"Just one word: plastic."

Posted by Steve E on May 10, 2005

In Reply to: "Just one word: plastic." posted by ESC on May 10, 2005

: : : : : The following is seen on the dvd for The Graduate

: : : : : "Just one word: plastic."

: : : : : And in reviews of The Graduate.

: : : : : And I heard it on TV. And I still hear it on TV.

: : : : : And I just viewed the dvd. And I vewed that part of the dvd again twice. And I still don't understand why that line was even in the film or why anyone ever repeated it on the cover of the dvd or in any review or on TV. I just don't get it.

: : : : Ben has just graduated from college, gotten a nice Alfa Romeo sports car as a graduation present, and now the adults want him to immediately settle down to a 40-plus year career in plastics. The young man has been sheltered his whole life, living in a scuba-diving suit as it were, and the thought of immediately settling into a cradle-to-grave career now that he's an adult is ludicrous.

: : : Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you -just one word.
: : : Ben: Yes sir.
: : : Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
: : : Ben: Yes I am.
: : : Mr. McGuire: 'Plastics.'
: : : Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
: : : Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
: : : Ben: Yes I will.
: : : Mr. McGuire: Shh! Enough said. That's a deal.

: : : I don't know which came first -- The movie or the use of the word "plastic" to mean "less than geniune." ("Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996) Plastic was: "Considered by hippies to be the epitome of what is wrong with our society. To make tools, utensils, clothing, furnishings and other necessities from plastic rather than more natural, longer lasting materials is considered by many to be wasteful and conspiracy of planned obsolescence." ("Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the 1960s and 1970s" by John Bassett McCleary, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, Calif., 2002)

: : 'Plastic' here in the UK, is often used as a slightly derogatory term for a credit card. Is the word used that way elsewhere?

: Yes. In the U.S. also.

The intent of this line in the movie relates directly to the time period of the movie. At that time in the U.S. there was a revolution in the plastics industry--great strides (at least in the industry's opinion!) were made in the research and development of new and more sophisticated plastics and uses for plastics--household, automotive, industrial, medical, etc. A ton of new products were introduced in plastic where previously they were glass, metal, wood, etc. So, the line is really saying something like: "The industry to be in now is plastics because there is a great future in plastics."