The remake of "The Stepford Wives," now playing at a theater near you, could have been a fascinating movie. Too bad, the new version is a dull-witted, ditzy, dated and campy version of the 1975 flick about men who set out to get total control over their mates.
The new version should have depicted career women as the authors of the robots, assigned to replace the new generation of women who are turning their backs on work beyond the hearth. The career women have declared war on stay-at-home mommies with the vengeance that the Stepford husbands applied to stereotyping their wives a quarter of a century ago. It's not clear whether the career women are driven by defensiveness or a fear that they're missing one of life's great experiences - raising their children.
A year ago, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times took a break from assaulting Rummy, Dick and W. and aimed her ink at all those retro women who are "deserting the fast track," to spend their days pushing baby strollers with frequent stops for a latte at Starbucks. Full-time motherhood, in this dowdy view, is just another lifestyle choice of a Stepford wife.
"The day your column ran," an angry reader told her, "I was catching and mopping up my weeping daughter's copious vomit, trying to comfort her, carting her off to the pediatrician's office and worrying. Finally, at 5 p.m. she fell asleep and I was able to slip her into the stroller and get out of the house. Some pleasant life of leisure."
The New York Observer, which pays attention to journalistic trends with the devotion that Vogue pays to French fashion, recently devoted a full broadsheet page to the "mommy wars." The current target of opportunity is Caitlin Flanagan, who with wit and daring defends stay-at-home moms. She's at work on a book called "Housewife Heaven." The title is not meant as satire.
Flanagan enraged career women with a 12,000-word polemic in the Atlantic Monthly called "How Serfdom Saved the Women's Movement," accusing career women of making it on the backs of their nannies. Her critics were further enraged when they learned that she has a nanny herself, to help with twin sons. She sticks to her point nonetheless: "When a mother works, something is lost."
She doesn't quarrel with women who must work; her argument is with smug upper-middle-class mothers who not only want a career outside the home but who assert that they're not missing anything in their children's lives because there's nothing to miss.