Large Image Display: The Stepford Wives: Soulless Automation

This single frame is taken from the 2004 film 'The Stepford Wives'. It has been greatly reduced in size from the original, in order to meet fair use guidelines.

Just before this point, a short animation explains how an unhappy marriage is 'solved' by the woman being put into a transformational bliss machine, that implants microchips into her brain to control and modulate her thoughts and sensory levels. Her body is then resculpted, robotic parts grafted into her body, and less efficient organic parts removed. Some parts like most of her brain, and reproductive organs are kept, circulatory system, various organs. The arms and legs are replaced with prosthetic variants, so is the skin itself. Perfect and blemish free.

As the film ends, the centre of the floor opens, and the real transformation machine rises. Atop what with Roger we took to be a pillar, but is in fact a marble altar, is a perfect skin that Joanna will soon be wearing. The flawless baseline for her new appearance. As Joanna, horrified, looks close, the skin opens its eyes, to reveal hollow nothingness inside.

In many ways this scene plays on the sensibilities. One of the first such is that of the uncanny valley ? that point of near-human realism, that stops just short of actual believability. At first she could be taken for a sleeping (bald) woman, but when the construct-skin opens her eyes, to see them as hollow pits, and to be able to see right through to the underside of the skin on the back of the head, breaks that illusion. Instead of being recognisably human, the whole thing falls into the ?zombie? category. It should not be alive, yet it moves. The hind brain does not take this sort of visage very well, and continually screams to get away from that, as something is very, very wrong.

Secondly of course there is the dread and feeling of impending doom, from the dehumanising of the woman looking at the skin-suit. Knowing that her identity will be stripped away against her volition, and she will be placed into this shell, along with whatever other mechanical devices her captors might desire. She will become a machine, a commodity, a thing. This too is playing on base human instinct; the fear of losing all sense of self, of being swallowed up in the machine; in technology.

Link: Large Image Display: The Uncanny Valley

Link: The Uncanny Valley

Link: The Stepford Wives: Index of Stills

Link: The Stepford Wives (2004): A Plot Overview

Link: Site Shop > The Stepford Wives (2004)