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12 March 2010

So I'm in the shower thinking of Mrs. Robinson (no snickering) and is it just me or has her archetype totally outstripped the reality of The Graduate.[More:]
I just saw this movie a couple years ago and found it hella depressing. I mean it's a good chronicler of class experience in a certain era and has powerful scenes (until devolving into a stupid caper in the end) but dang. Even the poster misrepresents the messed-up-ness of that relationship. It's especially strange cause this general dynamic actually happens in a lot of movies (in a healthier, nicer way) but her character is the go-to pop culture touchstone.
I was in high school when this came out, so my view of it is sorta skewed by the teen boy desire to get laid, no matter who or how.

Perhaps emblematic of the times, it ends happily ever after, which is probably not how it would have played out in real life, where sex usually has consequences.
posted by danf 12 March | 12:43
I can't quite parse your words before the (more), but what are some of the other movies you are thinking of - or who or what character whould you suggest as an emblematic touchstone for the dynamic instead?
posted by rainbaby 12 March | 12:47
Huh, danf? I never saw the graduate as a "happily ever after" ending. More of a "wtf" (by them). Am I missing something?
posted by gaspode 12 March | 12:49
It has a structurally comic ending - what is supposed to happen, happens.
posted by rainbaby 12 March | 12:52
danf: Would a desperate teen want to get laid by her though? It doesn't look like a happy thing with her and that dude. I guess the answer is "yeah" but eh.. what exactly does she introduce him to? We don't even find out. Just sex? What types of sex? What types of emotional journeys? Nothing we find out.

rainbaby: of a woman introducing a young guy into sex? Uh there's a bunch of arty types.. a couple in French.. but I don't think I've seen any the whole way through.

I just think there can be an awesome way to handle it and whatever was going on between Mrs. Robinson and that dude (he: can't we talk about something? -- she: okay, tell me about your college experiences -- he: *bangs head against bed*) was enervating. It turns out that she'd done a degree in art later doesn't it, and it's something he'd suggested talking about instead that she didn't pick up on. Weirdness.

In sum: I wanted the relationship between them to be sweet and fun and focus on the .. feelings of each .. within a journey, but it's just a part of a plot in a bigger movie. In my experience she's evoked as something naughty and sometimes in a lighthearted way and so I felt let down by the darkness there.

Maybe I'm too hooked onto my interpretation of their relationship though.
posted by Firas 12 March | 12:58
I guess that's why "Mrs. Robinson" stands for a woman introducing a young guy to sex, in America anyway, many people have heard of the movie, etc. Maybe that will change in time. She is very unpleasant, I agree. It's a pretty old movie, you are right about the time and place and class thing, that's what the movie was really about.
posted by rainbaby 12 March | 13:05
I read the screenplay for this recently and was somewhat awed by how sexist it was. Particularly the daughter who Hoffman's character ends up running away with has no real lines and simply listens to his stupid ennui in every scene they share and then inexplicably goes for him despite his having screwed her mother. It makes no sense.

Anne Bancroft's character has more agency, obviously, and is therefor a much more interesting character, but is just so coldly manipulating as to be pretty simplistic. A lot of the appeal of her character comes from Bancroft's performance, not from the script which is really only about Benjamin Braddock or whatever the character's name is.
posted by serazin 12 March | 13:28
Huh, danf? I never saw the graduate as a "happily ever after" ending. More of a "wtf" (by them). Am I missing something?

Well didn't he burst into the church and sweep her away, albeit on a bus? Mrs. Robinson was left to stew in her own bitterness, or so it would seem.

I have not seen it since it came out, so my memory may be hazy about it.

But, at the time, the movie was HUGE, culturally. It was defining, even if a lot of the definition was pretty simple or downright inaccurate.
posted by danf 12 March | 13:37
Well didn't he burst into the church and sweep her away, albeit on a bus?

Yes, but then we get to see the long take of them sitting in the back of the bus as the giddy excitement wears off and their expressions lapse into "Oh dear, what now?" anxiety. The ending is, at best, ambiguous. I just saw the ending again the other night, and it reads as pretty bleak to me (though that may say more about my romantic cynicism).
posted by Elsa 12 March | 13:40
danf: Would a desperate teen want to get laid by her though? It doesn't look like a happy thing with her and that dude.

Well as someone (I think Orange Swan) here put it, Mrs. Robinson made for some good, or at least efficient, masturbatory fodder at the time.

In reality, the few times I was accosted by older women at the time (most notably once when I was doing my baseball uni at a laundromat and this woman tried to help me and also let me know that we could fold it at her house) I ran like hell the other way. Then halfway regretted it.
posted by danf 12 March | 13:41
posted by pjern 12 March | 13:46
But would you have run from Anne Bancroft danf?! Me neither...

posted by serazin 12 March | 13:47
This may be, pardon the expression, generational, but my reaction was like danf's.
posted by Obscure Reference 12 March | 14:27
Yeah, what Elsa said. That was more eloquent than my "wtf".
posted by gaspode 12 March | 14:37
Elsa and gaspode:

Again, at my stage of life, he was going to get to have sex with her (Mrs. Robinson's daughter), hence, live happily ever after, because I was pretty ignorant of life on the other side of that transition.

Nowadays, I suppose that it's the minority of kids who do not have sex during high school.

So I missed the ambiguity.
posted by danf 12 March | 14:45
I missed the ambiguity when I saw it as a kid, too! I was quite surprised to re-watch the movie as an adult and see that "uh-uh" moment that stretches out for a looooong minute before credits roll.
posted by Elsa 12 March | 14:52
I mean, "that "uh-oh" moment." Whevs.
posted by Elsa 12 March | 14:54
This is where I'm compelled to point out that, story and characters aside, Hoffman was 30 when this film was shot and Bancroft was 36.

(I saw this film once when I was 12 or so, and I did pick up on the ambiguity of the closing bus scene. I had a sad.)
posted by maudlin 12 March | 21:21
I was coming here to make the exact same one-word comment that pjern made. Damn!

That's very interesting, maudlin, about Hoffman and Bancroft's relative ages. I wouldn't have guessed it, but still, I've always thought Hoffman didn't look quite young enough for that role. Never actually cared for Hoffman all that much, except for Midnight Cowboy, where I thought he really excelled in his portrayal of Ratzo Rizzo.
posted by flapjax at midnite 13 March | 07:00
She obviously hit something cause that's what everyone remembers. I forget who said it but something to effect that it's odd that Mrs. Robinson, a symbol of cocktail-fueled desperation became shorthand for Red Hot Momma. She's so *tragic* and her daughter is such a cipher that you end up rooting for her, not Hoffman. You go Mrs. Robinson, go out into the world your chip the size of Maine and your seething bitterness. You're waaaay more interesting.
posted by The Whelk 13 March | 07:27
Yeah, the daughter was a drag. A blank.
posted by flapjax at midnite 13 March | 07:57
So I'm in the shower and.... I just got clean.
posted by Doohickie 13 March | 11:37
I think I may be in love… with Etsy. || go or don't go?