Seduced by Mrs. Robin­son: How The Grad­u­ate” Became the Touch­stone of a Generation

March 29, 2018

When The Grad­u­ate pre­miered in Decem­ber 1967, its film­mak­ers had mod­est expec­ta­tions for what seemed to be a small, sexy art-house com­e­dy adapt­ed from an obscure first nov­el by an eccen­tric twen­ty-four-year-old. There was lit­tle indi­ca­tion that this off­beat sto­ry – a young man just out of col­lege has an affair with one of his par­ents’ friends and then runs off with her daugh­ter – would turn out to be a mon­ster hit, with an extend­ed run in the­aters and sev­en Acad­e­my Award nom­i­na­tions. While turn­ing the word plas­tics into short­hand for soul­less work and a cor­po­rate, con­sumer cul­ture, The Grad­u­ate sparked a nation­al debate about the gen­er­a­tion gap.” Bev­er­ly Gray offers a smart close read­ing of the film itself as well as nev­er-before-revealed details from behind the scenes – includ­ing all the dra­ma and deci­sion-mak­ing of the cast and crew. Seduced by Mrs. Robin­son brings to light The Grad­u­ates influ­ence on the future of film­mak­ing and explores how it rocked the late-six­ties world, reflect­ing and chang­ing the era’s views of sex, work, and marriage.

Discussion Questions

Dis­cus­sion Ques­tions Cour­tesy of Bev­er­ly Gray

Gen­er­al ques­tions about movies: 
  1. Do films change lives? Is there a film that has changed your life?
  2. Which movies best cap­ture the era in which you came of age?
  3. Do movies shape people’s lives in ways that books do not? If so, why?
  4. Where were you in the polit­i­cal­ly and social­ly tur­bu­lent year 1967?
Spe­cif­ic ques­tions about the 1967 block­buster film, The Grad­u­ate:
  1. Why was this film so huge­ly pop­u­lar? Has it remained on your radar?
  2. Does The Grad­u­ate have some­thing to say to younger movie­go­ers? Does it have any­thing to add to the #MeToo dis­cus­sion now underway?
  3. If this film is a Rorschach test, how do you con­nect to it?
  4. Did you iden­ti­fy with any of the char­ac­ters? If so, whom?
  5. What’s the role of women in The Grad­u­ate?
  6. Does Elaine’s behav­ior make any sense? And that of Mrs. Robinson?
  7. What does The Grad­u­ate have to say about mar­riage? Is it pos­i­tive, neg­a­tive, both?
  8. What’s the source of Ben’s anx­i­ety at the start of the film? By the end, has he changed?
  9. How do you view the film’s end­ing? Did you see it dif­fer­ent­ly when the film was new?
  10. Why focus on an old movie anyway?