The world abides, man: Analysis of a cult classic

It’s been 30 years since the Coen brothers made their film debut with Blood Simple. As two of the most iconic filmmakers in the world, there’s plenty to celebrate, from their first big success with Fargo to their recent folk-inspired tale Inside Llewynn Davis.

There’s one Coen brothers film however, that’ll always stand out among the rest for me: The Big Lebowski.

First screened in 1998, the crime comedy centers around Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, played by Jeff Bridges. An unemployed Los Angeles slacker, The Dude’s key interests consist mainly of marijuana, White Russians and bowling. This film didn’t exactly woo the film festival crowd, with the plot kicking off when a group of mob thugs ‘accidentally’ urinate on The Dude’s rug.

Only grossing $2 million more than its overall budget in the US, critics found it “hard to believe this was the work of a team that won an Oscar for the original screenplay of Fargo,” as Peter Howell wrote in his original review for The Toronto Star.

Since its original box office disappointment though, the film has become one of the most well-known cult classics in the world. I’m not quite sure how these things happen and I don’t think it’s something you can predict. All I know is that The Dude and his friends Walter Sobchack (John Goodman) and Donald ‘Donny’ Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi) have had more of an impact on the world years after the movie’s release than it ever did while in theatres, and the ripples are continuing to show.

Festivals and events are held annually in celebration of The Dude, usually involving a lot of bowling, movie quotes and long-haired, unshaven, grown men walking around in sweatpants, flip flops, a pair of dark tinted aviators and a cardigan the size of a circus tent.

There’s even Dudeism, an online religion devoted largely to spreading the philosophy and lifestyle of the movie's main character that was founded in 2005. Also known as The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, the organization has ordained over 130,000 "Dudeist Priests" all over the world via its website since its conception.

So what is it about The Big Lebowski, both film and character, that make people love it so much? Personally I hold the belief that although it may not have appealed to the wide range of masses flocking to movie theatres at the turn of the century, there are many people like me out there who see themselves in The Dude and his plight.

Sometimes things just don’t go your way. You’ve had a bad day at work or school, you have car trouble on the way home, you’re tired and possibly hungover, and you come home to find a couple of jacked-up thugs trashing your apartment and peeing on your rug. Okay, maybe not the last part, but the mentality is there and the message remains.

Some people just want to sip White Russians, go bowling with their friends and have a good time without hurting anyone. And so goes Bridges’ most famous line: “The Dude abides, man. The Dude abides.” The movie is the perfect bonding opportunity to get to know new housemates or floormates and the quirkiness might just enthrall you. And who knows, you may make cult movie Fridays a new tradition.

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