Twenty years ago, a film graced — well, maybe not graced… Perhaps it rolled like a tumbleweed across movie screens all over the country and forever changed the meaning of the word “dude.” This movie, directed by the darkly humorous Coen Brothers, is none other than “The Big Lebowski.”
This cult classic is about a middle-aged man called “the Dude” (Jeff Bridges) who spends his days rockin’ out to CCR tapes, drinking White Russians, and bowling with his two out-of-pocket pals, Walter (John Goodman) and Donnie (Steve Buscemi). That is, until his world gets blown up when he is confused for another man with the same last name: a fellow who’s basically the “anti-Dude.” Once the Dude gets mixed up in this masterpiece plot of Coen brother design, his life will never be the same.
Or will it?
Yep, it actually all goes back to normal in the end, despite it being one hell of an adventure. But that’s kind of the point.
Here are some of the most iconic quotes from the film and a little commentary on how we can draw inspiration from the revelations that come from the mind of the Dude. Behind the absurdity in “The Big Lebowski,” there’s an immense amount of humor; and behind all of that, there’s actually some great insight. Happy 20th, Dude!
“This aggression will not stand, man.” — The Dude
This moment of the film is iconic, not just because it is outright hilarious, but more so because of the irony. This quote is actually taken verbatim from a comment given by President Bush in regards to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Earlier in the film, there’s a scene that captures the moment when President Bush says this on the news. Later, when The Dude is attempting to reason with the “Big Lebowski,” he repeats this out-of-context phrase, but somehow, despite the implications being vastly different, it still seems appropriate. The effect is hilarious, but there is a more sensible take away as well: The Dude simply wants to have a calm, civil conversation. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well, in this scene, we’re prompted to remember how civility is less common than we often think. People tend to be more aggressive than need be throughout day-to-day interactions. It’s a good reminder that this quarrelsome manner of communication isn’t necessary. Take it easy out there.
“Obviously, you’re not a golfer.” — The Dude
It’s the bitterly dry sarcasm that makes this quote so memorable. Two thugs just kicked in the Dude’s door, dunked his head in the pink toilet bowl of his shabby bathroom and peed on his rug. In a moment of comedic relief, one of the thugs picks up the Dude’s bowling ball, drops it, cracking the bathroom floor, and asks, “What’s this?” to which the Dude wryly mutters, “You obviously aren’t a golfer.”
In this moment, we are reminded that sometimes life throws crazy shit our way — completely unwarranted, unacceptable and unfair. It’s in these moments that remaining calm and responding with a note of humor can be the best way to go. His facetious comment, while notably defeated, manages to position him as the mentally superior one. But, the Dude also remains zen, so as not to further instigate more trouble (as well as stay in tune with his general credence of passivity). Well played, Dude.
“F*ck it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.” — Walter
This moment highlights the founding ideology that represents the whole mentality of the film. Here we witness a worst-case scenario: Donnie has just died of a heart attack, and Walter, the frugal and unrelentingly stubborn man that he is, holds his friend’s remains in a cheap coffee canister. Moments later, he sprinkles Donnie’s ashes out of the plastic container — and all over The Dude who is standing right behind Walter and has just became victim to the wind. Despite the crass and rather morbid reality of the matter and the Dude’s rare freak-out, Walter manages to get everything back on track with a simple suggestion: “Let’s go bowling.”
This “throw your hands up in the air” mentality is not the most sophisticated, but sometimes in life there is very little that can be done. It is what it is. Sometimes, all you can do is keep on keeping on; in the Dude’s language, that translates to going bowling.
“I’m the Dude, so that’s what you call me. That or, uh, His Dudeness, or, uh Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” — The Dude
In this legendary scene, we see the Dude in action, laying down some ground rules. The classic intonations with which the Dude speaks are funny enough, but there is also a lesson here that’s pretty far out: you should own your identity, be proud of it and stick to it; having said that, a little leeway goes a long way. In other words, we see the Dude advocating for himself here, an important skill to have if you’re going to make it through life as something more than a doormat. But we also learn that being flexible is an awesome quality to behold. The Dude provides options — what a fair concept. We could all benefit from taking a page out of the Dude’s book here and find the balance between being firm and convincing but still adaptable and compromising. Rad display of justice well served, Dude.
“This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous.” — The Dude
In a classically ambiguous manner, the Dude champions this discussion with Maude (Lebowski’s daughter) by disguising his simplistic, if not bullet-filled, scheme with a clever manipulation of words and clouding of the details. But again, there is more to the moral of the story. What we really see in this situation is the Dude’s implementation of patience — another enlightened idea. Life is tricky! But, if we were all a bit more patient, we could cope with the pressure better, and have an easier ride. In life, you have to learn how to ride the wave; now whether you choose to go surfing in a stormy, treacherous sea or the warm waters of Malibu is up to you. Waves are inevitable, but how you go about them can be in your control. The Dude explains to Maude that, while she might want answers immediately, she’s going to have to wait and ride it out with him. Hey, it’s just a complicated case.
“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” — The Dude
In this scene, we are introduced to Jesús, possibly the most ridiculous character in the entire movie (and that’s saying a lot.) While the Dude chills out in his own lane (literally and figuratively) with his buddies, Jesús comes over and begins to verbally assault the gang with pompous threats of crushing them in the next bowling tournament. After a litany of antagonistic remarks, the Dude plainly retorts, “that’s just your opinion, man.”
This is one of the greatest comebacks of all time. While a professor of rhetoric might tell you its flawed in every way imaginable, the indisputability of the claim still somehow rings true. It’s funny– but more right-on than that, it’s pretty much accurate. People will always think what they’re going to think and say what they want to say. Everyone has a self-inflated ego these days and thinks they know the right answer. Next time you encounter a self-righteous individual who begins attacking you with their fallacies and misconstrued notions of reality, don’t waste your time; shirk them off like the Dude does here with a humorous and equally ridiculous statement. Life’s too short to be bothered any more than that.
“The Dude abides.” — The Dude
This quote takes the cake. It’s the motto that captures the essence of the entire film. Freeloading, free-wheeling, for better or worse, the Dude abides. His passive lifestyle might take him through the wringer, but ultimately, he’s a happy man because, without fail, he chooses the path of least resistance. He’s figured out what works for him and he’s sticking to it. He’s a simple man, the Dude, and if we could all find a way to replicate his mentality — perhaps not his mind-numbingly childish actions or his underachieving, impoverished lifestyle — but simply his pure and good-hearted mentality, we’d probably be a lot happier. We’d at least be a lot calmer, and that’s a great start.
As we see in this hyperbolic story, on any given day, things can pop up out of nowhere and really rock your world. Such is life. Next time an obstacle is setting you back, or some struggle is holding you down, don’t flip; take a minute. Go bowling. Remember that it too shall pass.
Now this, of course, is an oversimplification of what reality really is and an unrealistic coping mechanism for all that life can present us. Yet sometimes, it might just work. But hey, that’s just like, my opinion, man.
Contact Jacqueline Moran at [email protected]