The Big Lebowski: Giving Approximately 280 Fucks About Philosophy and Politics

Intro by Brandon

The Big Lebowski is unabashedly a 90s comedy. It’s the mix of dark comedy and apathy that would hardly be around in a decade. In fact, it’s such a 90s film that it’s hard to really see the appeal if you didn’t spend your formative teenage or young adult years in the 90s. For this 90s kid, though, it’s a solid classic. This is in my top three comedies of all time, along with A Fish Called Wanda and Airplane!, two classics from the 80s.

The plot of this film follows Jeff Lebowski, or, as he would introduce himself, “The Dude.” The Dude is a deadbeat with no job and no real purpose in life, and yet he’s the hero of our story. He finds himself surrounded by warring ideologies and rising tensions that drag him into a kidnapping investigation that involves porn stars, Nihilists, a snobby artist, a guy named Jesus, and much more. Also, there’s bowling.

What sets this film apart, though, is the layering of philosophy and  intelligent political commentary underneath all that disaffected humor. It took me a while to catch onto what the film was actually trying to say, but there’s a lot of surprising depth in this film about politics in the 90s and the trajectory we’re still on today. Maria also gets into some of the philosophical aspects of the film, which are also surprisingly sharp.

That’s not to say that this film is perfect. Like a lot of the 90s movies we’re revisiting, we’re discovering that there are a lot of things we didn’t care about in the 90s that we really should have. It feels kind of weird to look back to a film from 1998 and say, “It was a different time,” but we found ourselves doing a bit of that. As Walter said, “This is not ‘Nam—there are rules.” Still, there’s much more to like here than to hate.

So grab your bowling shoes, mix yourself a white Russian, and mark it zero as Maria and I dig into this entertaining and surprisingly intelligent film in this episode of Peculiar Picture Show, the podcast that talks about movies, maladies, and mental health!

Show Summary

General: An essential 90s comedy with a lot of foul language

Brandon: Quintessential 90s comedy; cult classics; gets better on repeat viewings; John Goodman’s favorite role to play

Maria: Profanity: about 281 fucks in 117 minutes, 2.4 fucks/minute; first time seeing this; Dudeism as a religion

Like: A funny allegory about politics

Brandon: Fun comedy; enjoy the characters; set in a specific time—90s; morality tale for the common age; polarization of politics and moral discourse in America

Maria: Pretty fucking funny; movie begs for analysis and study; many themes; genre play; Sam Elliot; meta parts; framing

Dislike: That 90s apathy is getting old

Brandon: Sometimes these 90s films seem sophomoric, antiquated, particularly regarding “not caring”; lack of BIPOC stands out now; quotes may get stale

Maria: Cannot stand the Dude personality type, which is why I could never watch it before; Dude lacks efficient and clear communication skills  

Mental Health: Existential Absurdism and why we get so mad about politics

Brandon: Psychology behind why we get so mad about politics; identity vs. politics; anger makes people more susceptible to misinformation; connection between emotion, fear, anger, misinformation; fight-or-flight response regarding politics; echo chambers 

Maria: Philosophies in the film: pacifism, nihilism, national socialism, capitalism; nihilism vs. existentialism vs. absurdism; in some ways, the Dude is embracing nihilism/existentialism/absurdism, creating his own meaning for existence (the rug)

Sources

Quotes

Brandon

This movie is kind of about the death of civil discourse around politics, where everybody was so angry all of the time, and you have that one guy who doesn’t have an opinion and doesn’t care and he ends up dying because of the conflict. It’s about the death of not having an opinion—the freedom of not being able to give a fuck about things.

Maria

In some ways the Dude is embracing nihilism and absurdism even though they talk about nihilism being bad. The Dude creates his own meaning for existence. His reason for being is the rug! It really tied the room together.

Next Film

Maria and Brandon randomly chose the same movie.

Her (2013) vs. Her (2013)

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