Stepford
(STEP.furd) adj. Relating to a person who has an unthinking, conformist, and uncritical attitude.

Example Citation:
The aural companion to the Joel and Ethan Coen film ["O Brother, Where Art Thou?"] starring George Clooney has made believers out of many who might have scoffed at the notion that hillbilly music could serve as a reservoir of emotional depth. It's also answered a yearning for the authentic in a super-slick pop cultural marketplace.

"The more we become immersed in technology, the more we look for authenticity," says soundtrack producer T-Bone Burnett, who, with the Coens' aid, led the audio tour through the white and black rural South. "When I was growing up, my family had books, records and games, and they were all different shapes and sizes. Now everything is the same — it all comes on a shiny silver disc. That's stripping us of our sense of who we are. It makes us more and more Stepford. And people are looking for more than that."
—Dan DeLuca, "Mountain music," Ventura Country Star, August 1, 2002

Earliest Citation:
Los Alamos is a tiny town, a one-industry town, brooded over by "The Lab," the pervasive power of The Hill.

It is a place that inspired a zealous attachment in those who love it, a frightened contempt in those who cannot exist in its all-consuming atmosphere.

Children's book author Judy Blume, who lived there for two years as the wife of a physicist, calls it a "fearful town," and refers to it as "Stepford," after the movie in which housewives were turned into mechanical dolls.
—Sally Quinn, "The sweet sin of the atomic city," The Washington Post, June 29, 1980

Notes:
The use of Stepford as an adjective is based on Ira Levin's 1972 book The Stepford Wives. (It was later made into a movie of the same title with a screenplay by William Goldman. A remake starring Nicole Kidman is scheduled for release next year.). The women of Stepford (a New York suburb) are creepily content with their lives as wives, mothers, and housekeepers. And no wonder: it turns out they're all automatons, programmed by their husbands to embrace "traditional" wifely duties and conform to their husbands' norms. Ever since, Stepford has been used to describe someone who goes through life robotically or compliantly.

The example and earliest citations highlight the use of Stepford as a standalone word. However, Stepford is most often seen right before a noun, particularly a type of person. Here are some examples that have appeared this year:


Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that we become Pollyanna or Stepford employees and whistle while we work.
—Steve Landsberg, "The Whine Ethic," ADWEEK, November 4, 2002


They are cloying on a par with the straight-teethed, well-scrubbed Stepford children who pack the purple dinosaur's posse.
—Jeff Wisser, "'VeggieTales' not as yummy on the big screen," Chicago Sun-Times, October 4, 2002


The relentless emphasis upon academic excellence, those interminable tests, may well turn him into a Stepford Teenager.
—Rod Liddle, "Put fun back on the curriculum," The Guardian, July 10, 2002


She tends to share certain views about the obnoxiousness of kid-centric American culture and self-important Stepford parents who make life miserable for everyone else.
—Robin Vaughan, "Baby nudges Earfull out of the spotlight," The Boston Herald, November 8, 2002


Davis seems almost like a Stepford mom — so smiley and loving, she seems programmed.
—Jean Oppenheimer, "Mouseterfully Done," Dallas Observer, July 18, 2002


They are the Stepford Husbands — all plastic all the time — nice fellows, but...
—Bill Conlin, "Dogtrainer," Philadelphia Daily News, June 28, 2002


Massachusetts Democrats got stuck with The Stepford Candidate, a woman who in the course of months of campaigning managed not to show a flicker of human warmth or offer up one unrehearsed comment.
—Rachelle Cohen, "A Dem winner can show locals how it's done," The Boston Herald, November 7, 2002


Those who have worked closely with Davis at different times over the past two decades use identical words to describe him. He is a shark, a machine, the Stepford politician.
—Mark Z. Baraback, "Davis' Drive Has Been Unswerving," Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2002


Furtado, along with Keys and Arie, is part of a growing backlash to the Stepford stars like Britney and Christina.
—Greg Barr, "Not on Your Nelly!," Houston Press, March 21, 2002

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