The Big Lebowski
Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
The Big Lebowski (1998) | Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore
Written by: Ben Steiner
Analysis & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Additional notes by: Tommy Cook
The Big Lebowski Analyzed By Aliens – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is The Big Lebowski, written and directed by the prophets Joel and Ethan Coen, hallowed be their names. The film served as the foundational scripture for a religion called Dudeism, which was essentially just Taoism sprinkled with weed and Kahlua. It was the philosophy of going with the flow, or “chilling out maxing relaxing all cool and all shooting some b- ball outside of the school.” Dudeism, or the Church of Latter- Day Dudes, became Earth’s primary religion in 1998.
The Book of Lebowski recounts the trials and tribulations of slovenly Christ figure Jeffrey Lebowski, or as his disciples call him, “The Dude” [“Or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing”]. The Dude is a tumbling tumbleweed, content to spend his days bowling, which is about 5% gameplay and 95% sitting around drinking. But when his sacred floor covering is befouled, he sojourns to a higher power to seek reparations [”They peed on your rug, Dude]. Then he gets mixed up in a whole kidnapping situation before finally getting back to what’s really important: sports [Walter: “Mark it zero!”].
At the end of the film, there is no epiphany, no social gain, no world saved, Class 7 or otherwise. The Dude hasn’t fallen in love or retired to a beachfront property somewhere. He hasn’t even gotten a new rug. So why did humans base their entire existence on this film, quoting it incessantly and saying it was their favorite so other people would think they were cool?
If we look at the source material the film is parodying, we can begin to unravel this strange and harrowing mystery. The Big Lebowski is, at its heart, a noir film. It pays homage to Raymond Chandler’s crime novel “The Big Sleep,” even going so far as to plagiarize two words from the title. However, instead of the hard-nosed, rough around the edges private eye Phillip Marlowe, we get exactly the opposite — a laid back stoner with a penchant for home decor. Humans could relate to such a character, as they had been unintentionally emulating him since the ‘60s, man.
One common element of noir is characters who are haunted by their past, especially if their past involves a no smoking sign [clips of noir detectives smoking a lot]. Many characters in this film are stuck in the past: the Dude is stuck in the flower power movement, Walter is stuck in the Vietnam War and his marriage, Jackie Treehorn is stuck in the glory days of Hugh Hefner, Maude is stuck in the Fluxus art movement, and Donny is stuck in a coffee can. Likewise, most noir stories were set against the grim background of World War II, but this film is set against the Gulf War, a low-stakes military endeavor that ultimately accomplished nothing. The type of war that still lives in its parents’ basement. The film taught Earthlings to embrace their true nature and mellow the f out by deconstructing everything they previously held sacred. For example, the generic notion of success. The Dude is considered a failure compared to someone like Lebowski, but it turns out Lebowski’s “life of achievement” is bogus, just like the pagan religions of old.
And speaking of religion, that gets taken down a peg as well. Maybe even two pegs. A character named “Jesus” is portrayed as a pedophile, which was a big no-no on Earth starting in the 1930s or so. Walter claims to be a devout Jew, but really he’s just masquerading as a Jew to be closer to his wife. For more information on Judaism, please refer to the TV show Seinfeld. Then there’s the concept of death, which to those unfamiliar, is the inexplicable ceasing of life. When no one is looking, Donny nonchalantly dies of a heart attack. Meanwhile, Walter’s eulogy turns into a rant about Vietnam, the largest moon of Jupiter.
In the end, the whole story is a farce, just like life on Earth, and later, Mars. The Dude is still the Dude, preparing for his bowling tournament as if nothing has changed. Because nothing has, give or take a best friend.
If you scratch the surface looking for meaning, you will find none [shot of the Dude etching the pencil on Jackie Treehorn’s notebook and revealing the drawing of the guy with a boner). The worst thing we can do is relentlessly overanalyze everything until we’re blue in the tentacles. As the Dude’s teachings dictate, in a world of unchecked aggression, the best thing you can do is to simply… imbibe. I mean abide.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. To convert to Dudeism, click the subscribe button. Or not, whatever. Who cares?