Frank Roddenberry, Herb Sundersen, and Claude Anselm. She tells about how such forums would assist the Stepford community to talk and listen to each other concerning issues affecting their welfare. Unfortunately when the forums come to be, they are attended by very few people; about a dozen men and nine women. Joanna then talks to two of her best friends, Charmaine Wimperis and Bobbie Markowe about her idea to start a local Women’s Association. This association’s aim is to meet and discuss women’s roles and responsibilities, if any, in the household and the desire of the local area women to define their own paths in life, especially career-wise. But the group becomes almost a complete failure. Things are then further worsened when Charmaine and Bobbie get back from their holiday travels with their husbands and turn into submissive wives. Joanna then gets to see the pattern of how things started to change in Stepford immediately after Betty Friedan came to talk with the local Women’s club about six years earlier, after the publication of her book ‘The Feminine Mystique’ (Levin, 1972:39). After a short while she gets to learn everything when she seeks counsel from her chemist ex-boyfriend. Eventually she realizes that the local Men’s association is behind the plot to change women. The men, with the help of the association’s chairman, a bachelor named Dale “Diz” Coba (who used to work at Disneyland as a figurine creator), are killing their wives and replacing their bodies with almost indistinguishable robots (Wulandari).

The marriage between Joanna and Walter enters to shaky grounds when they argue about their two missing daughters. In an attempt to find her daughters, Joanna has an idea that Bobbie, her friend might care for her children. Instinctively, Joanna stabs Bobbie with a knife so as to prove she is human, however she becomes even further worried with her friend Bobbie’s behavior when she does not shed any blood or writhe in pain. Instead she begins an odd mechanical routine, which makes Joanna conclude that she has also turned into a robot. At this point she assumes that naturally she would be the next victim. However, Joanna casts away her fear and sneaks into the Men’s association mansion in an attempt to find her children. Whilst in the mansion, she finds Dale “Diz” Coba, the mastermind of the entire operation. The last chapter of the book narrates the struggles of Joanna as she tries to rescue and escape with her two children. However, she fails and is eventually captured, killed and replaced by a robot like the other women. The novel ends with a conversation between Ruthanne and Joanna at the supermarket. Joanne is depicted in this part as looking marvelous and acting perfectly (Wulandari).

Best Wives Are Artefacts? Popular Cybernetics and Robot Women in the 1970s

In ‘The Stepford Wives’ (USA, 1975) movie, based on Ira Levin’s 1972 novel of the same name, cyborg and android themes are met by feminist’ ideas on gender, power and technology. The main protagonist, Joanna Eberhart, played by Katherine Ross, moves from Manhattan, New York to Stepford, Connecticut, with her husband Walter (a lawyer), a character played by Peter Masterson, their two daughters, and a family dog. There is something off in Stepford and Joanna doesn’t like it there; apparently all women seem like the perfect feminine homemakers and their husbands and other men gather every night at the local Men’s association, when not at work at the town’s bio-tech and computer corporations. Walter states that all the important people of Stepford are members of the association, including, the police and fire chiefs, the TV executives, the psychologists, the head of the hospital and the head of the telephone company. The Men’s Association is headed by a president named Dale Coba (a part acted in the movie by Patrick O’Nal), who is nicknamed “Diz,” a nickname based on Disney, where he was formerly employed (Paasonen).

In the movie remake, the robot wives are portrayed in Victorian era dress and hairstyles, complete with vacant gestures, realistic looks, and submissive displays portraying conventional femininity and an unusual obsession with appearances and cleaning. These women, though picture-perfect, are consumerists and emotionally void – in the movie the thriller/terror aspect is based on the fact that the wives look very realistic/human yet they are not. This is because husbands have murdered their wives and replaced them with robots that are more ‘convenient’. The Robot wives are monstrosities as unnatural constructions trying to emulate human beings, however their husbands as similarly boundary figures who are emotionally void, and therefore ‘not quite human’-based on the fact that emotions, interiority, and empathy are conventionally thought to be the markers of one’s humanity (in comparison to machines which lack them) (Turkle; Williams).

The image portrayed in this movie of “wife-as-a-robot-servant” is quite similar to the issues that were argued by Betty Friedan in her powerful and influential 1963 work, The Feminine Mystique, in which she investigates and discusses the frustrations of middle-class American homemakers and housewives (“the problem that has no name”).. According to Friedan, in the period after the Second World War, the feminine mystique – a set of beliefs which stated that true feminine fulfillment was only to be found in ‘motherhood, domestic chores, and most importantly marriage’ was created by popular psychology, media (particularly women’s magazines), educational systems, and expert literature (Paasonen). Friedan’s sentiments are greatly demonstrated in one such article – the 1960 Ladies’ Home Journal: which details how a woman sits on a pale aqua sofa and gazes out at the street. Despite it being very early in the morning she is wearing powder, lipstick and rouge. Freidan then states how this particular woman proudly announces that by 8:30 A.M., when her youngest child would have gone to school, her whole house will already be neat and clean and she is dressed for the day (Friedan, p.63).

This depiction is almost similar to Ira Levin’s portrayal of “new Bobbie.” She states in her book that Bobbie is in an immaculate living room and her cushions are all fluffed, the woodwork is gleaming, the magazines are fanned on the polished table top behind the sofa. Joanna notes the way Bobbie looked on Sunday-all beautiful, face-made up, and hair done (Levin p.129).

This depiction of smiling empty passivity (Friedan 1983, p.64) is of a woman who commits or dedicates her life to her husband, home, and children and is obsessed by her attractive feminine looks. This is the kind of woman who is the ideal subject of modern women magazines that define women through their exclusively female interests in nursing, romance, clothes, home furnishing, and early and lasting marriage. Domestic chores such as cooking and cleaning became not only the occupation of a housewife but also a sort of religion, because they were perceived as the fulfillment of women’s inner drives and natural roles, as defined by their natural biological role of reproduction, noted Friedan. Yet another crucial element of the feminine mystique is consumerism: the perfect housewife is a passionate consumer who buys home goods endlessly and gains some form of satisfaction from doing so (Friedan, p.206 — 208; Bowlby, p.199 — 200).

In The Stepford Wives, women shop neatly and systematically; they also discuss and consume goods with huge interests and satisfaction. According to Mary Anne Doane, in her article on representations of the feminine and technology, she argues that The Stepford Wives suggests that feminism is only required strictly within the Sci-Fi nightmare in which husbands kill and turn their wives into robots; she sees its portrayal of the machine-woman as boring and commonplace. For Doane, movies that go beyond the normal and approach the machine-woman theme in unique and interesting ways, are those that concentrate on technology and the maternal. This work by Doane is however not spot on, since the depictions of the maternal in The Stepford Wives can also be perceived as cynical, evasive or even both: the majority of the women turned into robots are mothers, yet the reactions of their children to these turn of events is simply regarded as a non-issue. The inference is that the mother is basically fundamental to the existence of both her children and the husband -t his is quite similar to comments made by one of the Friedan’s interviewees (p.74): that her mother had no family role except cleaning the house. Moreover, the children are not portrayed as agents of any kind, rather they are only shown riding the school bus, running around on the lawn, or being groomed by their mothers. Children are not any more significant than the women in the film, in terms of being portrayed as human. Ira Levin’s work suggests that children appreciate their mother’s transformed version as domestic robots. Bobbie’s son Jonny conveys his satisfaction to Joanna, that her mother no longer shouts, and that she prepares hot breakfasts and he hopes it will last (Levin, p.141 — 142).

The movie can be perceived as a portrayal of an experimental sample of an upper-middle class community where both “feminine mystique” and feminist understandings of the gendered power and labor relations coexist within the family. The “feminine mystique” as applied by the Men’s Association, sees women as passive and obedient servants with a love for home-making and no other interests beyond. Because the wives are not willing to comply with these ideals, the association decides to solve the problem using high technology. ‘Stepford Wives’ shows men as the decision-makers and that the (robot) wives’ duty is simply to comply. As Freidan’s study shows, the kitchen is the core of women’s lives; these kinds of women do not leave their homes except for duties such as shopping, chauffeuring their children, or attending social engagements with their men (Friedan, p.17). The machine-wives (robot) can easily be seen as embodiments of Freidan’s feminine mystique, because as machines they do not experience the lack of excitement, content or challenge in their lives; they do not complain of lacking personality, not feeling alive or feeling incomplete; they do not compensate utilizing sleeping pills, tranquilizers, or eating and drinking excessively; neither do they develop psychotic conditions, unlike the real flesh and blood housewives that were interviewed by Friedan (p.20 — 22, 234 — 235, 251 — 252; also discussed in Bowlby 2000, p.200 — 202). When the president of the men’s association remarks to Joanna that the solution they found is just perfect, this may be interpreted not merely as a Sci-Fi nightmare but also as an original and ironic cinematic solution to “the problem that has no name” (Paasonen)

The novel and film are both superficial in the ways they address the gender question. In spite of everything it proposes, as Rachel Bowlby (2000, p.201) notes, The Stepford Wives offers very little motivation or drive for the male desire to kill and transform their wives, inferring that men are naturally misogynist and anti-feminist. In The Stepford Wives, the women who conform to the feminine stereotype are man-made; however men acting out of equivalent male stereotypes are also real. Yet, I am not ready, quite like Doane to categorize this work as banal, portraying ideal housewives as non-human and abnormal, and their patronizing husbands as monstrous in their lack of emotions/affections and readiness to turn their wives into servant-robots. The Stepford Wives takes the gendered division of labor model to extremes and brings about an alienating effect. In both the novel and the film, Joanne is the protagonist and it is from her point-of-view that the story is narrated; it is her reactions that both viewers and the audiences witness. The “inner life” or motivations of her husband are not shown or discussed, and therefore he remains a dangerous alien to her, denying their nuclear family unit the sense of normalcy, and turning it into a site of work, abuse, and compulsive repetition. In contrast to the film, Levin’s book utilizes The Feminine Mystique as a direct inter-text: Both Joanne and Bobbie are members of National Organization for Women (NOW), a body in which Friedan was a long-time president. According to a local newspaper article, at least fifty women applauded Mrs. Friedan as she discussed the frustrations and inequities facing the contemporary housewife (Levin, p.37, 62 — 63, 90). Apart from the references to Friedan, the novel is also, as Rachel Bowlby (2000, p.199) put it, filled with quite a number of other references to other prominent feminists such as Kate Millet, Simone de’Beauvoir, and Gloria Steinem. However, it is Friedan’s model or version of feminism that the novel supports and promotes by portraying the main protagonists as combining creative careers with motherhood plus being “naturally feminist” until they are replaced by machines that embody the feminine mystique. Moreover, as Bowlby noted, many of Friedan’s themes – such as critique of psychoanalysis, women’s movement, and mutation of sex into the perverted “pseudo-sex” depicted in the novel by rubber fetishes and masturbation-reappear quite a number of times in the novel, most of the times in hyperbole (Bowlby, p.199 — 200.)

Perfect Workers

The Stepford Wives are both household machines and domestic servants. The term robots is used as a generic representative of the service-class, deriving from a Slavic word (“rabotnik”) for worker or even forced labor (Halberstam, p.468). As Alexandra Chasin (1995) noted, the classed, raced, and gendered category of servants is located on the boundary between humans and objects, us and them. The instrumental subjected social position and function of servants, just as their undervalued field of domestic work, has resulted in comparisons between slaves, servants, robots, and non-humans. Chasin (p.81 — 83) correlates this crossing and drawing of boundaries with a broader cultural move of portraying technology as anthropomorphic, in contrast to human labor which is increasingly being defined in terms of machines-despite the fact that in both cases the human categories are clearly gendered and classed. As Chasin further notes, the main issue is not about the differences between humans and non-humans, based on the fact that the inclusion of the females in the former category has never been given, but instead it is about the ways in which the dependence of social interactions on a service being is left untouched and unquestioned (Chasin, p.84 — 85)

When addressing the issue of feminine housewife mystique, Friedan continuously crossed the blurred boundaries between women and objects/things. She, at one time, compared nineteenth century perceptions that women were animal-like and irrational creatures to the 1950s housewife literature, and refuted that, claiming instead that women are human beings too and not animals or stuffed dolls (Friedan, p.67). Friedan’s core argument for gender equality was anchored on women’s humanity, and as a matter-of-fact women have become the human sex that has been excluded from this category, or at least accused of not being fully human, and liking more of the material world of possessions, objects, and nature (Butler, p.81 — 82). However, Friedan’s proposition for the acknowledgement of women as humans does not take into consideration the workings of class, sexuality, or race, leaving the category of women to represent only white heterosexual middle class women. Rachel Bowlby (p.202) is also of the same opinion, as she argues that in The Stepford Wives only middle-class housewives are turned into robot-servants. This implies that the risk of being turned does not face working women or domestic servants, yet a direct emphasis is being made on Ruth (an African-American woman) who is facing a fate similar to that of Bobbie and Joanne (Paasonen).

Apart from functioning as the perfect domestic workers, the machine-wives (similar to the ideal wives being portrayed in Betty Friedan’s work), are also ever-ready and willing sexual slaves to their “masters.” The machine-wives being portrayed as the perfect love dolls is a recurring theme in many literary and cinematic fictions, inferring both the desirability of man-made technological objects and the mechanistic nature of desirable sexual acts and femininity. In The Stepford wives, the body of the machine-wife is for all intents and purposes the property of the husband and modeled to satisfy and please him in a nature similar to that of futuristic sex-model robots in Futureworld (1976) and Westworld (1973), films with narratives about theme parks where sex between female and male robots is one of the main attractions. As one of the visitors to these theme parks puts it in Futureworld; once one gets a robot chick, he will not want anything else. Similar to Hadaly, the perfect machine female in the novel by Villier de l’Isle Adam’s (1880), these robot-driven wives are defined as better than originals, as the perfect and heterosexual love object (embodiment of La Femme). In such kinds of fictions, the desirable femininity is perceived as a computer programmable set of gestures, responses and sounds that can be produced for male pleasure. It also implies that the ultimate satisfying woman is indeed a robot love-object and that ideal wives can be built/engineered (Paasonen)

As Anna Kugovoy Silver and Elyce Rae Helford have shown, the initial versions of The Stepford Wives were based on ideas that came from the “second wave of feminism.” The same way Ira Levin’s narrative uses feminist arguments on the domination of women in modern American patriarchy, it also in a way satirizes the resulting male backlash against feminism and feminists, showing masculine nostalgia for ‘the old days’ where men were men and women became what the men decreed them to be (Williams). Interestingly however, the film brought about hostility from two prominent viewers who might have been expected to have been more sympathetic; Pauline Kael and Betty Friedan. Friedan’s 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, had attempted to delineate the suffering that middle class women who were almost completely in domestic existence underwent, however she walked out of a screening that was organized by a number of feminist writers. She is quoted as saying that she thought everyone should leave the screening and that they should not help publicize the movie, terming it (the movie) as a rip-off of the women’s feminist movement (Silver p.111).

The ‘living robots’ of the 1st Stepford Wives were therefore products of those times, and their gothic narrative based on very old assumptions about female inferiority and difference. Between the years 1975 and 2004 however, the liberal feminism proposed by Friedan had been challenged by several people for failing to acknowledge that the subjection of women was typically a white middle class occurrence (Williams). By the 1990S the term post-feminsism had started to appear in print. In the mainstream media, it was often used as a short-hand dismissal, that implied that we have moved beyond feminism either because all its objectives have been met and thus it is no longer necessary, or because women have realized that the feminist pledge that women could “have it all” is a delusion and that the women who fully believed in it, eventually found themselves miserable. However, feminists themselves use the word “post-feminism” in a completely different way, as a term meaning that the feminist analysis has moved beyond binary structures such as female/male or whore/virgin, the binary options in which the liberal feminism, like the Gothic is rooted (Williams).

Frank Oz’s movie, the Stepford Wives, moves towards an understanding that can be demonstrated by versions of feminism over the last thirty years: the idea of whether women have been culturally programmed into passive, domestic roles, the reasoning that female/male binary then necessitates that men be programmed to carry out the opposite of that female role. The Stepford husbands have been taught (culturally programmed) to expect certain things or actions from their wives, and have the ability to wield cultural power to enforce those expectations. However, I think that Walter’s (Joanna’s husband) refusal to take part in Joanna’s second transformation is intended to suggest that both genders may ultimately escape the confinements of gender (Williams).

A Feminist Perspective to Pygmalion: George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

Bernard Shaw wrote the Pygmalion in the year 1912. The title of this book refers to the myth about a sculptor, Pygmalion, who sculpted and then fell in love with an amazing statue and whose love enabled or powered the marble to become an actual living woman, named Galatea. Shaw’s basic narrative concerns an equally imaginative language professor Higgins, who turns a gutter flower girl into a lady able to pose as a duchess (Lihua). Pygmalion became very popular all across Europe and was soon turned into a play. Despite the writer’s objection, the ending was interpreted and conveyed romantically by both the actors on stage and the audience. The audiences have quite a number of reasons to be satisfied with the happy ending, because the play is based on another popular fiction — the story of Cinderella. In that Cinderella narrative, a poor but virtuous young girl is transformed for just a night by a fairy godmother and she meets her prince charming at a ball and thus becomes a princess in truth (Lihua).

Pygmalion, instead has brought about this romantic tale into a more possible or practical one. The ending, as might have been expected by the audience, is that Eliza Marrys Higgins and settles down with him, even doing small tasks such as fetching his slippers. This makes the male audience feel so satisfied that they feel as if they have re-established the original world order again (Lihua).

The plot is about the creation of a woman, in which man is the creator and the father, and the woman is perceived as a child, to be rebuked and rebuilt by man. From the start of the play, one can see the unequal relationship between males and females: males are superior and females are inferior. In Act 1, the two protagonists are presented. One can easily see the difference: the man, the language professor, is from the upper class, whereas the flower girl only appears as a “creature” with distinguishing markers of the lower class society. Moreover, the professor expresses his own moral values and through his lectures he hopes to convey his personal version of didacticism (Lihua).

The position of the woman is without a doubt at its lowest. In Professor Higgins eyes, the woman is only a “baggage,” “a creature” and “an impudent slut.” In Act 2, when Eliza (the professor’s housemaid) comes from her elocution classes, the professor orders her to take all her clothes off – making everyone both within and without the play suspect his intentions (Lihua). Throughout the professor does not resort to physical abuse, unless for a singular moment when he totally loses control due to her taunts. He nevertheless bullies Eliza in almost every other way possible (Lihua).From the play we can also see that even though Higgins is depicted as a creator and a father, he is actually even more of a child than Eliza. His ruthlessness, his addiction to his mother, his obsession with building empty social forms, and his coaxing of women the same way a child coaxes a child, show that he is rather quite like an impetuous baby and his attempts to create Eliza turn to be rather those of a child playing at being a parent (Lihua)

Pygmalion myth in Science Fiction Cinema; The Stepford Wives

The robotic/artificial women that are shaped by men based on their dreams, passions, and desires, however this anticipated happy ending can never be reached (OZYOL). In all three movies, men build beautiful artificial young women and want to dominate them. However, in the process of creating these women, that happy ending was never once reached (OZYOL).Pygmalion Myth’s main plot of creation of a perfect woman by man is replicated in many films. My Fair Lady is a fine example of this. This film was adapted from Pygmalion by George Shaw (1936). It is my opinion in this paper that the Pygmalion myth is a plane built by our “unconscious,” which is the storage utilized by the mind for psychological suppression of socially unacceptable desires, wishes, ideas, painful emotions, and traumatic memories (Freud).


Among several feminists approaches, Donna Haraway made an important impact with an article titled “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, technology and socialist feminism in the 1980’s” (1991). According to Donna Haraway, cyborgs cannot fulfill the desire of men since the women will just be copies of the dream itself and not real. Haraway furthermore notes that these cyborgs signify the role or functions of women in the new social relations (OZYOL). The connections between the tool and myth, the concept and instrument, historical anatomies of possible bodies and historical system of social relations are extremely permeable. After all, tool and myth build each other (Haraway, pg. 55).

According to Anne Balsamo, in her articles titled Reading Cyborgs, Writing Feminism (1998) cyborgs from a feminist standpoint are postmodern icons. We are currently living in a world obsessed with “replicating” things, especially industrially, thus reinforcing the patriarchal capitalist society (OZYOL). In spite of all of these, more power, approaches, references, and images based on fear from women are often seen in advertisements, television, art and cinema. Fear and the object on which this fear is based are destined to ultimately be destroyed by the dominating power. In the films the same is true. This Sci-Fi theme ignites a fear about the reproduction of species. The mysterious and dangerous state of human copies is often seen in many science fiction genres (OZYOL). Cyborgs are products of our cultural passions and fears according to Balsamo (Balsamo, pg. 68). Although men expect to live happily ever after with these robot wives (cyborgs) that serve and obey them, we do not see any such indications of happiness in this cinematic depictions (OZYOL).

An artificial woman is much stronger when compared to people; her human look and hence distance from ‘natural, is often viewed in the cinema world particularly in the movie stories, which has a major influence on the masses. The feeling of being natural, or non-crafted, comes from the woman who is thought of as the being one nearest to nature; in this perception there is a very efficient fear component similar to that of possessed kids in movies. The most significant comparison, however, between these androids or cyborgs with real women is their capability to “reproduce” (OZYOL).

In Barbara Creed’s book titled Phallic Panic, the author looks to define who the monsters are in this modern society. She analyses the role of the monsters in cinema; from a feministic view point, this is a modern medium. While discussing the role of female monsters, she chooses to utilize the psychoanalytical perception of Freud. Those women who oppose the symbolic order of men are uncanny “threat” constituents, mostly in the cinematic narrative (OZYOL). The risky existence of women who have the uncanniness to ruin the nest she put up as a female bird is also portrayed in the cinema screen. She is capable of taking back the life she gave. The atrocious feminine is also allied with death. She is responsible for giving life, a child enters into the world from the womb and in her position as Mother Earth, and she takes life back. In her position as the fatal, castrating female, she is also linked with death (Creed, pg. 16).

Woman is characterized mostly as atrocious in the framework of nature and body. This is basically an extension of her practical functions in addition to her capability of reproduction. Similar to the animal body, the human body is always changing. The feminine body transforms during pregnancy. It stores liquids during breastfeeding and eventually there is the production of milk. During menstruation, it bleeds. The feminine body also carries the risk of being compellingly touched because of its physical appearance.

As an atrocious creature, woman is a delight against the language and rules of modernization, apart from the men’s symbolic order, because of their close relation to body and nature. Women are described by men as ‘the other’, and man constantly attempts to remove her from the law of symbolic order (Creed, pg. 132).

This natural force is very disturbing on the social plane, where the patriarchal order we dwell in develops. The opportunity of a woman, who is a representative of the home, to change this familiar gorgeous place to an unfamiliar and eerie one, as well as the woman’s ability to possess such influence are reasons for the feeling of uncanniness. The notion of uncanny is useful when strongly stressing the cultural and social limits which can assist in the establishment of an order. Freud analyses the link of this notion of uncanniness with the subject of home. In this analysis, he draws a conclusion that in the origin of many fears that we possess as humans, there exists this relation with home (Freud). If ‘home’ is considered only as a notion, we can then describe it as protection on the inside than from the outside. Once the door opens, we enter in. That is where it is gorgeous, that is where the empathy and love we desire actually is. Home allows us in, provides warmth and stands as a shelter that we can find food and hide in. It possesses a “mommy” feel- similar to mother, similar to female, similar to womb, and also similar to soil. In each and every movie this thesis talks about, the woman’s womb is a reminder of home and family; hence this is a very controlling force, assisting us in seeing the tragedies caused by the artificial wombs of the Pygmalions (OZYOL).


An article by Mary Ann Doane named Technology, Representation and the Feminine, begins with a chapter titled “The Concept of Body” (2000). The author states that the title of this chapter signifies something limited by its own self, excluding its employment as curves or limbs in movies. Making this “limited” unlimited is a quite an essential component in a patriarchal system. Technological advancements that accompanied industrial revolution, machines and technology which became significant components of our lives had assisted and are still assisting the descriptions of “limited,” “mortal” and “immortal,” “limitless” to come into our lives and oblivious. To live forever implies reinforcing the power you utilized in developing your belief in people’s thoughts even more (OZYOL). The body naturally recaps death and the rotting of flesh which naturally comes after death. Simply put, since the natural is ordained to disappear some day, the desired belief to discover life in the unnatural bodies of “cyborgs” eradicates the risk of disappearing, and hence plays an essential part in carrying this principal belief to the future. In this light, portraying women as threatening components with the image of cyborgs in the history of cinema is very essential within the activities of the existent patriarchal system. Science fiction suggests that if we were go into a new world that is not meant for us, we would wish to explore it. However, it does not take a lot of time for us to recognize that it needs a restriction we don’t have and organs that we lack too (Doane, pg. 110).

The differentiating positioning and recognition based on gender also disclose themselves in various movies which share a similar narrative. Even in “science fiction,” which might be presumed to be the most sexless genre, these differences are ironically obvious. Moreover, it contains a narrative that serves the male wombs, male mothers, the heart of this particular fixation for power and “differentiation.” According to Penley, the latest science fiction movies satisfy the desire for “differences” that are needed in the conventional narration. At the same time, it also assures diversity. Most of the science fiction movies diffuse the fear of men and women as being similar, and attempt to direct the attention away. This assures the diversity (Penley, pg. 205).

Women, nature and machinery resemble one another in various aspects. The most significant aspect, however, is the ‘other’. The notion of ‘other’ amplifies the fear of the male domineering power and control since women’s existence. The key point here is not only about the sexual drive that men have towards women. This is actually a libidinal yearning lying in more gravity related to the creation of the other. In addition, it strengthens the desire to motivate and mange the other. Rotwang, in Metropolis, discovers his dream to generate without having to become a mother, simply by generating a female android. However, he is not able of going beyond that to generate any natural life. He just comes up with embodiment of the nature (Huysen.pg. 240).

According to Stepford Wives, the notion of motherhood shall be another issue resulting in the feeling of worry and weakness in the male characters (OZYOL). Even if it seems like a dream to come up with robots, cyborgs, or any other similar female beings which resemble humans possessing features which are established by males, it is impossible to overlook the fundamental patriarchal notion. Even if the artificial women are structured in the hands of men, they still conserve the uncanny quality that comes along with being a woman (OZYOL).

It is still possible to discover similar themes in Stepford Wives but in a different narration. Stepford men altered their real wives into their copies without any form of reluctance. Surprisingly, this particular situation did not satisfy them, contrary to the anticipation they had formed; this is similar to the way it did not bring satisfaction to the Pygmalions in the other movies (OZYOL). Johanna’s husband Walter, the final victim, symbolizes a poor lad crying with his drink in his hand in the final conversation that he had with his real wife prior to the change. These artificial females staying in very gorgeous houses are “housewives” who symbolize the home notion but in this instance retain their status too. These copies give a hundred percent service to their homes and also to the “boy adults” that they bring to these homes. They, however, commit mistakes since they are robots. Bringing the truth to light, the real women in the crypt are yet to be discovered and they shall bring with them some threats. These real women shall tend to rebel against the men and a war shall commence and eventually the perfect homes and wives that Stepford men assumed to own shall be destroyed by this war (OZYOL).

In accordance with Kernberg, egotistical individuals are very ambitious. Egotism originates from the weaknesses faced by people both because of social powers and their personal nature. On the contrary, egotistical people might have the habit of viewing themselves as unconquerable. Hence, they are hooked to the high regard of the “other” parties so as to protect themselves (Kernberg). Egotistical people are very ambitious concerning themselves; however, on the contrary, they might internally view themselves as mediocre. Hence they are reliant on the applause of the individuals surrounding them so as to gain or to safe-guard their self-worth (Gabbard, Pg. 362).

The dominance of male gaze is spoken about in cinema. The point stated here is not just the ordinariness of male-dominated advances, but also this is facilitated by putting the male creatures in the viewer and the feminine creatures in the viewed position (Mulvey). According to Mulvey, viewing is considered as both a symbol and an essential device of being the desiring dominating focus, while being viewed is a symbol of being the desired and dominated focus. The condition of being out of control normally concerns the definition of women in the eye of men. The current movies should actually disclose that when we come up with robots, we make and at times, un-make beginnings of ourselves (Pyle, pg. 125).

In the usual world of Stepford wives, the real women wait for the coming of their fates in a never-ending sleep within the tubes that produce smoke in the men’s crypt. The fact that the copies of every woman are robots is aligned with the typical traits of the science fiction genre. Another point that requires consideration is that science fiction developed a suitable ground for the recognition of women over robots (OZYOL). Each of these movies develops their “spaces” and the lifestyles in these spaces founded on this. There are certain ways “the alien” can be utilized to program the female experience. Marleen Barr has spoken about the manner in which “the female” in patriarchal community is already viewed as alien: in our culture, which stresses that to be human is to be male, women are perceived as alien (OZYOL). Currently, science fiction is viewed as a very strong device in the reflectance of the female outlook (Roberts, pg. 81). When the issue is looked at from the outlook of gender representation, the monster which is recognized by femininity discloses a very discriminative supposition of how the woman looks (OZYOL).

Stepford Wives, as studied in this thesis, displays apparent signs of the special components of the Pygmalion Myth and Pygmalion-like behaviors. Changes in the creator are also displayed. This cheerful creation procedure results in a very painful change on their behalf and the solitude of the male creators rising with the women is openly seen. Walter, a new occupant of Stepford and a new member of the Men’s Association, experiences a difficult time conversing with his wife, whom he had not yet changed (OZYOL). With tears in his eyes and a drink in his hand, he attempts to convince her to abide by his rules prior to her transformation. Even though Walter is feeling guilty, he can never take back his decision because at that instance, his yearn for power is dominant. As the story of the movie goes on, the signs revealing that Stepford wives are not actually real start being observed through their attitudes, speech, and movement. The male creators associated with them put themselves in similar spots. These artificial females make mistakes, in addition to causing danger to their creators with behaviors that shall disclose this game being played by their creators (OZYOL).

Work Cited

Balsamo, Anne “Reading Cyborgs Writing Feminism,” in The Gendered Cyborg: A ReaderKirkup, Gill Janes, Linda Woodward, Kath, Hovenden Fiona (eds) USA and Canada: Routledge Press, n.d.

Bowlby, Rachel. Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping. London: Faberand Faber, 2000

Butler, Judith. Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Chasin, Alexandra. Class and Its Close Relations: Identities among Women, Servants, and Machines. In J. Halberstam and I. Livingston, eds. Posthuman Bodies. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 73 — 96, 1995.

Creed, Barbara. Phallic Panic: Film, Horror and the Primal Uncanny, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2005.

Creed, Barbara. “The Cyberstar: Digital Pleasures and the End of the Unconscious,” in Turner (ed) The Film Culture Reader, New York: Routledge, pp: 129-134, 2000.

Creed, Barbara. The Monstrous Feminine, USA & Canada: Routledge Press, 1993.

Doanne, Mary Ann.”Technophilia: Technology, Representation and The Feminine” in The Gendered Cyborg: A ReaderKirkup, Gill Janes, Linda Woodward, Kath, Hovenden Fiona (eds) USA and Canada: Routledge Press, pp: 110-122, 2000.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. 2nd ed. New York: Laurel, 1983.

Freud, Sigmund. New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Trans: W.J.H. Sprott, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, INC. Publishers, 1933.

Gabbard, O. Glen-Gabbard. PsikiyatriveSinema, Turkey: OkuyanUs Press, 2001.

Halbestam, Judith. Automating Gender: Postmodern Feminism in the Age of the Intelligent Machine. In P.D. Hopkins, ed. Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,468 — 483, 1998.

Haraway, Donna. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, technology and socialist feminism in the 1980’s” in The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader. Kirkup, Gill Janes, Linda Woodward, Kath, Hovenden Fiona (eds) USA and Canada: Routledge Press, pp: 50-58, 1991.

Huysen, Andres “The Vamp Machine: Technology and Sexuality in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis,” New German Critique #24-25. Winter-Spring: 221-263, n.d.

Kenberg, F. Otto. Agressivity, Narcissism and Self-Destructiveness in the Psychotherapeutic Relationship. London: Yale University Press, 2004.

Lihua, Chen. “A Feminist Perspective of Pygmalion.” Canadian Social Science (2006): 41-44.

Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives. United States: Random House, 1972.

Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives. Greenwich: A Fawcett Crest Book, 1973.

Mulvey, Laura. The Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, pp: 833-844, 1975.

Ozyol, Leyla. Pygmalion Myth in Science-Fiction Cinema: Stepford Wives, Bade Runner, Ghost in the Shell. Masters Thesis: Istanbul, 2012.

Paasonen, Susanna. Bestwives are Artefacts? n.d. Accessed on: 22 July 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/376880/Best_Wives_Are_Artefacts_Popular_Cybernetics_and_Robot_Women_In_the_1970s

Penley, Constance.”Time Treval, Prime Scene and the Critical Dystopia,” J. Donald (ed) in Fantasy and Cinema, London: BFI, Pp: 197-211, 1989.

Pyle, Forest.”Making Cyborgs, Making Humans: of Terminators and Blade Runners,” in D, 2000.

Roberts, Adam.”SF and Gender,” “Women and Aliens,” Science Fiction, USA & Canada: Routledge, pp: 71-84, 2006.

Silver, Anna Krugovoy.”The Cyborg Mystique: The Stepford Wives and Second Wave Feminism.” Arizona Quarterly 58.1: 109 — 26, 2002.

Turkle, Sherry. Romantic Reactions: Paradoxical Responses to the Computer Presence. In J.J. Sheehan and M. Sosna, eds. The Boundaries of Humanity: Humans, Animals, Machines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 224 — 252, 1991.

Villiers de L’Isle-Adam. Tomorrow’s Eve. Robert Martin Adams (trans.), from L’Eve future (1880). Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Williams, Bernard. Prologue: Making Sense of Humanity. In J.J. Sheehan and M.Sosna, eds. The Boundaries of Humanity: Humans, Animals, Machines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 13 — 23, 1991.

Williams, Anne. “The Stepford Wives?: What’s a Living Doll to do in a Post-feminist World?” Brabon, Benjamin and Stephanie Genz. Post-feminist Gothic. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 87-96, 2007.

Wulandari, Adelia. “BOOK REVIEW OF STEPFORD WIVES.”Book Review.n.d.

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