Tales of the City: Make way for Stepford hubbies

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The Independent Online

The remake of The Stepford Wives will shortly be upon us, with Nicole Kidman leading the cast of robotically perfect ladies who are gradually introduced into Stepford society, while their real-life originals are killed off by the chauvinistic menfolk.

The remake of The Stepford Wives will shortly be upon us, with Nicole Kidman leading the cast of robotically perfect ladies who are gradually introduced into Stepford society, while their real-life originals are killed off by the chauvinistic menfolk. If ever a movie cried out not to need a remake, this must be it - not just because everyone knows the plot, but because Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss were perfect as the bright refuseniks who refuse to join in the domesticated, Martha Stewart world of perfect brunch parties and top-of-the-range water filters. But how would it have worked out if the producers had bravely decided to remake the film as The Stepford Husbands?

Reel 1: Ralph and Janet move to the picturesque suburb of Stepford. They are welcomed with enthusiasm by their new neighbours. The women all wear summer frocks and chat about children and holidays; the men wear tight Dolce & Gabbana jeans and offer to come round and put up bookshelves. Ralph and Janet are thrilled, although Janet is alarmed to notice that the Stepford husbands a) laugh at their wives' jokes; b) drink Zinfandel instead of Budweiser, and neither belch, fart nor wipe their mouths with the backs of their hands; and c) always refill the ice-tray when it's almost empty, a sign that something is Not Normal Around Here.

Reel 2: Ralph and Janet attend a coffee morning with Sadie and Norm. They are struck by the way Norm dishes out advice about stock-exchange investments while knocking up a perfect tagliatelle for his wife's lunch, and then disappears to look after the baby for the afternoon. And by his whispered confession, "I love my wife. I'm very much looking forward to performing cunnilingus on her this evening for, ooh, about 95 minutes."

Reel 3: Ralph feels something is wrong. His wife has been spending too much time with the townswomen, poring over old Brad Pitt and Jude Law movies. He wants someone to go to the ball game with, but finds the locals odd. Wayne is always improving his groinal co-ordination in the gym. Graydon likes to read to his wife from the works of Marian Keyes, as she lies around all day, drinking Baileys. Hank has a fetish for spending thousands of dollars on Christian Louboutin slingbacks. Zeke is a professional masseur with huge hands and a single velvet glove.

Reel 4: All is revealed. Ralph is horrified to discover that the Stepford husbands are, in fact, androids, designed by the town's women as the epitome of uxoriousness. In the final scene, Ralph is found robotically gliding a trolley around a supermarket, unerringly locating the Viakal descaling gel and the plain-chocolate Hobnobs, and saying to the other Stepford husbands, "Hi Marty, I love what you've done with your hair... Hi Gerry, have you tried these fantastic new dishwasher powerballs?".

Hasta la vista to girly-men

Arnie Schwarzenegger, incensed by having his budget plans blocked by some Democrat legislators in his Californian fiefdom, recently told a Canadian political audience: "If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers'... if they don't have the guts, I call them girly-men."

What the hell? Girly-men? What kind of Wildean thrust is that? Of what class of Churchillian rapier wit is this an example? "Girly-men" - even when it's said in that gargling-with-razor-blades voice - will never be considered a world-class rhetorical shaft. I can't imagine Yasser Arafat berating Ariel Sharon with the words: "Your intractability and lack of compromise are doing you no favours, you big transvestite." I feel the day will never come when David Blunkett informs the House: "To those who say that the electronic tagging of debtors and prostitutes is inhuman, I say you are a bunch of lady-boys." I know the line is from a mid-1980s sketch on Saturday Night Live, in which two hefty Austrian bodybuilders disparaged those less muscular than themselves; but it's still a bit naff to dredge up a humorous depiction of how thick you used to be. Really Arnold. You twit. You seven- stone weakling...

It's an ill wind...

I was happy to blag one of the last tickets to see Simon & Garfunkel in Hyde Park last week. It was perfectly OK to pay £40 for a standing ticket (£40 to stand on the grass? What a bargain. Sure there's no extra charge for breathing in and out?). If I'd been charged £320 for the £40 ticket, as the GetMeTickets organisation charged a Cliff Richard from Kettering this week, I'd have cut up rough. But worse is the attitude displayed by companies who won't honour their commitments.

A friend and Bob Dylan fan booked herself a ticket to the Fleadh in Finsbury Park last month on the See Tickets website. She paid £5 over the price for p&p and something called "consequential loss policy", ie, for the loss you incur if the ticket doesn't arrive. She waited, and waited, went on holiday, came back - but nothing appeared. On the day of the concert, she was told to try the box office, where they made her buy another ticket - and she assumed she'd be reimbursed. But she was wrong. They told her that she'd left it too late and they couldn't return her money. But (she wailed) my ticket never arrived! You could prove you sent it to me by ringing the Post Office; then I can claim insurance against its non-arrival. "Nah," said someone called John at See Tickets. "We're not going to do that. It's not company policy."

So, my friend has paid £45 for a ticket that never reached her, and now won't be reimbursed because the company can't be arsed to work the insurance procedure they made her pay for. The rats. I'd like to send Dylan round to their offices to sing "Idiot Wind" at them, until they change their minds.