TELEPRESENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE

A study of portrayals of presence

The Stepford Wives (2004)

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ABOUT THE WORK

MEDIUM:

Film 

YEAR:

2004 

WRITER(S):

Paul Rudnick. This film is based on the original film released in 1975. That version was directed by Bryan Forbes adapted from a novel by Ira LevinĦĦ 

OWN COPY?

No 
 

ABOUT THE STORY

SUMMARY:

"In THE STEPFORD WIVES, Walter ([Matthew] Broderick) and Joanna ([Nicole] Kidman) Eberhart are the newest residents in a suburban neighborhood in Stepford. Seeing that the women she surrounds herself with all seem to be cut from the same mold, and are seemingly incapable of thinking for themselves, Joanna begins to think something suspicious is going on in Stepford. Upon realizing that her friends have been replaced by robots and that she's next on the list, Joanna and Walter decide to turn the tables and expose the truth about what's really been going on in Stepford." (from http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0002W4UDE/103-3541105-7519830?v=glance) 

ERA/YEAR:

Present day when produced 

CHARACTERISTICS
OF WORLD:

The women are ultra-friendly and spend all of their time cooking and cleaning, and fulfilling their husband's needs. All of them have blonde hair and "ideal" bodies. None of them have careers. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE-EVOKING TECHNOLOGY
NAME:
micro-chips implanted in their brains 
DESCRIPTION:
The women are convinced to step into a "wife improvement machine" that is kept in a mansion owned by the Stepford Men's Association. Their husbands accompany their wives down to a room filled with electronic panels and other high-tech gadgets. Then the women step into a container that kind of looks like a cement coffin and the transforming procedure begins. A computer displays X-rays of women who have undergone the procedure, and they have four micro-chips implanted in their brains. The men command their new robots with gold-plated remote controls that have the women's names engraved on them. 
NATURE OF TASK OR ACTIVITY:
The women are nothing but sex kittens, cleaning machines and doting mothers. They don't leave the house without make up or high heels. 
PERFORMANCE OF THE TECHNOLOGY:
The technology generally works as the men planned. In one scene, a robot wife malfunctions and starts spinning wildly and sparking. But that is the only time a wife "mis-behaves." 
 
ABOUT THE CREATORS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
DESCRIPTION:
At the end, you learn that one of the wives actually created the technology. She was a former scientist who worked long hours. After she came home to find her husband having sex with her research assistant, she killed them both. And then decided to  
MAJOR GOAL(S):
Again, the creator realized reality was too hectic and stressful, so her goal was to create a utopian alter world with women and men who are always content. 
 
ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCE PRESENCE
DESCRIPTION:
The women who are transformed into robots appear to be in their mid-30s. They all wear sexy sundresses, high heels, dye their hair blonde and smile constantly. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE EXPERIENCE
TYPE(S) OF PRESENCE:
Social presence 
DESCRIPTION:
The women lose individual will and their lives revolve around pleasing their nerdy husbands. The wives appear happy and friendly. Until the main characters, Joanna and Walter, deactivate the brain chips. Then all of the women are angry (at the end). 
USER AWARENESS:
No, the wives are clueless. The women are completely unaware of their former lives as Wall Street executives, judges, etc. 
VALENCE:
The Stepford wives appear to be quite happy and eager to please others. 
SPECIFIC RESPONSES:
Again, the main response to the technology is that the women wait on their husbands. They carry golf bags on the course, get nachos when they ask and compliment their husbands on the great sex. They never talk about anything un-related to housekeeping. 
 
ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRESENCE
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES:
In the end, the main characters catch on to the robot scheme and reverse all the microchips. You could interpret this as the women being liberated, which would be a happy ending. But the implication of the entire film--hat real women with careers and independent thoughts are unbearable--is insulting and archaic. Anyway, the technology creator loses her robot husband and collapses on the floor. 
 
AND FINALLY...
OTHER INFORMATION:
 
CODER NAME:
Gwen Shaffer 
CODER E-MAIL:
gwen4@temple.edu 
CODER AFFILIATION:
Temple University 
DATE CODED:
4/25/2006 

 


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