“The Stepford Wives” was a chilling novel written by Ira Levin and was first made into a film in 1975 starring Katherine Ross as Joanna Eberhart. It was a dark and brooding horror film. In 2004 a new version of the movie was made starring Nicole Kidman as Joanna in a different style that was brightly colored, campy and over the top. This is the version I am using for this column because the two films have different endings and the ending on this one has one detail I feel is very important. If you are not familiar with the story here it is in a nutshell. Families move to the idyllic town of Stepford. It seems like a dream. Something is wrong in Stepford, very wrong. You see the husbands in this quaint town all are members of the Men’s Association and they have an agenda. One by one they are turning their wives into robotic women who are perfect in every way. The women’s only desire is to grant their husband’s every wish, no questions asked. Now one woman, Joanna Eberhart begins putting two and two together and the race is on because she knows her turn is coming. This is Movie Bad Girl of the Week…The Stepford Edition Part One.
When we meet Joanna at the beginning of the movie she is a a woman in a high power position. She is President of Program Development for a major network. She gives her job 110% and her family comes in second. She works with her husband Walter, who is vice-president and thus, he must work under his wife. Their marriage is troubled and her drive and achievements make him feel emasculated at times. There is a lot of tension in their home life. Lucky for Walter that is about to change. One of the programs (a reality show called “I Can Do Better”) Joanna has green-lighted for the upcoming season caused real-life violence by one of the contestants. He has attempted to murder his now ex-wife and more than one of her new lovers she met on the show. He also makes an attempt to shoot Joanna at the network affiliate preview because he blames her for the break-up of his marriage. The network asks Joanna to resign her position because she is now network poison and no station will touch her shows. She tries to remain composed but ends up having a nervous breakdown.
What can we learn from Joanna about work-life balance?
There are good points and bad points about her, however we can learn from both. Joanna is a driven woman who is cut-throat and on top of her game. However her family and personal life suffer from this.
Like Joanna we all want to be a success at whatever our chosen profession is. We can rise to the top by staying focused and working the long, hard hours required. Being dedicated at whatever you do is the way to achieve goals and climb the corporate ladder. It doesn’t matter if you work for television network like Joanna, work in a medical center or wait tables in a bar. There is always an opportunity to grow within the company. This is admirable except she takes it too far. She allows her family to suffer due to her success. She is missing (and say this with me ladies and you gentlemen reading this) Work-Life Balance. No matter how great our success, our families should never be made to feel like a third wheel where Mommy is never home and is working from home if she is and has to schedule (and I do mean schedule) short spurts of time to spend with the kids and/or significant other. Neglect is a major infraction for ourselves and our family. Our family is important and we should love them unconditionally and always be sure that we have time for the things in life that really mean something. It is great to have a career and money and success but it isn’t worth shit if you are distanced and emotionally detached from the ones that are there to support, love and cheer you on. We need to make sure that we have balance. It is okay to work hard to reach your goals but even more important is having time for the ones that love you. I am not saying drop everything and give every non-working moment to your family. You do, however, need to make sure you have made proper and adequate time (where you put work 100% aside) to spend quality time with them. Take a Saturday that is just for you and the kids. Have fun, enjoy their smiles and laughter, they will be grown quicker than you think. Make time for your significant other whether it be a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. Our work lives are very chaotic so my husband and I have date nights. These are just for us to enjoy each other’s company. We may go see a movie or have a nice dinner in a restaurant, sometimes both, we have gone to museums, on tours or just to walk on the beach or strolled downtown. Sometimes date night means we will stay home and share some intimacy. With both of us having such hectic schedules we cannot always be spontaneous and sometimes set aside time to have sex. It is not the most important part of our relationship although we both find it very enjoyable. The actual sex, of course, is a portion of it, I would be lying if I said otherwise. Be that as it may, the reason we set that time aside is on a deeper level. The closeness we feel, our love and our emotional connection has more to do with it. Look at your own life and prioritize things accordingly. You will be much happier with some balance in both areas of your life (work and personal) and don’t forget to make some “me” time that is exclusively for yourself. We all need a little of that too.
Joanna’s husband Walter is not thrilled with his wife’s success. He feels as though he is always standing in her shadow. Everything Joanna does brings her accolades. She is the bread-winner and he feels inadequate. She walks around with her head held high very pleased with how wonderful she is. This will come into play in the town of Stepford. Keep in mind that in a relationship it should not matter who the bread-winner is. With my husband and I this has gone back and forth like some crazy game of Ping-Pong. This does not matter to either of us because whatever we make monetarily is “ours”, it all goes in the same account and we have equal use of it. At the moment he is the bread-winner and I am thrilled that he is making good money performing a job he really enjoys. If it changes in the future he will be thrilled for me in an equal way. However if you are the bread-winner your other half and their feelings should always be taken into account. Do not strut like a rooster and don’t let them feel like they are standing in your shadow or are less accomplished than you. You are partners in your life and should always feel on equal footing with one another. Don’t walk around like Joanna feeling superior to everyone around you. It will come back to bite you on the ass. Speaking of getting bitten on the ass…..
Joanna although flawless at her job does manage to screw up big time. One of her decisions leaves the network with egg on it’s face when a vicious act of violence occurs because of a show she allowed to be created. When she created the show she believed it was cutting edge and would draw ratings. Never once did she consider the people on this reality show who would have their lives drastically change due to the outcome of her brain-child. A marriage is ruined and the scorned husband fights back with murderous rage blaming Joanna for the end result of his and his wife’s appearance in the pilot episode of the show. The network now has a package of new shows that no network affiliate will touch. To save themselves (it is business after all) they ask Joanna to step down. She tries to remain calm, collected and professional but you can see in her face that she can’t believe what is happening. She ends up having a breakdown because she can’t wrap her mind around the fact that not only has she screwed up big time, she is accountable and she alone will pay the price. Her job, the most important thing in her life, is yanked out from under her and she has a nervous break-down from the stress of the situation.
Don’t, and I repeat, don’t get so wrapped up in your work that it is your every waking thought. It is Joanna’s whole world and she thrives on the high stress of the job. I have been Joanna and like her, when it came crashing down, I crashed and burned with it. We all have stress associated with our jobs. I work very well in a stressful situation. Not everyone does. But you should not savor that stress letting it push you through your days. Keep in mind that many decisions you make will have a ripple effect (as with Joanna’s show “I Can Do Better”) and you won’t be the only one touched by it. The fact is that we all have or will mess up along the line (no matter how good you are at what you do) and have to pay the fiddler. This can be devastating. Now you sit there wondering at what moment you made that decision that you are now accountable for. Some of us may lose a job over a decision or plan of action we have taken but here is the secret. If your home and work life are balanced the stress is going to be much easier to handle and guess what…it was only a job. The world will not come to a crashing halt and your life will continue. There are other jobs out there and a situation like this could be the chance to try something new. Don’t let a job, any job, drive you to break-down. My husband will verify that one of my jobs did cause me to have a break-down and it took several months for me to recover. No job in the world is worth it and there is such a thing as giving too much. After that I promised myself that no job would ever own my soul again. It can happen so pay attention.If you feel like a job is becoming too much and is consuming you guess what? You are probably right. If I had been smarter at the time I would have known that it was time to walk away and pursue other endeavors.
There is a lot more to say so this week’s column is a two parter. Next week we enter Stepford where it gets really weird. Until we meet again Embrace Your Inner Bad Girl because being bad feels so damn good.
To be continued………..