Not your parents’ film analysis.
The other week it was Dustin Hoffman’s 80th birthday, and to celebrate I watched The Graduate for the first time in several years. I was reminded by this of my favorite line from the film, one I consider to be the funniest and the most telling: “I think you’re the most attractive of all my parents’ friends.”
This, of course, is spoken by Hoffman’s Ben to Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson during their first romantic encounter. It speaks quite directly to one of the film’s foremost themes – the generation gap. The Graduate is absolutely Ben’s coming-of-age story, but furthermore it’s an overdue coming-of-age story based on opposition. Ben’s already of age, is the thing, he’s already a young adult but he’s trapped in the clueless malaise of an adolescent because his life until now has been prescribed. His decisions, his charted course, his ambitions, they aren’t wholly his, and in some cases they aren’t his at all. They are his parents’ ideals, their dreams for him, and to truly become a man, and himself, Ben must bridge this gap by turning away from it. Which he does, symbolically, by bedding the most attractive of his parents’ friends.
This is just one, minuscule example of how The Graduate tackles the generation gap in relation to the world of the film and the real world. For a closer study, take a look at the following video essay from Jack’s Movie Reviews that dives deep into the subject with an intelligent scrutiny we’ve come to expect from the channel.