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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Predator, Prisoner, and Role Model: The Evolving Figure of Mrs. Robinson

  • Author(s): Neumann, Rebecca
  • et al.

Since the release of the 1967 film classic, The Graduate, the name ‘Mrs. Robinson’ has become synonymous with older women seducing younger men. However, the historical context produces her character as much as her actions, and the way society portrays women like Mrs. Robinson changes over time. Because of cultural, political, scientific, and legal innovations, a woman today who behaves like Mrs. Robinson has different motivations and will be treated differently by society than she would have in the 1960s. Films and television shows simultaneously shape cultural norms while reflecting existing ones. Thus, depictions of real and fictional Mrs. Robinsons jointly figure her within a particular time period. This essay focuses on three disparate ways in which society has portrayed women who have sex with younger men: calculating predators, liberated role models, or troubled criminals.

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