I first saw The Graduate when I was about sixteen years old. I still had plenty of years of school left, and even more until I would be thrown out into the “real world”. I loved the film because it was laugh-out-loud funny, whether it was Benjamin being adamant that his plans were “fully baked” or struggling to reserve a hotel room. But then I gave it a re-watch at twenty-two, around the same age as Benjamin. I was in my last year of school, about to be a college graduate myself and soon that “real world” on the horizon would become a reality. And suddenly, everything hit me. I completely related to what Benjamin was going through. (Well, besides that affair with an older neighbor)
And now I’m a graduate myself, and just like Benjamin I’m in that summer-after-graduation transition period. It’s this weird place where you feel like something in between a child and an adult. You felt like an adult at school because you were on your own, doing what you wanted, but now you’re back at home with your parents around every corner and you feel like a kid again. And you won’t feel like an adult again until you figure out what you’re doing with that little thing called your life.
There’s a scene where Benjamin’s parents throw him a graduation party and all the adults crowded around him asking what he’s going to do with his life? His future? Benjamin just replies, “It’s a little hard to say.” And it is a little hard to say what you want to do as you as soon as you’re back home! Everyone from your dentist to your eye doctor wants to know what you’re plans are. Just like that scene where Mr. McGuire insists Benjamin goes into “Plastics,” you have to deal with everyone’s two cents about your job prospects. Yes Dr., thank you for enlightening me on the difficulty of breaking into theatre. I surely expected my BFA in Acting to go further than your medical school degree.
It seems like adults just expect you to go-go-go, one part of your life ends and you have to start another immediately. They don’t even give you time to relax and see what you want for yourself. And if you take that time you’re seen as lazy. Just like the scene in the pool,
Mr. Braddock: Ben, what are you doing?
Benjamin: Well, I would say that I’m just drifting. Here in the pool.
Mr. Braddock: Why?
Benjamin: Well, it’s very comfortable just to drift here.
Mr. Braddock: Have you thought about graduate school?
Mr. Braddock: Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work?
Benjamin: You got me.
Being a recent grad isn’t easy. You have the whole world ahead of you and the possibilities seem both endless and few at the same time. You look at what other people are doing and you wonder, “How do I get there?” Or maybe you are as lost and aimless as Benjamin is, you don’t know what to do yet and feel rushed to figure it all out. That’s why The Graduate is such a timeless story, young graduates of the 60s were experiencing it just as powerfully as us millennials.
Being in this summer of transition just like Benjamin gives the film such a deeper significance for me. I wonder what it will be like to watch The Graduate when I’m older, to look back on that time where everything was ahead of me. But for now, I’m comfortable just to drift in the pool.