When the movie The Graduate was new, I remember my sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Kent, a practicing Catholic, telling our class that she “objected” to the movie because “half of it was spent in bed.”
It’s only within the last ten years that I actually got around to seeing The Graduate and I observed a couple of things.
- To say that half of the movie was spent in bed was an exaggeration. And those scenes where Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman were in bed were not in the least bit sexy, erotic, or titillating.
- The lyrics to the song Mrs. Robinson that we know so well have nothing to do with the movie. Unlike the Mrs. Robinson in the song, the Anne Bancroft character in the movie remains firm, resolute, and unyielding to the end. But then I believe the story is that Simon and Garfunkel didn’t get around to writing the lyrics for the verses until they learned the song had been nominated for an Academy Award. (You’ll recall that you only hear the chorus in the movie.)
But what really struck me was that no one was happy in the movie. No one. Ever.
There was no happiness in the affair between Bancroft and Hoffman. And at the end, there was no joy in the Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross characters running off together. In the final scene they are sitting at the back of the bus, both of them looking forward, not at each other. And both of them look confused and lost, not happy.
The movie was a reflection of the nihilistic existentialism of a certain element of the intellectual and artistic community of the time. And it is a reminder of a view I wish to avoid. I want to live with a perspective of joy and hope, no matter how gloomy the world and national scene. I can’t say I always succeed, but it is what I aspire too.