The Stepford Wives (1975) occupies an unusual position in cinematic history. As is often the case with cult texts, the film was both a box office flop and widely misunderstood on release. Intended as a feminist diatribe, it was derided by Betty Friedan, whose 1963 book The Feminine Mystique it literalised. Even Ira Levin, author of the novel from which the film was adapted, concedes he was less than enthused with the filmed version. Despite this, the term ‘Stepford wife’ has become idiolect for a particular kind of one-dimensional, upper-middle class woman who is figuratively, and to some extent literally, an automation. Indeed, one does not
need to have seen or even heard of the film or Levin’s book to be familiar with the concept.
This timely study finally gives The Stepford Wives the serious scholarly attention it deserves. In doing so, the significance of the film as a socio-cultural and socio-political document in its own right is underscored. While the intention of this book is to pay homage to Bryan Forbes’ film, it goes far beyond this, locating it in the traditions of the gothic, the histories of feminism and fictional imaginings about artificial women, and the futures of social robots and AI, both real and imagined.