The Stepford Lives

My buddy V.S. went to Beijing a few months ago and brought me back some DVDs he purchased in that fair city. When he sent The Stepford Wives to me, the official studio version of it wasn’t even out yet (I think) and I saw it at the video store a few times wondering if about the movie.
I finally had a chance to review the video and it was what I expected. It was filmed at some late-night theatrical center somewhere probably in Los Angeles (I figure that a projectionist was paid $100.00 to get out of bed at 2:00 a.m. to project), then piped to China over the information superhighway and recorded to look like a real DVD with its poorly rendered “buttons” reading “Play, “Chapters,” and “Trailer.” I expected the sounds to be terrible and it was and I expected anything fast moving to be slightly blurred because of the video capture rate.
More interestingly, my expectations were also set by the promotional quotation on the packaging, which brilliantly said, and I quote: “An empty comedy that takes hac-kneyed [sic] potshots at consumerism.” It’s true. The film was as flat and disorganized as any I’ve seen in recent memory. Nicole Kidman puts in a great performance, particularly in the beginning, as an executive in the television industry — a role she has mastered in previous movies. But the story, in which aging men manipulate their better halfs such that they in turn become better, has no rubber and rides on no road. The men in the film rely upon complicated Microsoft and AOL technologies to modify their wives behaviors, turning them into robots so that their country club fantasies could be lived.
It struck me that the conceit of the movie is fundamentally flawed: wealthy men never have had a need for those complex technologies to run their fantasy lives — the system was set up by them long ago for them and is still mastered by them. [Note: I’m a capitalist at heart and don’t deny the beauty of capital which alone can make beauty.] If I was a semiotician, I guess I’d ask if the movie seriously questions the substance of the system that created mastery over women and industry. Or does it more subtly demand us to look at the rather frail mechanisms upon which capital is raised and nurtured? Or, furthermore, does the film simply reproduce our fantasy about wealth and privilege and power?

One thought on “The Stepford Lives”

  1. How interesting, and – you finally had a chance to view it. Sorry for the poor quality – yuors is the exception the a ‘rule’ of generally high standards, but you can only go but so far wrong with a retail price of $0.85. Really.
    For some reason, I think ‘Stepfor Wives’ was already outm as I distinctly remember suffering through it on on of my 14-hour flights to Shanghai.
    In any case, I’m wondering if you’re the least familiar with the original film starring Katherine Ross. Truly chilling in a kind of mid-’70’s way. The difference in the attitude of two films is itself rather chilling. How far we’ve fallen…

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