Mrs. Robinson


The mellowest indictment of soul crushing conformity. Just because Simon & Garfunkel are mellow doesn’t mean they’re not socially conscious. If anything, it makes their words more resonant. Paul Simon wrote this song at Mike Nichols’ behest, for the now classic soundtrack of The Graduate. At the time, serious rock musicians were not expected to dip their toes into the world of Hollywood, even in peripheral ways, because selling out and stuff. But the counterculture embraced The Graduate, with the music being a large part of its appeal, and the movie’s popularity helped nudge Simon & Garfunkel on to greater fame. That film, though certain punchlines now sound dated, has held up well; being bewildered and frustrated by the expectations placed upon you by milieu that raised you is a near universal part of growing up. Most of us go through a Benjamin Braddock phase of aimless ennui. For me, as I’ve grown older, my sympathy has shifted towards the character of Mrs. Robinson, the glamorous cougar who drinks and screws away her bitterness at having relinquished the best years of her life to a man she doesn’t love, a child she never wanted and a life of material comfort that brings her no joy. The unhappy conformity of the Robinsons was a nascent feminist catalyst for a generation of women determined not to make Mrs. Robinson’s mistake. Unfortunately, a lot of people still do, and the American suburbs are still filled with wives and mothers who would trade all the creature comforts of the middle class for a chance to take back their youthful autonomy. We may have more options in life than Mrs. Robinson did (or Benjamin for that matter) but we don’t necessary grasp them, and the pressure to choose a ‘good’ life over a fulfilling one hasn’t gone away either. The figure of Mrs. Robinson remains relevant.

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