What's a 'Stepford Wife'? The Anti-Feminist Stereotype Created By A Movie

By | September 15, 2022

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Katharine Ross as depicted on the poster for 'The Stepford Wives.' Source: impawards.com

Even if you've never seen The Stepford Wives, the dark 1975 film sci-fi/horror film where wealthy suburban men turn their partners into subservient robots, you know what a "Stepford Wife" is. A Stepford Wife isn't just perfect, she's too perfect. There's an eerie, robotic quality to the way that she goes about her day and dotes on her husband. Subservient and docile, the Stepford Wife is a thing that should not be.

The Stepford Wives get their name from Stepford, Connecticut, the fictional town (based on Wilton) in which the eerie and attractive wives live. These characters were played by actresses known for their model-caliber beauty, including Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Nannette Newman and Tina Louise.

Too good to be true

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source: columbia pictures

There are at least three iterations of The Stepford Wives and multiple, lesser, spin-offs, and while each version of the story packs its own specific punch it's the phrase that seems to stick with the population, not the story, not the harrowing images on the big screen. Decades after the film's initial release and slow journey to cult status, the term "Stepford Wife" has nestled into the vernacular at large to describe anything that's too perfect, or too good to be true.