Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

One word: Plastics.

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, October 14, 2019

Film buffs may recall the 1967 classic motion picture which cast Dustin Hoffman as the central character/protagonist, and included vocal music by Paul Simon (performed by Simon and Garfunkel), and instrumental music by Dave Grusin.

Featuring enduring classic Simon and Garfunkel hits as “The Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Scarborough Fair,” the music may be the most enduring part of the film.

It was Dustin Hoffman’s first serious motion picture acting role, and became the foundation upon which he would later build his career, and later, achieve international stardom.

While two movies in which he was role cast were released that year – The Tiger Makes Out, and The Graduate – it was the latter for which he became most renown.

Based on the novel by Charles Webb, the screenplay was written by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham, and though described as a blended comedy, drama, romance genre film, its high-brow humor on a low-brow topic edges on the dryly sardonic-to-noir, while the drama is real.

And romance?

Well, it’s hardly romantic.

Read the July 19, 1968 critique of “The Graduate” by Jacob R. Brackman published The New Yorker, which essentially makes the same conclusion.

What else could be said for an early horny housewife MILF movie?

Because that theme – that “Ben Braddock” (played by Hoffman), a soon-to-be recent university graduate, is dating Elaine Robinson, a as-yet-ungraduated peer at an in-town university, and their relationship progresses to the point of marriage (for Elaine, but not for Ben), all while a steamy, purely sexual relationship is developed between Mrs. Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft) who first initiated overtures toward Ben, to which he later succumbed – is what drives the story along.

As his natural senior, Mrs. Robinson clearly takes unfair selfish advantage of Ben’s naiveté, and in that sense, demonstrates not merely manipulation, but abuse.

Naturally, all such relationships of that type are mostly kept secret and frowned upon in polite society, and this case is certainly no different, which provides the tension for the drama in the film. Only this one turns toward blackmail, and the farcically shallow, emotionally manipulative, dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship is only suggested, and is rarely fully displayed in the film – though there are moments – and again, demonstrates the vacuous depths of Mrs. Robinson’s emotional, psychosexual needs, and the treachery to which she goes to fulfill her unmet needs.

Moreover, the humor is frequently dead-panned, and is by no means slapstick. A 1968 review of the movie in The New Yorker described it as “European moviemaking done right in the heart of American movieville,” and I couldn’t agree more – which is not to say that the film (and book) are unworthy as art, or entertainment, for they are. But as a genre, “because American films straggle so far behind literature and European films in reflecting the actual quality of modern life, rudimentary negativism can easily be taken for truthfulness, and a decade-old vision can appear to be “ahead of its time.””

And so it is with “The Graduate.”

But the movie and its themes were not my intended target.

Instead, the subject I wanted to focus upon is a momentary, yet memorable, scene in the movie, a graduation soiree at the Robinson’s residence, in which the following dialogue ensues:

Female Guest (Joanne [Elisabeth Fraser, uncredited] to Ben): What are you going to do now?
Ben: I think I’ll go upstairs for a minute.

FG (exasperatedly): Uh! I mean, with your future!
2nd Female Guest (offscreen, to Ben): Your life!
Ben: Well, that’s a little hard to say.

Mr. McGuire ([Walter Brooke] behind Ben): Ben.
Ben (to Joanne): Excuse me. (turns around)

Ben: Mr. McGuire.
Mr. McGuire: Ben.
Ben: Mr. McGuire.

MMG: Come with me a minute; I want to talk with you. Excuse us Joanne. (walks with Ben to the pool outside, places arm on Ben’s shoulder)

MMG: I just want to say one word to you. Just… one word. (turns and faces Ben with arm around his shoulder)
Ben: Yes, sir.

MMG: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes, I am.

MMG: Plastics.

Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
MMG: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Ben: Yes, I will.
MMG (holding up hand, then index finger): Enough said. That’s a deal. (pats Ben on the back and walks away)

Plastics.

They’re not going away, and have, as prophetically foretold in “The Graduate,” only increased.

Consider your own household’s refuse.

Consider the content of what you toss into the waste bin.

Try a simple experiment sometime; separate household waste into three essential categories: 1.) Paper; 2.) Plastic, and; 3.) Metal.

After about a week, examine the three bags or containers, and see for yourself if plastics are not the Number 1 source of volume for household waste.

Our household refuse is replete with plastics of seemingly countless types, shapes, sizes, and varieties, for almost every household use, including shampoo, clothes washing detergent, fabric softener, foods of every type, including the styrofoam trays and plastic wrap from the meat counter. And then, there’s milk, cream, peanut butter, sour cream, eggs, cottage cheese, and other foodstuffs. The motor oil, fuel additives, anti-freeze, window washing solution, dish washing soap, medicine containers, lids for oatmeal containers, containers of seeds and nuts, soda pop, water, and sports drink bottles, and serving savers are all plastic.

Trays in the refrigerator, the materials in your cars, even the fabrics we wear for clothing are made or blended with plastics. Remote controls for entertainment centers, televisions, computer keys, cell and smartphones, all have plastic in their manufacture. Business signage, household water and wastewater piping, insulation, bird feeders, garden hoses, writing utensils, are mostly plastic-based. Window blinds, their screens, and everything made of fiberglass – showers, tubs, boats, personal watercraft, sports car bodies – is plastic. And of course, let’s not forget the shopping bags and straws.

Plastic.

Do you see how indispensable it has become in our daily lives? How utterly reliant we have become upon it? How genuinely valuable it is to us all?

And conversely, do you also see how problematic its disposal has become?

As things now stand, there’s seemingly no end for the use of plastics to improve the quality of our lives. And yet, because of the myriad uses which we’re making for plastics, combined with the rate of global population growth and exponential accompanying consumption, we must give all the more heed to how plastic waste should be handled in a “post consumer” world increasingly filled with plastic debris, the veritable evidential bane of our existence.

Science can help us determine how to come to grips with potential solutions, some of which include biodegradable plastics, which are “Earth-friendly,” including increased and even mandatory recycling.

The United States, Canada, European Union nations, Australia, Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, South and Central American nations, Russia, Ukraine, Middle Eastern nations… indeed, all nations worldwide must come together to improve our global lot.

Plastic waste is not just a “First World” problem, neither is it diminishing, and it’s certainly not going away.

It is a cross-cultural, inter-religious, human obligation, and moral imperative to care for others, and the areas of our residence upon the Earth.

We have made these messes, they are our own, exclusively; and we can – and should – clean them up.

These problems are not insurmountable.

We have made them, and we can resolve them.

The only remaining question is – do we have the will?

Here’s the film trailer.

Oh yes… the end of The Graduate concluded with Benjamin interrupting Elaine’s marriage at the altar, and the two of them making a dramatic escape on a city bus, where they sat together… in the back.

Recall that this motion picture was made in 1967, when it was commonplace for Blacks, Hispanics, other racial minorities, and the impoverished, to be relegated to “the back of the bus,” with front seats reserved for Whites only. And so, that seemingly small matter of physical positioning itself makes a socio-cultural statement which was most definitely NOT missed in that era, but is practically unnoticed today.

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