The Stepford Wives : A Dream or Nightmare Come True?
Another "Enlightenment through Entertainment" Dharma-Inspired Movie Review:The Stepford Wives
A Dream or Nightmare Come True? :
In this remake of a classic, Claire Wellington, a brilliant mad scientist (Glenn Close) creates her idea of a perfect robot in the guise of her charismatic husband (Christopher Walken) - so as to influence the other husbands in a town called Stepford to alter and robotise their wives to their physical and intellectual liking. She skillfully played with the egos of dissatisfied men overshadowed and neglected by their successful wives, turning them into docile cheery pretty dolls who wait on them hand and foot. But that was merely stage one of her plan to freeze Stepford in the idealistic post-war '50s, which happened to be her idea of a perfect era of living the then but ever elusive "American dream". Stage two was to robotise the men, and stage three the rest of the world beyond Stepford.
Hers was a twisted vision of a robotised Utopia. The film's website describes Stepford where "All the wives are far too perfect, and all the husbands are way too happy." What is the problem with such a world? It means humanity is halved by robotising the other gender, by confiscating free will, leaving no avenue for free flow expression of natural compassion and wisdom. Sure, with free will there will be "battles of the sexes", but where is the love in a relationship if one's spouse becomes unreal, having become your fantasy lover? One might as well tailor-make a robot in the first place, instead of committing to a human.
As a Zen master put it, a water tub of potatoes together rub against each other, thus cleaning each other better and faster. Likewise, what is the value of any relationship, marital or spiritual, if one's partners simply comply with all of one's preferences? The truth is, we will get sick of it, if not bored! We humans crave for stimulus of both the senses and the mind! While we might crave for sensual stimulus, we all need spiritual stimulus too, for True Happiness to be possible. Another problem of a Stepford world is that since our desires keep morphing, a Stepford spouse is never permanently one's dream lover. One would have to tune him or her as constantly as one's endless wants change. A Stepford world is thus not a dream fulfilled - it only perpetuates craving, and does not bring about contentment, a key ingredient of the recipe for True Happiness.
One might wonder. What is the whole world is "stepford-ed?" Would it be okay then? Imagine Claire having managed to conquer the world, making the whole world revolve around her ego. How happy can one be without a single spiritual friend? One would become the loneliest person in the world. Assuming you are the one who become "stepford-ed", it wouldn't matter to you since you are not even conscious you are trapped and not your true "self." This raises important questions we ought to ask ourselves - "Are you a Stepford person?" Are you one who stereotype yourself blindly to your imperfect ideas of perfection, or the crowd's worldly ideals of how you should be? Are you every day robotising yourself through the trends of the day? Are you robotising yourself to fit someone's impossible mould? Are you "losing" your original Buddha-nature (innate qualities similar to the Buddha, or potential to be like the Buddha)? Are you alienating your spiritual life through chasing material pursuits and unsubstantial mere appearances? Unlike the Stepford wives, we have the consciousness to choose. This choice is forever our primary freedom, till we attain liberation through choosing and attaining Enlightenment. We need to be "Buddha-ised" instead of "Stepford-ed"! But why not choose to be a Stepford person, given the choice? Will it not remove this existential burden of choice, of the need for any spiritual "struggle"? No, because you still need to choose to be a Stepford person. Literally robotising oneself, not that it is possible, can never switch off your consciousness once and for all, as the mind is so powerful that it thrives on and on, even when asleep.
What is a perfect world? Is it one where no one, especially the imperfect spouse you live with never voices an opinion different from you? Is it one where there are no conflicts of interests to resolve? Like the Buddhas' Purelands, and ideal world is where we can readily learn to perfect ourselves spiritually, where we can steadily increase our compassion and wisdom, as we eradicate the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. A Stepford world is but another of many failed visions to create an earthly paradise. Instead, it imprisons our Buddha-nature, liberating no one, not even its master, as long as he or she is slave to endless desires. A truly perfected world is thus the purified mind of a Buddha. There is never a better time than NOW - to wake up from the "Stepford-ness" of our world. -shian