The Stepford Wives Organization reviews “The Stepford Children” made-for-TV movie 1987
The following synopsis / summary / review has been written by The Stepford Wives Organization at StepfordWife.com
above: A Stepford mother and daughter offering refreshments to a male stranger with a smile
This made-for-tv second sequel to 1975’s movie The Stepford Wives finds the Stepford franchise in the outer reaches of the nuclear family – the kids. A family with unruly “punk rock / new wave” children (this was the late 80’s) decides to return to Stepford, a town where the husband used to live with a previous, late wife. At Stepford, we see another father going fishing with his unruly son Kenny. The son insults the father, back-sasses him, and gets cheeky on their fishing trip. At the lake they meet up with a few of the father’s friends from the Stepford Men’s Association, and the son gets abducted onto their boat.
In their new town, the Hardings find wholesome families, well-mannered children, and bright cheery wives. They are met at the door by the new Kenny, well-groomed, courteous, clean and conservatively dressed. David, and Mary (their children) get ready for Stepford high, dressed like a Top Gun Tom Cruise extra, and Mary a trendy puffy-hair rock chick. Laura Harding (Barbara Eden of “I Dream of Genie”)) drops her husband off at the bus station (look at how beautifully and conservatively dressed everyone is), while the kids roar into the school parking lot on a motorcycle.
Later Steve attempts to bond with his children but is summarily shut out. Visiting the Stepford high school , Laura nearly meets with an accident when her station wagon pulls into a lot next to a roaring motorcycle. It turns out to be Sandy, a hip one-of-the-boys mom taking her daughter Lois to school on two wheels. Laura’s petition to start a PTA is turned down by the principle, who reasons there is no need for “outside interference.” At a photography class, Mary becomes the main subject as the other Stepford students turn their camera towards her (collecting information for her replacement, much like Diz’s sketches of Joanna in the 1975 movie). David quickly forms a romantic interest with Lois and we see Lois attempting to pass a note to him during class before they meet up at the docks that night. Note how beautifully dressed all the surrounding Stepford students are in this scene. We at www.stepfordwife.com / www.stepfordwives.org wishes -with a woeful sigh- all young ladies today will begin to dress like that again.
above: A Stepford Student with Mary, an allegory of a debate between a Republican Conservative and an radical liberal
On open school night, basketball teams and classical virtuosos put on exhibits for the parents. Predictably, the Harding’s son is the only one to miss a basket when the team display court skills alongside cheerleaders. The core of The Stepford Children occurs during the Q&A session with the principal. After announcements of grants and acceptances from Julliard, MIT, Laura questions the excellence of the student body. “I keep on hearing alot about the importance of being the best. Aren’t we putting a lot of pressure on our children to compete?“ Shouldn’t children be permitted to act like children? Who determines the boundaries?” Her husband, embarrassed, stands up and apologizes for her wife’s nostalgia for the days of protest and rebellion.
The movie then follows a plotline consisting of the schoolkids attending a dance featuring stodgy music. Lois, Mary, and David sneak into the music room to switch the selections to trendy styles, causing the Stepford children to dance out of control. The three get arrested and get grounded by their parents. David gets a frantic call from Lois and they both attempt to escape Stepford on motorcycles resulting in an accident. When David attempts to visit Lois at the hospital, he finds her mid-conversion into a half robot. David and his mother later visits the Greggsons, only to discover Sandy, once a rebellious dirt-bike riding mom, now a perfect housewife, obedient and reverent to her husband (yay!!!!). Lois is now a perfectly well-behaved, properly turned-out daughter. They have a delightful dinner together (this is our favorite scene in the movie!)
above: A liberated adventure-seeking mom improved to become a smiling, homemaking wife, referring to her husband as Captain
Next morning Laura finds her daughter Mary “converted,” looking neat, adorable with ribbons, and a sheer delight around her parents (this is our second favorite scene!) Now suspicious, Laura pushes to discuss this with her husband as he goes off to work.
Laura: “Don’t ignore me Steven, we need to talk. Right now, let’s talk, right now.”
Steven: “I’m not going to be dragged into this insane conversation, tonight you and I will have a good long talk….about the kitchen.“
Oh how we at www.stepfordwife.com / >a href=”http://www.stepfordwives.org”>www.stepfordwives.org swoon at the thought of men talking like this to all us wives again!
Laura goes to the school to find her daughter practicing with the cheerleader squad in perfect synchronicity. She then visits the graveyard to dig up her husband’s ex-wife (how gruesome!) only to discover a robotic shell in the coffin. She returns home to her Mary, back from cheearleading practice. The infamous robot-gone-wrong loop occurs, and the daughter tries to stab her mother. Laura escapes to the Stepford Men’s Club and finally comes across her real daughter in a lab full of half-completed robots. The Stepford Men discover them, and a speech of purposeful evolutionary destiny follows. A successful escape, alongside her son and daughter ends the movie.
We love the newly converted wives and daughters. The opening scene with a Stepford Wife greeting Steven at the door is fascinating womanhood defined. The way rebellious, free-spirit, adventurous Sandy gets discarded for the perfect, obedient homemaking wife who refers to her husband as “Captain” and runs off to a local motel with him because “old married folks have to find creative ways to keep the fires burning” is ecstasy. “It was your daddy’s idea, and a delightful one.” What glorious, feminine pandering to the male ego!
A fashion note has to be made here. The wardrobe of this movie is a perfect illustration of trendy vs. conservative fashion. Almost 25 years later, the classic, conservative look of the Stepford families look vaguely dated, but the hip trendy clothes of the un-Stepford children are tremendously silly. The Stepford Ladies always preach our mantra: Being conservative in your looks and your views has and will always be fashionable.
So let’s not dance around the real item in this movie. It IS a spoof on the “Reagan youths” during the Reaganomics Era, where a portion of the youngsters dressed neatly, excelled in school, and acted in a way that was a throwback to the 1950s. They were referred to as “Preppies.” If you had been going to school (when most of us here at the organization were), you would have seen it all around you. The concept of cheerleaders, sports school teams, and extra-curricular afterschool groups, like any group identity, demands a certain resignation of individuality.
And come to think of it: Is excellence really that horrible? Is seeking perfection (or attempting perfection) truly so appalling? This continual descent of our educational system from one of meritocracy to mediocrity is not some romantic notion to strive for. The Hardings’s children, unconverted, are sarcastic, negative, loud, obnoxious, self-centered, whiny, and full of back talk to their parents. Online reviewers have given a liberal, politically-correct reading to the message of this movie, championing rude uncouth behavior and undistinguished abilities as “individuality” and “freedom.” The Stepford conversion -or the Republicanization of that individuality – is seen as evil and undesirable.
For most average people, if they had a choice to pick which group they’d want their children to belong to, I think the choice would be clear.