Critical Arts Review- The Dude Abides

Posted on March 13, 2013 by




The Big Lebowski is a 90s film that tells the story of a slacker who goes by the name, The Dude. In urban Los Angeles, The Dude lives a quiet life that consists of bowling, driving around and the occasional acid flashback. The Dude is an avidly casual bowler and he participates in a bowling league with his best friends Walter, a confrontational Vietnam War Veteran, and Donny, a man who can’t get a word in edgewise. After a name mix up with another Jeff Lebowski, The Dude’s humble abode is broken into and his favorite rug is forever tarnished. But this wasn’t just a normal rug; this rug tied the whole room together and represented The Dude’s personal philosophy focused on harmony and balance. In turn, The Dude seeks out the other Jeff Lebowski, “the Big Lebowski”, seeking compensation for his special rug. The rest of the film entails the exploits of The Dude, Walter, Donny, the Big Lebowski, and several other characters and becomes quite hectic with different subplots and side stories. For the sake of this article, I will be talking about The Dude unaffected by the plot, because it places The Dude in extenuating circumstances unrelated to his true actuality.

Most basically put, a religion is a system of beliefs that are held to with faith. For the Dude, he believes in harmony, balance, and tranquility. For the most part, relaxation is his religion. He is most comfortable at the bowling alley with a beer in his hand and his good friends beside him. Throughout the film, The Dude and Walter go through arduous occurrences and once they are done, they resolve to go bowling because it reestablishes basic harmony in the lives of the two men. The Dude always stays true to what he likes and has grown accustomed to. A prime example of this is never diverting from always having the same drink, a white Russian. He could have almost any drink he wants in several different scenarios, but he goes back to the one that he is most familiar with. Contrary to Walter, The Dude is constantly looking to prevent misunderstandings and communicate the fact that he wants everything to be satisfactory so he can get back to living his average life. The Dude doesn’t care who is watching him or judging him, because he can so easily live his life without being influenced by his surroundings.

The Dude’s attitude toward life is most closely related to aspects of Buddhist philosophy. The Dude is unemployed, has a rickety old car, lives in a cheap apartment he can barely make rent on, and is absolutely content with all of these things. He lives modestly without desire for attaining higher levels of status or luxury. In this aspect, he is free from attachment to lavish material goods. Sure he is attached to his rug, but it tied the room together! Generally speaking, his is as close as it gets to living against the societal norm of accessory desire. Considering the Buddhist 8-fold path, The Dude exemplifies several of the tenets such as Right Action, Right Intention/ Thought, and Right Effort. He shows these because he is ultimately trying to help other people out in the story.

The Dude exudes a state of being that only one man can truly fulfill. The Dude attitude is one that remains constant, no matter the extenuating circumstances. He just wants to get back to his ordinary day-to-day routine. He lives and enjoys his simple life that revolves around bowling spares, barely starting up his trashed car, and re-experiencing acid trips of yesteryear. What can we learn from The Dude? We can learn to be not so uptight about everything; let life come to you. Be happy with the little things- like a rug, or the fact that you have a place to put a rug. Try to maintain peace by identifying a place to find harmony. Lastly, always be true to yourself by upholding your values. Sometimes, there’s a human, well, you can be the human for your time and place.


Critical Arts Review- David Brown

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