Can We Retire This "Wife" Hollywood Trope?

Photo: Anne Marie Fox/Focus Features.
This Friday, Jessica Chastain will play the real-life woman who worked with her husband to save hundreds of displaced Jews in Nazi-occcupied Poland. The woman's name was Antonina Żabiński. The movie is called The Zookeeper's Wife, based on the Diane Ackerman book of the same name.
That's not to be confused with The Astronaut's Wife, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Preacher's Wife, or any number of films that focus the attention on a female lead while describing her in terms relative to her husband.
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We get it. If you meet a woman whose husband can travel through time, you're less likely to introduce her at parties as "Clare, my artist friend." It's going to be, "Guys, meet Clare. Her husband is a freaking time-traveler. More wine?"
Still, it feels diminishing, especially when, just two months ago, Good Morning America labeled a photo of Hillary Clinton (former senator and Secretary of State, recent presidential candidate, etc.) attending Trump's inauguration as "Bill Clinton and wife." With the exception of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband and the odd Lifetime Original Movie (Her Husband's Betrayal, Who Killed My Husband?), men are rarely identified by their marital status, and it's annoying.
In some cases, the "wife" reference is purposely deployed to reduce the female lead to a less powerful position. The Good Wife was a tongue-in-cheek shot at how the public perceived Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) in the wake of her husband Peter's fall from grace. Alicia evolved from a supportive spouse waiting in the wings to a legal badass who ran for office and started her own firm, all while exploring relationships with hunky men who weren't Peter. Not such a "good wife" after all.
It's great that these stories, whether it's The Paris Wife, The Zookeeper's Wife, or The Real Housewives, are by and large about women. But we'll be more excited when the female lead is presented as her own person, and not her husband's possession. Even better: More focus on her career and ambitions. One sign of progress is the upcoming Glenn Close film The Wife, in which a woman who has spent her adult life tending to her husband's career as a Nobel Prize-winning novelist decides to leave him and live her own life.
In the meantime, here's a sampling of other "wife" stories we've seen on the big screen.
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1 of 10
The Bishop's Wife (1947)

The Wife: Julia Brougham (Loretta Young)

The Story: God sends a handsome angel (Cary Grant) to help an overworked bishop (David Niven) who is neglecting his marriage and losing sight of what's important.
2 of 10
Photo: Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock.
The Butcher's Wife (1991)

The Wife: Marina Lemke (Demi Moore)

The Story: A clairvoyant woman moves to New York City after marrying a butcher (George Dzunda) she thinks she's destined to be with.

Does She Have A Job? Does being a clairvoyant count?
3 of 10
The Stepford Wives (2004)

The Wife: Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman)

The Story: Based on Ira Levin's novel and the 1975 cult film it inspired, this reboot sees Kidman playing a strong-minded, Hollywood bigwig who moves to an idyllic suburb with her husband and children. Before long she discovers that the woman in her new town were all former career women who were implanted with microchips to make them more subservient.
4 of 10
Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.
The Miller's Beautiful Wife (1955)

The Wife: Carmela (Sophia Loren)

The Story: This Italian comedy centers on a miller in Naples (Marcello Mastroianni) who is sent to jail so that the local governor can hit on his stunning wife.
5 of 10
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/Hollywood/Caravan/REX/Shutterstock.
The Rich Man's Wife (1996)

The Wife: Josie Potenza (Halle Berry)

The Story: Hollywood producer Tony Potenza (Christopher McDonald) is killed after his young and beautiful "trophy wife" confides in a creepy stranger about her marital problems.
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6 of 10
Photo: New Line/REX/Shutterstock.
The Astronaut's Wife (1999)

The Wife: Jillian Armacost (Charlize Theron)

The Story: Jillian senses something's up when her astronaut husband Spencer (Johnny Depp) starts acting strangely after returning from a botched space mission. She ends up becoming pregnant with his twins after a night of rough sex.
7 of 10
Photo: Touchstone/REX/Shutterstock.
The Preacher's Wife (1996)

The Wife: Julia Biggs (Whitney Houston)

The Story: It's the same as The Bishop's Wife, only with Denzel Washington as the angel in place of Cary Grant. This time Julia has a juicy past as a former nightclub singer.
8 of 10
Photo: New Line Cinema/REX/Shutterstock.
The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

The Wife: Clare Abshire DeTamble (Rachel McAdams)

The Story: Over several years and leaps in time, Clare meets and marries Eric Bana's Henry DeTamble, a librarian with a genetic disorder that causes him to time-travel.
9 of 10
The Priest's Wife (1971)

The Wife: Valeria Billi (Sophia Loren, once again cast opposite Marcello Mastroianni)

The Story: Things get complicated when Valeria falls in love with the handsome man who saved her life. Unfortunately, he's a priest who has taken a vow of celibacy.
10 of 10
Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.
The Zookeeper's Wife (2017)

The Wife: Antonina Żabińska (Jessica Chastain)

The Story: Together with her husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), director of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina works to save the animals in their care as well as offer refuge to displaced Jews during World War II.