The universally panned Stepford Wives probably isn’t worth more ink from InkWell than The Other Charlotte and I have already given it. (See my The Stepford Wives: It’s Really All about George W. Bush and TOC’s More Brigadoon Than Stepford on June 23.) But just one last comment: TOC points out that the movie’s snobbish Stepford, Conn., and its robotic, Lilly Pulitzer-clad, mercilessly groomed wives might have reminded us of a real suburb 50 years ago, but now:
“[T]his world of dutiful wives who bake cookies and try to devise clever ways to use pine cones in their Christmas decorations is about as real to us as Brigadoon. That’s why ‘The Stepford Wives’ ceases to be really funny once the couple leaves Manhattan. The movie becomes a joke about a fantasy world.”
But there’s an inadvertent double irony at work here. The heroine, New York television exec Joanna Eberhard (Nicole Kidman), clad in severe black career togs and dishing out irony, is supposed to be the one real and believable contemporary woman in this world of overly feminine automatons. Trouble is, fashions have changed, and the pastel Lilly Pulitzer clothing palette and all its ladylike accoutrements are now hot again. Even in New York (and I was there last weekend), the most glamorous young ladies sport pink and aqua flowered skirts, dainty high heels, and tiny handbags reminiscent of the 1950s. It’s Joanna in her black sheath who looks drab and out of style–so 90s!–in “The Stepford Wives” and the wives themselves who look thrillingly colorful. Another reminder of how dated the rad-feminist sensibility is these days, with its glib assumptions that a nose-to-the-grindstone career is the only acceptable option for a woman.
The movie is not only more Brigadoon than Stepford; it’s more “Handmaid’s Tale” (Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood’s dyspeptic take on Reagan’s America) than Stepford. Trouble is that Ronald Reagan is back in style, too.