Let’s start out with how I’m terrible at focusing on research papers. In general, I don’t have a very good time-table when it comes to writing papers. But if I need to have the paper done within a week, week and a half, I don’t slack off that much. When it comes to research papers where I’m given three or more weeks, though, oh boy. I massively procrastinate.
This time around, I broke the paper down into little steps so it didn’t seem so huge (did I talk about this in the last post…). And because I’ve been busy taking care of myself and goofing off, I’m three days and an entire draft behind. Depending on my energy levels, I might actually catch up, but I’ll probably end up re-doing my deadlines.
So, we had a chunk of our paper due on Sunday. This is what I wrote and it’s supposed to be after my intro which I had struggled really hard to think of anything:
For this paper, I’ll be examining the 2004 film The Stepford Wives and how it differs from the novella by Ira Levin and the 1975 film, along with other examples of modern films backlashing against feminism. The 2004 film opens up to Joanna Eberhart revealing two new, very battle of the sexes, shows she’s created. She’s presented as the stereotypical business lady—all black clothing, slicked back hair, and red lipstick. After presenting, one of the contestants from the show tries to kill her because he lost his wife on the show. This causes the company she works for to fire her which leads to a nervous breakdown. Then, Joanna, her husband Walter, and their two kids move to Stepford, Connecticut to start a new life away from the stressful city. Once there, Joanna isn’t completely satisfied because all the women look like they came straight out of the 1950s—they’re super perky and love doing traditional female roles (washing, cleaning, cooking, etc). After confronting Walter about this, they get into an argument that leads Joanna to wanting to change. So, when we see her next she’s dressed like the other women in Stepford.
From there on, her friends Bobbie, a Jewish writer, and Roger, the token gay character, investigate about what’s going on in Stepford. While doing this, both Roger and Bobbie end up getting transformed into things they’re not. Roger went from being effeminate to masculine and Bobbie went from being a slob to perfect housewife. Eventually, the same thing happens to Joanna, only not really. Her and Walter fake turning her into a robot (putting chips in her brain) so they can distract the Wellingtons—heads of Stepford—while Walter destroys the program that was used to chip the women.
In the end, it’s revealed that Mike Wellington was a robot after all because his wife, Claire, had turned him into one after murdering him. Before creating Stepford, Claire was a world renown brain surgeon and geneticist. However, when she caught Mike cheating on her with her young, blonde assistant she killed them both and went off to create the perfect world—Stepford.
Right after I finished typing this up, I instantly hated it. It’s sloppy. There’s way too much info that I can explore later in my paper. But this is what I presented to my classmates and, as I expected, their feedback was things I was already planning on doing.
Between Sunday and now, I didn’t touch my paper. I made a flimsy outline which I then fleshed out:
- Intro: history of backlash in media (?)
- 2004 film: summarize
- book: point out differences
- 1975 film: discus how it stayed true to book
- backlash #1:
- how 2004 film is backlash
- present Bewitched example
- backlash #2
- Nine to Five vs The Devil Wears Prada
- media influence
- career thing
- who’s backlashing?
- MRAs (men’s rights activists)
- male privilege
After going over the feedback from my professor on my research paper, I learned that my scope was too broad. So, I Googled what to do like a brilliant person. I trimmed down my outline to exclude the Bewitched example along with this psychology (I think) report about women’s careers in films and influence on real life. While both are interesting, wonderful information, they didn’t really fit my topic and what I’m looking at. The Stepford Wives is based off a book written by a woman along with Nine to Five and The Devil Wears Prada. But these films were all directed by a man and mostly written by a man (The Devil Wears Prada was written by a woman). They’re connected that way, and I’m going to see if I can fit that in my paper. Probably down within the who’s backlashing section. I need to do some research for that.
Anyway, with all the thinking and trimming going on, I have produced this for today:
The Modern Stepford Wives: How Films Present Feminism
The 1980s and onwards is said to be a post-feminism era. Men and women are equal; feminism isn’t needed. But if you look around, it is needed. Women are still viewed as the weaker sex, as sex objects and baby makers. They get paid less, blamed for being raped, and have no control over their bodies. There is still backlash against the feminist movement, as highlighted by being called a post-feminism society when that’s clearly not the case. This backlash is becoming subtle in the media, worming its way into people’s minds on a subconscious level. The worst offenders of this is entertainment media where people tend to be passive viewers. Therefore, this paper will be focusing on how modern films presented as feminist-friendly are actually anti-feminist and how it’s worse than in the past by examining the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives.
The Stepford Wives follows the story of ex-executive producer Joanna Eberhart. After she is threatened by a contestant from one of her shows, she is fired and has a nervous breakdown. So, her and her family move to Stepford, Connecticut, a picturesque town where everything is 1950s ideals perfect. After a while, Joanna starts getting suspicious of why the town is perfect and recruits the help of her friends Bobbie, a sloppy Jewish writer, and Roger, a flamboyant gay man, to find out what’s going on. During the investigation first Roger, then Bobbie, fall to the Stepford curse and become totally different people. After talking to post-transformation Bobbie, Joanna tries to leave Stepford under the hypothesis that the women are all robots. However, her children are being held hostage at the Men’s Association where Joanna learns that the woman have been reprogrammed with computer chips to be subservient to their husbands. This was because the men were tired of being weaker than their powerful wives. Walter, Joanna’s husband, shared their sentiments and went through with reprogramming her—or so it’s made out to be. During a party held in their honor, it’s revealed Joanna dressed up as a reprogrammed her in order to distract the founders of the town—Mike and Claire Wellington—while Walter destroyed the programming. In the end, it’s revealed that Mike was a robot the whole time, created by Claire who just wanted a perfect world.
The only things the book and the 2004 film share are some character names and the idea of robot women. Instead of a stereotypical career woman, Joanna is a homemaker, mother, and semi-professional photographer who is openly in the Women’s Liberation movement. She only moved to Stepford with her family because it was Walter’s idea. The bulk of the story is about Joanna adjusting to life in Stepford. She gets suspicious of why all the women spend their time cleaning after her fried Charmaine, a rich woman who is disgusted by her husband and has a servant, changes into a housewife who is quite happy with her husband and cleaning all day. Eventually, the same thing happens to Bobbie, who is still a Jewish writer. After the changes with both, Joanna investigates into why the Women’s Club disbanded and when the Men’s Association started up. Joanna finds out that the husband had various jobs to do with technology and genetics and that the leader of the Men’s Association, Dale Coba, created the robots in Disneyland. Putting two and two together, she returns home and demands they leave Stepford. Walter forces her to go to bed and essentially locks her in the house, but she manages to escape only to be captured by the Men’s Association a little while later. They take Joanna to Bobbie’s to prove that she isn’t a robot by having her cut her finger. There’s a time skip and perspective change after this to Ruthanne, a black woman Joanna made friends with before the case. Her encounter with Joanna shows that Walter turned Joanna into a robot.
The 1975 film follows the same plot, but emphasizes the whole creepy robot thing more. One of the wives malfunctions a bit repeating “I’ll just die if I don’t get that recipe” a few times at a party. The Men’s Association is presentend with a weird vibe from the way Walter doesn’t talk about his first meeting to when Joanna is shooed away from the property by a police officer. Finally, the creepiest parts are when Joanna stabs robot Bobbie and she starts to malfunction and when we see Joanna’s final moments before she’s straggled to death by her robot self. Asides from a few scene changes/additions and dialogue, and the lack of Rutheanne, the film simply heightens the horror Levin was trying to convey in her book while remaining true to the story—me will do anything to keep their power. So why is the 2004 film a kind of dark comedy with a happy ending?
According to modern films, this is because feminism is a thing of the past. Looking at what the wives wore, talked about, and did in the 1975 version and the 2004 one shows where the issue was set. In the 1975 one, the fashion was that of long dresses with frills or flowers whereas the non-robots wore pants or shorts with shirts. They also still looked exactly like themselves, even with the same hair color. What they talked about were different cleaning things used in the 70s, and they were mostly fixated on housework. In the 2004 version, instead of having the wives wear posh, modern dresses they’re all stuck in flowery get ups from the 1950s with perfect blonde hair. They discussed cleaning, housework, baking, and arts and crafts. As for what they did, it was still housework but they also had a barn dance (more old school than 1950s which the 1975 film points out) and even have a book club. While it seems the 2004 wives had a little more to do, it’s still set in the past with how they were presented. Therefore, the film maker is implying that gender roles aren’t a thing modern women deal with. But there’s still a huge pressure on women to look good for men, to marry a man, and to become a perfect little housewife for him.
Asides from having this dissociation with modern issues, the film says some pretty awful things about career women.
That takes up 3 pages and a little extra in Times New Roman size 12 double spaced. I’m hoping to get five full pages today, but seeing as my body decided four hours of sleep would be nice and there are other projects I want to work on, I’m not sure if it’ll happen until later.
As always, feel free to leave some constructive criticism.