Bodroghkozy, Aniko. "Reel Revolutionaries: an Examination of Hollywood's Cycle of 1960s Youth Rebellion Films." Cinema Journal 41 (2002): 38-58. JSTOR. UPenn, Philadelphia. 8 Apr. 2008. Keyword: 1960s counterculture culture america hippie.
This article explains how studios in the 1960s attempted to attract young moviegoers (18-30 year olds) by making films about campus activism and youth protest. Author Aniko Bodroghkozy discusses how these films represented campus turmoil, the radicalization of young people, and the violence associated with student rebellion. Cinema audiences were dwindling in the 1960s, mostly due to the demise of the family audience. The expansion of suburban America was keeping the family away from the movies and opting for other enterainment such as television and recreation. MGM was one of the first studios to attempt to bring the youth back to the box office. Louis Polk became president of MGM in 1968 and recognized this problem in the industry. Joseph Levine, head of Avco Embassy Productions, called these youth-oriented films "nonconformist cinema." The Graduate had been wonderfully successful for Embassy. Unlike Levine, some film industry executives were uncomfortable with the antiestablishment views, politics, and values associated with these films and thought they would hinder international sales. Directors and producers were able to frame these rebellious movies by focusing on the main characters instead of the radical mobs. Films such as The Strawberry Statement and Getting Straight were about campus uprisings, but their creators framed them as films about individuals having identity crises in the midst of rebellious college campuses.
Nevertheless, there was certainly a conflict between the revolutionary youth politics and mainstream American culture that had to be addressed. The Graduate was revolutionary in that it addressed this chasm in a subtle way. Rather than focusing on the rebellious protests and political rallies that personify the 1960s, Nichols' masterpiece simply portrayed one young man's questioning of his parent's values. Despite his preppy wardrobe, Benjamin Braddock represents the youth counterculture of the 1960s. His parents, always talking down to him and asking about his plans, represent the American society that the 1960s youth generation absolutely cannot stand. At a time when other studios were trying to appeal to college age audiences, MGM was ahead of its time and succeeded with The Graduate.