If you’ve never seen The Stepford Wives you’ll have to head for wiki and/or YouTube to get a basic rundown. If the 2004 Nicole Kidman version is what you recall then find and watch the original 1975 copy. That movie had a tremendous cultural impact at the time. If you’re a boomer, you remember seeing it that first time.
In a Wiki nutshell:
The premise involves the married men of the fictional town of Stepford, Connecticut, and their fawning, submissive, impossibly beautiful wives. The protagonist is Joanna Eberhart, a talented photographer newly arrived from New York City with her husband and children, eager to start a new life. As time goes on, she becomes increasingly disturbed by the zombie-like, submissive Stepford wives, especially when she sees her once independent-minded friends – fellow new arrivals to Stepford – turn into mindless, docile housewives overnight. Her husband, who seems to be spending more and more time at meetings of the local men’s association, mocks her fears.
As the story progresses, Joanna becomes convinced that the wives of Stepford are being poisoned or brainwashed into submission by the men’s club. She visits the library and reads up on the pasts of Stepford’s wives, finding out that some of the women were once feminist activists and very successful professionals, while the leader of the men’s club is a former Disney engineer and others are artists and scientists, capable of creating life-like robots. Her friend Bobbie helps her investigate, going so far as to write to the EPA to inquire about possible environmental toxins in Stepford. However, eventually, Bobbie is also transformed into a docile housewife and has no interest in her previous activities.
At the end of the novel, Joanna decides to flee Stepford, but when she gets home she finds that her children have been taken. She asks her husband to let her leave, but he takes her car keys. She manages to escape from the house on foot, and several of the men’s club members track her down. They corner her in the woods and she accuses them of creating robots out of the town’s women. The men deny the accusation, and ask Joanna if she would believe them if she saw one of the other women bleed. Joanna agrees to this, and they take her to Bobbie’s house. Bobbie’s husband and son are upstairs, with loud rock music playing – as if to cover screams. The scene ends as Bobbie brandishes a knife at her former friend. In the story’s epilogue, Joanna has become another Stepford wife gliding through the local supermarket, and has given up her career as a photographer, while Ruthanne (a new resident in Stepford) appears poised to become the conspiracy’s next victim.
The clue that gave Bobbie away was she couldn’t remember a word she’d used in conversation the day before – something like “donut”. Software problem. It’s always the software.
(I can’t get the iframe embed to work so head to youtube for the shopping market final scene. It gives a good sense of the bot-like life style.)