An Analysis of 'The Graduate'

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Mike Nichols' 1967 film The Graduate entertained American audiences with its stark portrayal of seduction, betrayal, and inter-generational conflict, ultimately winning Nichols the Academy Award for Best Director. The film seemed to speak to the political and social events of the era, and its message of youthful escape from the dictates of the old guard resonated with a generation of young people growing up in the midst of "The Greatest Generation's" stunning failure to live up to the ideas that supposedly defined their generation. However, a close look at the film's plot alongside the mis-en-scene of dramatic final scene reveals that far from offering a message of rebellion or escape, The Graduate just reinforces conservative ideology by celebrating the concept of marriage and chastity. Ultimately, The Graduate turns out to be nothing more than a slickly produced piece of conservative propaganda, using the themes of the 1960s' emerging sub-cultures in order to mask its own destructive message. To begin one may note the almost ridiculous piety with which the film views the institution of marriage. Mrs. Robinson is made into a villain due to her decision to have sex outside of her marriage, and the film presents her and Ben's relationship as a one-sided seduction, even though they do not actually act on their desires until Ben initiates a second meeting. That the older, sexually-active woman is made into a villain is simply one element of the film's otherwise mundane
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