The Stepford Wives
The Stepford Wives started life as a 1972 novel by Ira Levin. In it, Joanna Eberhart, her husband Walter, and their two young children move from New York City to the eponymous Connecticut commuter-town. Joanna becomes friends with fellow new arrival Bobbie Markowe, as the two of them also become more and more concerned with the behavior of the other housewives in Stepford, who are all impossibly beautiful, housework-obsessed and totally submissive towards their husbands, who in turn are all members of the "Men's Association". The novel was successful enough to be made into a movie in 1975; William Goldman's script was fairly faithful to the original, with the major difference being a far more explicit finale showing what was happening to the wives. In both versions, the wives were robot duplicates that replaced the original women after their husbands had them murdered. Both versions of the story had Downer Endings.
While just a modest hit in theaters, the film quickly sprouted a meme in the 1970's, with the term "Stepford Wife" becoming a catchphrase used to describe female homemakers who were sexually repressed and only concerned with domestic chores.
No theatrical sequels were made, but the movie spawned, over the course of two decades, three made-for-TV "sequels": The Revenge of the Stepford Wives, The Stepford Children, and The Stepford Husbands. The lack of Levin and/or Goldman's involvement was painfully obvious, and all three films were also victims of bowdlerization: in Revenge and Husbands, the victims were not killed and replaced but instead merely brainwashed, while Children had the replaced teenager left alive for no readily-apparent reason, allowing in all three cases for a rescue and happy ending.
In 2004, Frank Oz directed a more overtly comedic remake of the original film. The production suffered from severe behind-the-scenes turmoil, including actors walking off the project and some last-minute reshoots. Many viewers found the revelations of the resulting finale to come completely out of left field and contradict the rest of the movie, but as always, Your Mileage May Vary.
- Stepford Smiler: With the remake providing the page image. In the final scene of the original film, all the women have them.
- In the remake, Walter is also one of these, until he cracks.
- Stepford Consumer
- Stepford Snarker
- Stepford Suburbia: The empty sterility of American suburbia is a major theme in the original film.
- The Beautiful Elite
- Black Eyes of Evil: When Joanna meets her robot double in the film, it hasn't quite been finished yet and is sporting a pair of these (this is a minor Special Effects Failure, as they're supposed to be empty sockets—the black contact lenses reflected ambient lighting). It's also sporting a new large bustline.
- Brainwashed: Some of the sequels had this as the method of creating the Wives/Husbands, instead of out-and-out replacement.
- Broken Record: In addition to the example under Foreshadowing below, there's also the robot Bobbie after Joanna stabs her with a knife.
- Chekhov's Gun: The word "archaic".
- Foreshadowing: "I'll just die if I don't get that recipe!" .... "I'll just die if I don't get that recipe!" ... "I'll just die if I don't get that recipe!"
- Motor Mouth: Julie Kavner's character in Revenge.
- Paranoia Fuel: Joanna experiences this in-universe, when she realizes that either her husband is going to have her replaced with a robot that no one will be able to tell isn't her, or she's going crazy and this is all in her head. She isn't sure which of these two scenarios is worse.
- Phlebotinum Breakdown: One of the Wives malfunctions while attending a garden party.
- Pyrrhic Villainy: One of the few high points in Revenge of the Stepford Wives was an older Men's Association member revisiting the painful realization of what he had given up by having his wife remade.
- Recycled in HIGH SCHOOL!: Disturbing Behavior.
- Ridiculously-Human Robots
- Robotic Reveal: Again, only explicitly done in the movie(s).
- Robotic Spouse
- Sex Bot
- Take That: Or else a Shout-Out. The mastermind behind the whole Men's Association conspiracy used to build animatronic robots at Disneyland.
- Town with a Dark Secret: One of the archetypal examples.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The town pharmacist. Justified, since he's married to a Stepford Wife.
- Uncanny Village