Re-examining a Classic: "The Graduate"

When we visit my dad and stepmother, we watch a movie almost every night. As a person who rarely gets out to a movie theater, was very, very bad at getting Netflix disks watched and returned, and who lives 20 miles from the nearest video rental place, this is an opportunity to catch up with films that I never saw in their heyday. On the screen this past week: “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Red October”, and the extended Swedish version of “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”. When the cry went up from the masses (well, from me) for a light and fluffy comedy, my dad chose “The Graduate”.

I think that my husband and I were the only two people left in our generation who had never seen this movie. I remember great reviews and it was tagged as a comedy, so I settled in to round out my cultural education.

Oh, my goodness. I think this movie is one of the least cheery comedies ever. It can’t help it, though. “The Graduate” is an excellent example of the movie that has not aged well.

The hero of the tale, Ben, is a disaffected young man who has just graduated from college and can’t figure out where he is going next. I don’t have a problem with that as a central focus of a movie. This is a common state of being for many young men (and young women). The movie exists, however, in a sanitized world that ignores the primary force that acted upon young men at the time. It’s a movie made in 1967 that completely ignores the Vietnam War. The movie was made two years before the institution of the draft lottery, so we can’t even give it the benefit of the doubt by assuming that Ben had drawn a high number and didn’t have to worry about being drafted.

Beyond that, there is the simple fact that he is a stalker. It was fascinating to hear the reactions of my 24-year old daughter and her boyfriend to the movie. They both disliked the film because they were aghast at the way that Ben pursues a young woman during the second half of the movie. Put simply, Ben acts like a cad throughout the film, though he’s in pain himself and oblivious to how his behavior affects others. I do not understand why the writers and director thought we would find him funny, and want to spend an evening with him.

Maybe we do live in a better world these days. Ah, I am forgetting the Internet trolls. If the movie were remade today, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ben split his daytime hours between floating in a swimming pool and flaming other peoples’ comments on a variety of websites.

Dustin Hoffman is brilliant as Ben, and Anne Bancroft is just as brilliant as Mrs. Robinson. The times and our social mores have changed, and I came away from the movie liking her a lot better than I liked Ben. I bet that I wouldn’t have felt the same way 45 years ago, if my parents had allowed me to see this movie.

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This is a warm-up blog post about nothing important or exciting. I’m trying to make some changes in my life, and a return to blogging is one of them. Best to re-start with something fairly easy, don’t you think? I am home after a week of vacation, and have a list of blog topics. Let’s see if I can restore some balance to my days, and use the Internet to create as well as for sucking down other people’s words. There has been knitting and sailing and an adventure. I hope to be back in a few days. Next up: back to work, and back to the budget.

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