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YMMV / The Big Lebowski

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  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Many have argued that the movie is a commentary on the masculine identity. The Big Lebowski and Walter project "classical" images of masculinity (the former as a Self-Made Man, the latter as a war hero) yet are revealed to be frauds dependent on the women in their lives for any kind of actual success or validation. The Dude meanwhile forgoes conventional masculinity by being a lazy, long-haired, and ambitionless hippy (his Trademark Favorite Drink of a White Russian was also generally seen as a "women's drink" before he popularized it) but ultimately proves to be the most masculine of the three emotionally by choosing to live by his own values and convictions even in the face of others criticizing him for them. The recurring motif of castration (a literal form of emasculation) and the Stranger (a cowboy; a symbol of American masculinity) having great respect for the Dude both support this.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Depending on how you see Donny, he's either a figment of Walter's imagination, since The Dude only talks to him twice, a figment of both the Dude and Walter's imagination, since nobody else ever talks to him, or —to put it simply— a real person who gets ignored, since figments of imagination don't leave cremated remains.
    • Let's not forget Walter himself. He's either a gun-nut who's never been to the 'Nam, or his behavior is because his friends died there. Or perhaps, it was because of his divorce.
    • A film about autistics: The Dude being more high-functioning while Walter a bit Asperger's (Black-and-White Morality, etc.)
    • Walter was right about the other Lebowski not being handicapped. He was just really dedicated to the role when Walter threw him off his chair.
    • Whether or not is Dude a good example to follow. Depending on who you ask, he's either a lazy, pathetic underachiever, or a calm, reliable person who found true happiness in simple everyday pleasures (latter interpretation laid the foundation for "dudeism" philosophy).
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    • A common interpretation is that everyone is acting as goofy as they are because they all know they are in a movie, and they believe they are the star of it... except they don't believe they're all in the same movie: Walter believes he is in Rambo, Donny believes he's in a nerd comedy, the Narrator in a Western, etc. etc.. Ironically, the only one who does not believe he's the star of the movie is the Dude, because he's quite content with his lot, despite his rug getting peed on.
  • Award Snub: Sure, it's far from the typical awards fare, but given the sheer beloved nature of the movie, and that it only got a few notices at smaller organizations, it applies.
    • Oscar darling Jeff Bridges' signature role wasn't enough to receive Academy recognition.
    • This can be chalked up as just another classic John Goodman performance that failed to be recognized by awards bodies.
    • The film contains some of the greatest cinematography of Roger Deakins' already insanely impressive resume, yet it it went unrecognized.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The Gipsy Kings' cover of "Hotel California," among other gems.
    • Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" is another crisp single.
    • CCR's "Looking out my backdoor" is the Dude's song.
    • Captain Beefheart’s “Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles”, Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me”, Townes Van Zandt’s cover of “Dead Flowers”... really a fantastic soundtrack all around.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The "Gutterballs" Scene, and the introduction to Maude's friend, Knox Harrington "the video artist". Even the Dude is confused himself ("What the fuck is with this guy?")
  • Crazy Awesome: Walter, a man who pulls a gun over a bowling foul which probably only occurred in his head.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Jesus. No, not that Jesus.
    • The scattering of Donny's ashes.
    • Julianne Moore says this is her idea of Maude, only replace "horror" with "pretentiousness." She is so pretentious, she stops coming off as annoying and starts being funny.
  • Cult Classic: The movie's reception upon release was mixed, with a solid budget return for the film's relatively small budget (only $15 million!). Today, however, it's regarded as one of the Coen's masterpieces and regularly referenced in pop culture.
    • It's so far one of the only cult films to have helped to create an actual cult.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Though the film is not dark, it can be tiring to see the Dude and Walter, who are fairly likeable, be repeatedly defeated by completely unlikeable Jerkass Karma Houdinis like Larry, Jackie Treehorn, and the Malibu police chief. While they may be Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists, the point of that trope is to have them be defeated by people better than them, not people who are borderline Hate Sinks.
    • For some, this can also be subverted, or at least downplayed, because of how our protagonists react to these situations: The Dude never really lets anything bother him for very long (unless it's really important like getting his rug back), while Walter is not the type to let anything go unchallenged (the Nihilists learned that the hard way.)
  • Drinking Game: The Lebowski Challenge: Every time the Dude drinks a White Russian, you drink a White Russian. Every time the Dude does a J, you do a J. And if you're truly insane, every time The Dude does a substance, you do that substance. This is similar to the first game listed, except you also have to roofie yourself two-thirds of the way through the movie.
  • Eight Deadly Words: Some people will find it hard to enjoy a film in which every significant character is variously lazy, stupid, violent, greedy or irresponsible.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Jesus "The Jesus" Quintana is a minor character who has no real affect on the plot. But John Turturro's completely ridiculous performance, he's become one of the most iconic elements of the movie.
  • Fountain of Memes: Both The Dude and Walter are insanely quotable.
    • Everything that comes out of Jesus's mouth.
  • Genius Bonus: The Dude refers to White Russians as "Caucasians" because "Caucasian" is synonymous with both "White" and "Russian"; it can refer to someone who is ethnically European, or to someone from the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe (most of which is encompassed by present-day Russia).
    • Paraquat is a very nasty poison, used for killing weeds. For a good example of its use, check out Apaches.
  • Ham and Cheese: Absolutely John Goodman whenever Walter gets angry. Goodman himself has admitted that this movie was one of his favorites to be part of, he really enjoys getting into it when he gets angry. It's honestly a wonder that the sets didn't fall to pieces with how much scenery he was chewing.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The check the Dude writes in the opening scene is dated September 11th, and during the same scene, George H. W. Bush is giving his "this will not stand" speech in regard to the Gulf War.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: On the rich Lebowski's wall is a mirror mocked up to look like a TIME Magazine "Person of the Year" cover with the caption "Are you a Little Lebowski Urban Achiever?" In 2006, TIME Magazine's POTY was "You" and the cover was a mirror.
  • Ho Yay: Not hard to see between Walter and the Dude, considering how much Like an Old Married Couple squabbling they do and yet never seem to stay mad at each other for long; consider the Dude cursing Walter out on the phone and then immediately avowing he'll be at bowling practice, or succumbing to Walter's Cooldown Hug at Donny's funeral.
  • I Am Not Shazam:
  • Jerkass Woobie: Walter. He manages to be a Henpecked Husband years after his divorce, and he watched his buddies die in the mud back in 'Nam.
  • Life Imitates Art: Not quite Hilarious in Hindsight, but Maude Lebowski tells the Dude that "the word ['vagina'] makes some men uncomfortable." In 2012, a Michigan state legislator was barred from speaking after using the word "vagina" during debate over an abortion bill after male members of the chamber deemed it "offensive" and broke "decorum."
  • Memetic Badass: Walter. He gets away with pointing a gun at a man in a bowling alley and destroying a car and let's not forget he bit a nihilist's ear off.
  • Memetic Molester: "No, he's a sex offender. With a record."
  • Memetic Mutation: The whole thing. The line "The Dude abides" in particular.
    • Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?
    • "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
    • Walter's scene with his Colt 1911 is rather popular. It's frequently edited into a image macro, titled "Am I The Only One Who...".
    • "I don't roll on Shabbos!" is particularly popular among Jewish fans of the film.
    • "It really tied the room together."
    • "Donny, you're out of your element!"
    • "I hate the fucking Eagles, man!"
    • "Lenin is the Walrus"
  • One-Scene Wonder: "Nobody fucks with the Jesus".
  • Retroactive Recognition: The opening has the Dude being dunked by Lucifer.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Mr. Lebowski is a jerk...however, he is technically correct that he had nothing to do with the damage to The Dude's rug, and does not owe him a new one.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Arguably the reason the film wasn’t initially a hit is how little sense its plot makes. Of course, this was deliberate on the Coen Brothers’ part.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: "Forget it, Donny! You're out of your element!"
  • Vindicated by History: The film garnered mixed critical reception and meager box office sales in theaters; on home video, it became a comedy classic. It was also chosen in 2014 for preservation in the National Film Registry.
  • What an Idiot!: The Nihlist played by Peter Stormare. He could have ended Walter by stabbing him; instead he drops his sword and tries to bull-rush him even though Walter is larger than him. It doesn’t take long for Walter to bite off his ear and punch his lights out.
  • The Woobie: It's hard not to feel at least a little bad for the Dude.
    "All the Dude wanted was his rug back."
    • Granted, he never actually lost his rug, but still, he goes through a lot of shit.
    • Donny also qualifies.
    • And Smokey, who at least according to the Dude, has emotional problems, and most certainly didn't deserve having a gun pointed at his face.


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