April
2nd 2008
“I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipie!”

Posted under: American history, Berkshire Conference, Bodily modification, childhood, Gender, unhappy endings, women's history

Simply perfect:  Via Suburban Guerilla, botox may migrate from your wrinkles into your brain.  But then, maybe that’s what cosmetic surgery advocates want–to turn all women into Stepford Wives!  (Kind of like that 1994 Breeder’s song “No Aloha,” with the line, “Motherhood means mental freeze.  Freezeheads.  No aloha!”) 

I always thought that it was simply perfect that Katherine Ross played the main character Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives (the original and only decent 1975 version.  That’s her on the left in a still from the movie.)  Remember that she played Elaine Robinson in The Graduate (1967), and that movie ended with Ben and Elaine on the bus after she ran away from her wedding, both of them looking slightly confused and sad that after their grand gesture, they didn’t really know where they were going.  Well, I guess we found out:  next stop, Stepford!  I suppose that was unsurprising, since the 1960s were much more about “liberations” that preserved male sexual access to women and male dominance.  And, Ben was never really in love with Elaine–he was in love with the idea of being in love with her, and she was in love with the idea of royally pissing off her parents.

It’s interesting that in 1975, the male fantasy depicted in The Stepford Wives was one were the women were submissive and sexually available, and the movie’s position was explicitly feminist.  (When Joanna gets suspicious about what’s going on with the women of Stepford, she enlists a sympathetic friend to help her join a Consciousness Raising group!)  Children and their needs hardly factored into the movie.  But, then, that’s actually accurate to my memory of the 1970s.  Kids were left to raise each other in roving gangs of kickball or T-ball teams, or on bad weather days, we played Sonny & Cher or Donny & Marie in someone’s basement.  Unlike today’s cosseted, bike-helmeted, car-seated, minivan-chauffeured, parentally-monitored little darlings, kids in my generation were the original latchkey kids, even if our mothers weren’t in the paid workforce. 

If you’re interested in the 1970s, come to the Berkshire Conference, where we’ve got two sessions devoted to the 1970ssession 71, Queer Politics and American Identities in the 1970s and 1980s, and session 173, Towards a History of the 1970s in America:  A Roundtable on Gender and Popular Culture, in addition to at least nine other individual papers on other panels.  (Program details:  just click here!)

6 Comments »

6 Responses to ““I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipie!””

  1. Sisyphus on 02 Apr 2008 at 9:24 pm #

    Yeah, I liked how in the original, for it to be a “horror” film, the women had to be seen as the heroes and the men as the villains. I guess the next sequel followed the men as the heroes and the robot-women as the horrible, malfunctioning villains. (Although one of my old roommates loved that the robot-women malfunctioned and ended up stabbing their husbands over breakfast: “More coffee? More coffee? More coffee?” was kind of a refrain in our house. The recent “remake” was just a confusing mess.

    What did you think of Coppola’s _The Virgin Suicides_?

    Oh, and if you want another 70s-themed movie for teaching, _Maryam_ (2000) is pretty good for getting discussion going. Aesthetically, it’s a little “after-school special” feeling, but it’s great for some background on the gas crisis/The Shah/anti-Arab sentiment as it follows a girl’s family trying to become “appropriately American.”

  2. Susan on 03 Apr 2008 at 5:06 am #

    I had a classmate in graduate school who said that anything after 1815 was current events. (She was a french historian, thus the choice of date.) So I’d just add that even if you’re interested in periods before the 1970s, the Berks will have lots of panels to interest you. There are more pre-19th C panels than at the 2005 Berks.

    Just a little plug for periods before the 20th century, which I know Historiann values too!

  3. GayProf on 03 Apr 2008 at 8:01 am #

    Didn’t the nineties give us “The Stepford Children?” Just the first step to the current baby-obsessed nonsense that dominates this nation.

    I wish Cher had been more actively involved in my upbringing, though. Too stereotypical?

  4. Historiann on 03 Apr 2008 at 8:06 am #

    GayProf–maybe stereotypical, or just typical of being a child in the 1970s? I was totally envious of Chastity that she got to run out and jump into her parents’ arms on national TV! And–I haven’t showed you the photos yet, but I have an original Cher doll from the 1970s! (She’s part of the Barbie collection…) She was a strange doll, though, because they made her about at least an inch taller and bigger around than Barbies so that you’d have to buy a whole separate wardrobe for her, and she couldn’t share with her Barbie sisters…

  5. GayProf on 03 Apr 2008 at 10:26 am #

    Oooh — One of my sister’s had the Cher doll that had hair that “really grew.”

    I, not surprisingly, had the Wonder Woman doll.

  6. Historiann on 03 Apr 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Color me envious of you, too, then!