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The empty cult of The Big Lebowski The Dude has been turned into a false idol

Christ or Buddha? (The Big Lebowski)

Christ or Buddha? (The Big Lebowski)


April 24, 2023   8 mins

The incipient cult of The Big Lebowski was forming before I even saw the movie, and I saw it fairly early on, two or three weeks after its release. I didn’t recognise the signs at the time, but they were there to be read in retrospect — friends badgering me to see it, quoting lines of dialogue to me, bragging that they’d already gone back to see it again. I was primed to join in myself. These were friends I respected, whose movie tastes I generally shared.

Thanks to its fans and their continuing ardor, in the 25 years since its release, The Big Lebowski has generated a vast cultural legacy, catchphrases taken from the dialogue and conveyed to us via coffee mugs and t-shirts. It’s inspired para-academic books and articles on the movie’s philosophy, at least one Lebowski-based religion, and at least two undying Reddit threads. All based on what? After an evening of bowling, lazy stoner and ex-hippie Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) — known universally as “the Dude” — is assaulted in his apartment by two goons. The goons demand that the Dude pay back some money his wife borrowed, or else. You’ve got the wrong Lebowski, the Dude protests. The Dude is a bachelor. In a fateful insult, one of the goons pisses on his living room rug.

Seeking compensation for his pissed-on rug, the Dude visits the other Jeffrey Lebowski, the “Big” Lebowski the goons were really looking for. This Lebowski is a wealthy paraplegic with a young and profligate trophy wife named Bunny (Tara Reid). From the Lebowski mansion the Dude takes a replacement rug — and thereby stumbles into a Humphrey Bogart movie (proximately The Big Sleep). There’s conflict in a rich family, a kidnapping subplot, a pair of seductive heiresses, cars following other cars, and the dogged hero getting punched and then drugged unconscious. The Dude is forced into the Philip Marlowe role, which he plays at his own ambling speed, wearing a bathrobe most of the time.

And, from the very start of my first viewing, I could see that the Coen brothers were doing something that was right up my alley, philosophically speaking. I’d spent enough time tethered to Theodor Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory to be — perhaps in the manner of Stockholm Syndrome — persuaded by it. Adorno speaks the language of Marx and Hegel in that book, but he’s basically updating Immanuel Kant’s aesthetic theory for “late capitalism”, and I was already a huge fan Kant’s aesthetics, and I was a young academic at the time. You can do the math.

And this was much more than a mere detective story, or much different. The Coens, as I said, were doing playful things with their storytelling that put me in mind of Adorno — taking the expectations of the detective plot and messing with them, letting the narrative momentum build up and then stopping it dead with whimsical digressions, antic speeches, absurd details lingered over for many seconds. Within the aesthetic form of the detective story they were carving out smaller, subordinate forms, immanent forms, a grad student might say.

But at some point I realised that — despite this philosophical thrill I speak of — I wasn’t enjoying The Big Lebowski very much. With some chagrin, I also realised that it was precisely the narrative moves I was so philosophically taken with that were setting my teeth on edge. Apparently I like narrative momentum in a detective plot, and, apparently, I find it deeply, almost viscerally unpleasant to have it messed with so systematically. But I had that philosophical respect for the film, and my friends who liked it were smart people with good taste in movies. At the same time, my own displeasure felt so idiosyncratic. It seemed a poor basis for any general claims about aesthetic merit. So when the The Big Lebowski came up in conversation, and people turned to me for my opinion, I was uncharacteristically humble: “You know
 I didn’t really like it. I’m not sure why.”

I’ve observed the thriving cult of The Big Lebowski in the same spirit. As a freelance culture writer I’ve had glaring incentive to enrage Lebowski fans with a contrary take, to send out a stereotypical “Slate pitch” on how this beloved film is totally overrated. (I wrote for Slate for many years. It would have been a literal Slate pitch.) I never did that. But my diffidence about this film I didn’t like has inspired some more general thoughts about the ironies of aesthetic judgment and cultural debate, which have been helpful. We all agree that de gustibus non disputandum est — because every gustibus comes from some secret consultation between a mind and a body — and then we go on disputing like it’s physical science we’re talking about, or universal morality. The Big Lebowski has forced me to dwell on these ironies, even as I’ve gone around calling other widely praised movies totally overrated.

As tolerant as I’ve been of the Cult of Lebowski, I do have one problem with it: The Dude is its Christ-like moral foundation, but the portrait it’s left us of him is almost perfectly wrong. In the Religion of Dudeism, the Dude is said to represent “the rebel shrug”. Dudeist observance begins from this simple nugget of wisdom: “Mellow out, man.” Writing and philosophising on the Dude generally treats him as a disciple of hippie stoicism and Buddhist mindfulness, of going with the flow, of taking it easy. We know he’s also hip to Wittgenstein because he won’t play the no-win language games of up-tight squares, who refuse to take things as easy as he does.

Now, the Dude says “Take it easy” several times, and it sounds a fitting sentiment, given that he’s wearing a bathrobe over Bermuda shorts, and that he’s speaking slowly, via the harmonic miracle of Jeff Bridges’s voice. But one thing The Dude rarely does is take it easy. Yes the Dude is a stoned, slow-talking hippie, but he’s also weirdly rigid and impatient, pessimistic and quick to despair. He doesn’t go with the flow. He makes the flow go with him. The plot’s begins with him fixating on an old rug. It may be defensible, as a matter of principle, seeking justice for this insult against his rug, but it is not stoical. Indeed it feels kind of wilful and arbitrary, like he was already looking for a fight, fishing around for a reason to start one.

Of the movie’s many catchphrases,“The Dude abides” has become its most defining, supposedly. But the Dude certainly does not abide having his rug pissed on. The Dude digs in his heels about the rug, and then he heads to the Big Lebowski’s house to get a new one. There, sitting across from this other Lebowski, a tomato-faced blowhard who listens only to himself, the Dude insists that the man not call him Jeff. He’s the Dude. Everyone calls him the Dude. The Dude does not abide being called Jeff. In this moment, a whole history opens up of our Jeff Lebowski telling clueless people through the years that, no, goddammit, he’s not called Jeff. Nobody calls him Jeff, or Jeffrey. He’s the fucking Dude. Can’t you get that through your fucking head!

Nor does the Dude abide the mellow California sounds of The Eagles. He gets himself physically ejected from of a taxi when, after clear warning from the driver, a large and irritable black man playing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (seriously) from the cassette deck, he continues to complain about the music. “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles,” the Dude cannot keep himself from saying. In the principled stand he takes against the Eagles, he sounds less like an easygoing hippie than like a pretentious art-punk. One imagines a younger Dude in the apartment of a woman he doesn’t know, kicking a turntable because it’s playing “Desperado”.

To be clear, I’m not claiming my against-the-grain assessment of the Dude’s character is original. So much has been said about the Dude and his movie that, within the still-expanding Lebowskiverse, the main cosmic law must be Nietzsche’s “eternal return of the same”. This exact essay has already been written, indeed an infinite number of times. My point is more personal. It concerns the Dude and me.

Late in the film, after the kidnapping subplot has gone awry and the Dude’s car has been stolen and recovered, the Dude and his friends arrive at the home of the teenager they think stole the car and kept the ransom money that was left inside it. Parked on the street is a brand new red Corvette with the dealer invoice still stickered to a window. When he sees the Corvette the Dude moans, “Oh fuck me, man. That kid’s already spent all the money, man.” I got a strange familiar feeling watching this moment, the Dude making that wild, pessimistic inference and moaning it at his friends with total certainty. I’d have made the same leap in his situation, because, like the Dude, I’m a pessimist. I jump to dark conclusions all the time, with the same intensity of conviction, and a similar lack of justifying evidence, as the Dude possessed when he drove up on that Corvette.

Also, like the Dude, I’m dogmatic about music, or I was when I was younger. I spent my teens and twenties sneering at other people’s music tastes, and I imagine I ruined a few parties by complaining about the lame music. Like the Dude earning ejection from his taxi, I was almost fired from a job because I was always changing the station on the radio — “I hate this song!” — instead of working.

The Coen Brothers’s early films often owed some obvious debt to David Lynch, but The Big Lebowski is Lynchian in its very structure — a protagonist learning his fate has gotten tangled up with a sort of double, in this case a man with his exact name, and then realising this double-figure is an enemy who must be overcome. When the Dude grasps that his real beef is not with the rug-pisser but with his own Freudian double, the other Jeffrey Lebowski, he begins spinning in ecstasy. Likewise, were I to find myself in a David Lynch movie, confronted by some dream distortion of my hidden self, I’d assail this other self with all the lively purpose of a pigeon trying to kill his reflection.

But the strongest, eeriest parallel between me and the Dude is that neither of us can abide his best friend Walter Sobchak, volcanically played by John Goodman. Were The Big Lebowski a film about how an anxious hippie played by the great Jeff Bridges self-medicates with weed and White Russians and bowling while solving a low-stakes Lynchian mystery, I think I’d have liked it very much. But instead it’s about how that guy is constantly bickering with his enormous friend who’s always yelling. Watch the Dude’s face every time Walter starts talking. It clenches in distaste and (correct) anticipation that Walter’s about to go on some pointless digression. The Dude is almost as mean to Walter as Walter is to their friend Donny (Steve Buscemi). Walter drives the Dude crazy.

Walter drives me crazy, too. Like the Dude, I want the kidnapping plot to go smoothly. We’re both stressed out when Walter screws it up. Like the Dude, I want everyone to keep the conversation on point. A rug has been pissed on. A young woman has been kidnapped. A car has been stolen. A briefcase filled with money is missing. We need to figure out what to do! The Dude is working hard to solve the mystery, and I’m urging him on as I watch, but Walter keeps interrupting the deliberations with his madcap ideas, his constant invocation of the Vietnam War, his armed threats, his yelling.

If I were to submit an article for inclusion in the next inevitable book on philosophy in The Big Lebowski, and the article’s title was “Aesthetic Freedom in Adorno and The Big Lebowski,” the editor, seeing the title, would surely start thinking of the Dude: “Yes
 the Dude 
aesthetic freedom
nice.” But it wasn’t the Dude who made me think those excited thoughts when I saw The Big Lebowski in 1998. It was Walter. Walter was negating narrative time in the detective plot with his prolonged and senseless yelling. Walter was carving out autonomous zones in the movie’s logic, where an alternative logic applied. And, once the thrill of philosophical recognition cleared away, my response to these moments of aesthetic freedom was the same as the Dude’s when Walter chides him about his “negative energy” at the bowling alley: “Fuck you, Walter.”


Matt Feeney is an writer based in California and the author of Little Platoons: A defense of family in a competitive age


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Ralph Wade
Ralph Wade
1 year ago

To quote The Dude, “Yeah. Well you know, that’s just like ah, your opinion, man.”

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

I was waiting for that quote.

Mark McMackin
Mark McMackin
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Ralph you have to give the guy credit for “trying” to rail the film. I have met Jefferey Dowd the guy who the Coen’s based the film on. He’s just a fun character that wouldn’t have time for Kant or any other heady philosopher. Unfortunately philosophers aren’t much of the part of any dation building anymore. As a Canadian whose been educated in England Canada and briefly in the States I see it as a guy being a bit cheeky in “trying to take the piss” of the great ethos that built America.

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark McMackin

Saying Jeffrey Dowd doesn’t have time for Kant is like saying Stephen Hawking doesn’t have time for tennis.

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark McMackin

Saying Jeffrey Dowd doesn’t have time for Kant is like saying Stephen Hawking doesn’t have time for tennis.

Mark McMackin
Mark McMackin
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Ralph you have to give the guy credit for “trying” to rail the film. I have met Jefferey Dowd the guy who the Coen’s based the film on. He’s just a fun character that wouldn’t have time for Kant or any other heady philosopher. Unfortunately philosophers aren’t much of the part of any dation building anymore. As a Canadian whose been educated in England Canada and briefly in the States I see it as a guy being a bit cheeky in “trying to take the piss” of the great ethos that built America.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

Perfect

Thorin Teague
Thorin Teague
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

I did not watch my buddies die face down in the muck so that this strumpet….

Dan Cossette
Dan Cossette
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

Exactly. This tirade is longer than the film’s dialogue.

I saw this in the theater by my lonesome, and NO other movie made me laugh as hard solo as this one. As far as the cult goes, I went bowling with $2 caucasians and a band dressed as Dude, Walter and Donny playing in the middle lanes. How does that grab you, Kiljoy?

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

I was waiting for that quote.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

Perfect

Thorin Teague
Thorin Teague
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

I did not watch my buddies die face down in the muck so that this strumpet….

Dan Cossette
Dan Cossette
1 year ago
Reply to  Ralph Wade

Exactly. This tirade is longer than the film’s dialogue.

I saw this in the theater by my lonesome, and NO other movie made me laugh as hard solo as this one. As far as the cult goes, I went bowling with $2 caucasians and a band dressed as Dude, Walter and Donny playing in the middle lanes. How does that grab you, Kiljoy?

Ralph Wade
Ralph Wade
1 year ago

To quote The Dude, “Yeah. Well you know, that’s just like ah, your opinion, man.”

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

Aged hippies *are* rigid and impatient precisely because they have a very particular world view. By officially becoming a hippy you can’t be a hippy, paradoxically.

So, when the Dude says “Take it easy”, he means everyone else take it easy. He won’t be taking it easy because he is highly motivated to preserve the world he’s created for himself. Rules for thee but not for me. He’s the prototypical lefty hypocritic. See also Gail Bradbrook and every hippy who’s gone on to become an uber successful capitalist yet thinks themselves a socialist.

It’s a key aspect of the film I thought. The Dude is unpackaged over 2 hours to reveal he isn’t the Dude at all.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

An angry hippie is more concerned with the continuing brainwashing of the youth with films like the scientology military collaborative “Top Gun”

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I call them mean old dippers.

Most of the time I get along fairly well with them.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

The Dude signed the original Port Huron statement, not the compromised second draft!

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I think we just saw that unreflective, self-impressed hypocrisy with the “Spotify scandal.” I was so disappointed in Joni Mitchell for clearing not engaging w/ potential challenges to the mainstream COVID narrative. How can someone create such great music & be so clueless–but as w/ her generation, and frankly, a current similar generation, she’s obsessed with the form of “progress” but not the personal challenges that come w/ actual moral courage. So even when the “resistance” has become authoritarian establishment, they think they’re edgy and brave. She hasn’t spoken truth to power in 50 years.

Adam Friedman
Adam Friedman
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Thou doth protest too much

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

An angry hippie is more concerned with the continuing brainwashing of the youth with films like the scientology military collaborative “Top Gun”

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I call them mean old dippers.

Most of the time I get along fairly well with them.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

The Dude signed the original Port Huron statement, not the compromised second draft!

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I think we just saw that unreflective, self-impressed hypocrisy with the “Spotify scandal.” I was so disappointed in Joni Mitchell for clearing not engaging w/ potential challenges to the mainstream COVID narrative. How can someone create such great music & be so clueless–but as w/ her generation, and frankly, a current similar generation, she’s obsessed with the form of “progress” but not the personal challenges that come w/ actual moral courage. So even when the “resistance” has become authoritarian establishment, they think they’re edgy and brave. She hasn’t spoken truth to power in 50 years.

Adam Friedman
Adam Friedman
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Thou doth protest too much

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

Aged hippies *are* rigid and impatient precisely because they have a very particular world view. By officially becoming a hippy you can’t be a hippy, paradoxically.

So, when the Dude says “Take it easy”, he means everyone else take it easy. He won’t be taking it easy because he is highly motivated to preserve the world he’s created for himself. Rules for thee but not for me. He’s the prototypical lefty hypocritic. See also Gail Bradbrook and every hippy who’s gone on to become an uber successful capitalist yet thinks themselves a socialist.

It’s a key aspect of the film I thought. The Dude is unpackaged over 2 hours to reveal he isn’t the Dude at all.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Philip Gerrans
Philip Gerrans
1 year ago

absolute drivel. author’s pronouns are me me and me.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Gerrans

As many of the new young writers from the “I” gender generation are doing also .
Matt Feeney uses the word “I” six times in the 1st paragraph.
Laura Jedeed & Matt Labash take note .

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Gerrans

As many of the new young writers from the “I” gender generation are doing also .
Matt Feeney uses the word “I” six times in the 1st paragraph.
Laura Jedeed & Matt Labash take note .

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark M Breza
Philip Gerrans
Philip Gerrans
1 year ago

absolute drivel. author’s pronouns are me me and me.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

“Adorno speaks the language of Marx and Hegel in that book, but he’s basically updating Immanuel Kant’s aesthetic theory for “late capitalism”, and I was already a huge fan Kant’s aesthetics, and I was a young academic at the time. You can do the math.”
Speaks for all of us, obviously.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Perfectly put Sir!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Perfectly put Sir!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

“Adorno speaks the language of Marx and Hegel in that book, but he’s basically updating Immanuel Kant’s aesthetic theory for “late capitalism”, and I was already a huge fan Kant’s aesthetics, and I was a young academic at the time. You can do the math.”
Speaks for all of us, obviously.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

The Big Lebowski has generated a vast cultural legacy”
Overstated much? There’s where the author reveals his essential mistake, and why he is quite so upset about a 25 year old comedy. Alongside Withnail, Airplane, Holy Grail, Pulp Fiction, it’s a fun cult film which people love to quote, particularly stoners. That’s it. It doesn’t even have a substantial underlying message (Team America, Life of Brian, Dr Strangelove).

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Withnail is actually a parody of Henry IV 1&2.

Fletcher Walton
Fletcher Walton
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

It has at least two substantial underlying messages.
This is the Coen Brothers we’re talking about here.
“You’re not dealing with morons.”

A Reno
A Reno
5 months ago

“It has at least two substantial underlying messages.”
What are they?

A Reno
A Reno
5 months ago

“It has at least two substantial underlying messages.”
What are they?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Withnail is actually a parody of Henry IV 1&2.

Fletcher Walton
Fletcher Walton
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

It has at least two substantial underlying messages.
This is the Coen Brothers we’re talking about here.
“You’re not dealing with morons.”

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

The Big Lebowski has generated a vast cultural legacy”
Overstated much? There’s where the author reveals his essential mistake, and why he is quite so upset about a 25 year old comedy. Alongside Withnail, Airplane, Holy Grail, Pulp Fiction, it’s a fun cult film which people love to quote, particularly stoners. That’s it. It doesn’t even have a substantial underlying message (Team America, Life of Brian, Dr Strangelove).

Michael Nott
Michael Nott
1 year ago

Dissing The Big Lebowski? The author’s entering a world of pain below the line doing that (sorry, couldn’t resist)!
This chap is definitely on to something when he observes that the Dude is a bit of a t**t, what seems to be being missed is that the Coen brothers intend him to be read in this way. Yes he’s likeable, and east to relate to but I don’t think he’s being presented as a simple stoner hero (even if that is how some fans have come to see him). The fact that we’re invited to laugh at the dude’s multiple hypocrises, his disregard for others (that poor landlord), his irresponsibility, his all round uptightness is one of the reasons why The Big Lebowski is such a great film – he’s a complex character. It’s also (and this isn’t mentioned in this article) just bloody funny.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nott

I think you have captured the main points here. One of the great movies? No. Would everyone like it? No, just like any movie. Would I watch it again? If it was on when I turn on my TV, absolutely, which would not be the case for the so-called blockbusters and extremely popular but vanilla movies like Titanic or the never ending stream of superhero movies. Each to his/her own. Summing up, loved the Big Lebowski, pointless article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rick Lawrence
Michael Nott
Michael Nott
1 year ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

Ah, I quite liked the article, I just think the author mistakes the way some fans have responded to the film (seeing the dude as some kind of slacker hero) for the intentions of the filmmakers. The idea that the dude is a bit of a knob is put down to the writer’s own insight, whereas I think it’s actually absolutely part of how the Coen Brothers want us to perceive him. I love the film and have watched it again and again, largely because it is just so bloody funny.

Michael Nott
Michael Nott
1 year ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

Ah, I quite liked the article, I just think the author mistakes the way some fans have responded to the film (seeing the dude as some kind of slacker hero) for the intentions of the filmmakers. The idea that the dude is a bit of a knob is put down to the writer’s own insight, whereas I think it’s actually absolutely part of how the Coen Brothers want us to perceive him. I love the film and have watched it again and again, largely because it is just so bloody funny.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nott

Excellent character summary and plausible read on the Coen Brothers’ view of Lebowski. You also indirectly pointed to something that made me further dislike this moralistic and hyperbolic piece of criticism: a shortage of evident humor and self-awareness on the author’s part. He’s graduated from sneering at the musical taste of others, so he needs to sneer at Lebowski superfans by making every bit too much ado about the film as those who revere it? Mr. Feeney has a few good moments and shows hints of a more interesting perspective in this petulant, unfunny article.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Anyone who doesn’t find John Goodman’s portrayal of Walter funny has clearly had a sense of humour bypass.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Agreed.

Michael Nott
Michael Nott
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Walter’s just brilliant isn’t he?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Agreed.

Michael Nott
Michael Nott
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Walter’s just brilliant isn’t he?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Anyone who doesn’t find John Goodman’s portrayal of Walter funny has clearly had a sense of humour bypass.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nott

I think you have captured the main points here. One of the great movies? No. Would everyone like it? No, just like any movie. Would I watch it again? If it was on when I turn on my TV, absolutely, which would not be the case for the so-called blockbusters and extremely popular but vanilla movies like Titanic or the never ending stream of superhero movies. Each to his/her own. Summing up, loved the Big Lebowski, pointless article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rick Lawrence
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nott

Excellent character summary and plausible read on the Coen Brothers’ view of Lebowski. You also indirectly pointed to something that made me further dislike this moralistic and hyperbolic piece of criticism: a shortage of evident humor and self-awareness on the author’s part. He’s graduated from sneering at the musical taste of others, so he needs to sneer at Lebowski superfans by making every bit too much ado about the film as those who revere it? Mr. Feeney has a few good moments and shows hints of a more interesting perspective in this petulant, unfunny article.

Michael Nott
Michael Nott
1 year ago

Dissing The Big Lebowski? The author’s entering a world of pain below the line doing that (sorry, couldn’t resist)!
This chap is definitely on to something when he observes that the Dude is a bit of a t**t, what seems to be being missed is that the Coen brothers intend him to be read in this way. Yes he’s likeable, and east to relate to but I don’t think he’s being presented as a simple stoner hero (even if that is how some fans have come to see him). The fact that we’re invited to laugh at the dude’s multiple hypocrises, his disregard for others (that poor landlord), his irresponsibility, his all round uptightness is one of the reasons why The Big Lebowski is such a great film – he’s a complex character. It’s also (and this isn’t mentioned in this article) just bloody funny.

edward coyle
edward coyle
1 year ago

If there is a character that captures the persistent damage the Vietnam War had on the States, it’s Walter. The great John Goodman.

edward coyle
edward coyle
1 year ago

If there is a character that captures the persistent damage the Vietnam War had on the States, it’s Walter. The great John Goodman.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

It’s almost impossible to appreciate a film when someone says something like ‘you have to see this’ or ‘it’s a fantastic film.’ You no longer enter the theatre in a neutral state of mind, but more likely you are full of expectation for something that never quite comes off. That’s my experience anyway.

Unsurprisingly, this boring article gives no sense of the comedy in the film – we want to be entertained for God’s sake! Like when the guys break in and demand the money, putting Lebowski’s head down the toilet. When he resurfaces, he says, ‘Nah, didn’t see it down there.’ or something like that. The opening scene in the supermarket gets one in the mood and the interaction between the three main characters is excellent… but I wouldn’t recommend it!

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

It’s almost impossible to appreciate a film when someone says something like ‘you have to see this’ or ‘it’s a fantastic film.’ You no longer enter the theatre in a neutral state of mind, but more likely you are full of expectation for something that never quite comes off. That’s my experience anyway.

Unsurprisingly, this boring article gives no sense of the comedy in the film – we want to be entertained for God’s sake! Like when the guys break in and demand the money, putting Lebowski’s head down the toilet. When he resurfaces, he says, ‘Nah, didn’t see it down there.’ or something like that. The opening scene in the supermarket gets one in the mood and the interaction between the three main characters is excellent… but I wouldn’t recommend it!

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

Amazing what you can read into a shaggy dog story.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

Amazing what you can read into a shaggy dog story.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

what on earth is this about? who is this? who cares?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

“The Big Lebowski” is a 1998 crime-comedy film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The movie follows Jeff Lebowski, also known as “The Dude,” a slacker and avid bowler who gets mistaken for a millionaire with the same name.
After two thugs break into his apartment and urinate on his rug, The Dude sets out to get compensation from the wealthy Lebowski, but instead gets embroiled in a complex kidnapping scheme involving the millionaire’s trophy wife.
Along with his bowling buddies Walter Sobchak and Donny, The Dude navigates a surreal and sometimes dangerous world of mistaken identities, nihilistic gangsters, and eccentric characters in an effort to get his rug back and make things right.
“The Big Lebowski” is known for its quirky characters, non-linear storytelling, and off-beat humor. It has gained a cult following since its release and has been praised for its clever writing and unique style.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Ahhh… as I only watch racing on the cretin’s lantern and have only been to a Kinema twice in the last 27 years, each time walking out after 15 minutes, It is unsurprising that I have zero knowledge, let alone interest, in or on the subject.

Burton Tallen
Burton Tallen
1 year ago

Why are you commenting?

Burton Tallen
Burton Tallen
1 year ago

Why are you commenting?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Ahhh… as I only watch racing on the cretin’s lantern and have only been to a Kinema twice in the last 27 years, each time walking out after 15 minutes, It is unsurprising that I have zero knowledge, let alone interest, in or on the subject.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

“The Big Lebowski” is a 1998 crime-comedy film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The movie follows Jeff Lebowski, also known as “The Dude,” a slacker and avid bowler who gets mistaken for a millionaire with the same name.
After two thugs break into his apartment and urinate on his rug, The Dude sets out to get compensation from the wealthy Lebowski, but instead gets embroiled in a complex kidnapping scheme involving the millionaire’s trophy wife.
Along with his bowling buddies Walter Sobchak and Donny, The Dude navigates a surreal and sometimes dangerous world of mistaken identities, nihilistic gangsters, and eccentric characters in an effort to get his rug back and make things right.
“The Big Lebowski” is known for its quirky characters, non-linear storytelling, and off-beat humor. It has gained a cult following since its release and has been praised for its clever writing and unique style.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

what on earth is this about? who is this? who cares?

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
1 year ago

Oh garshk. If only I had studied philosophy in college, then I too would have the bona fides to critique a Coen bros film. This may be the first article I’ve commented on without making it halfway through. I guess the reason I never studied philosophy is because it’s just other people’s long winded opinions. I’ve never heard anyone make reference to Marx, Weber, and Kant, and then go on to dispense truth serum. I find studying history to be much more useful. If you can think for yourself, you can form your own inferences about human hubris from examining how philosophers inspired social reforms that mostly failed but occasionally succeeded.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Shale Lewis

It’s a bit harsh to reduce philosophy to just that, but excellent comment even so.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Shale Lewis

It’s a bit harsh to reduce philosophy to just that, but excellent comment even so.

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
1 year ago

Oh garshk. If only I had studied philosophy in college, then I too would have the bona fides to critique a Coen bros film. This may be the first article I’ve commented on without making it halfway through. I guess the reason I never studied philosophy is because it’s just other people’s long winded opinions. I’ve never heard anyone make reference to Marx, Weber, and Kant, and then go on to dispense truth serum. I find studying history to be much more useful. If you can think for yourself, you can form your own inferences about human hubris from examining how philosophers inspired social reforms that mostly failed but occasionally succeeded.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
1 year ago

The dude was very proactive in retrieving his rug. Clearly a motivated guy.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

what is a dude?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

“Six foot of hanging lean, balls the size of grapefruit and enough hair on his arse to knit two Navojo blankets “, or so I am told.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

A dude is a dandy

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

a dandy is, I believe, a 17th century term, so that cannot be correct?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

a dandy is, I believe, a 17th century term, so that cannot be correct?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

“Six foot of hanging lean, balls the size of grapefruit and enough hair on his arse to knit two Navojo blankets “, or so I am told.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

A dude is a dandy

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

what is a dude?

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
1 year ago

The dude was very proactive in retrieving his rug. Clearly a motivated guy.

James Sullivan
James Sullivan
1 year ago

The film is enjoyable for what it is (as another commenter already called it): “a shaggy dog story”. The mistake people make is giving too much credence to the frame of Sam Elliot’s introduction, and then thinking what you’re about to see is some epic, and then thinking they have to abide by that frame. At the end of the film, little has really changed in Lebowski’s life, save that Donny is dead and somehow The Dude himself has been chosen to be a father by a weird woman. Everything else is back to how it was, with Lebowski and company just bowling and existing from one day to the next.
It’s like a great story you tell among friends, “did I ever tell you about that time when…” And anyone who was there nods along, while everyone else just laughs and thinks it’s silly BS. Nothing more, nothing less.
Of course, all the other claptrap in the years since – the books, the mugs, the t-shirts – is just turning a buck.

James Sullivan
James Sullivan
1 year ago

The film is enjoyable for what it is (as another commenter already called it): “a shaggy dog story”. The mistake people make is giving too much credence to the frame of Sam Elliot’s introduction, and then thinking what you’re about to see is some epic, and then thinking they have to abide by that frame. At the end of the film, little has really changed in Lebowski’s life, save that Donny is dead and somehow The Dude himself has been chosen to be a father by a weird woman. Everything else is back to how it was, with Lebowski and company just bowling and existing from one day to the next.
It’s like a great story you tell among friends, “did I ever tell you about that time when…” And anyone who was there nods along, while everyone else just laughs and thinks it’s silly BS. Nothing more, nothing less.
Of course, all the other claptrap in the years since – the books, the mugs, the t-shirts – is just turning a buck.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Interesting read. Love the movie. Love the dude. Always thought of him as the ultimate chill dude, but the author is correct, he can be quite rigid too.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Interesting read. Love the movie. Love the dude. Always thought of him as the ultimate chill dude, but the author is correct, he can be quite rigid too.

John Le Huquet
John Le Huquet
1 year ago

The greatest film I have ever watched. Pure class.

John Le Huquet
John Le Huquet
1 year ago

The greatest film I have ever watched. Pure class.

Markus Friedrich
Markus Friedrich
1 year ago

5 cents from a cult member guilty of “studying” TBL more than a hundred times by now. Among other things, for its unique irony-driven but forgiving humor, outstandingly beautiful and creative visuals celebrating cinematic Holywood and choreography, and, finally, easily overlooked complexity and ingenuity.
Re the main concern: the inconsistency of the dude’s hippie cult persona in contrast to his correctly noted rigidness. The dude grew a cult-like following not for being a close to mindlessly mellow character. I dare to claim that this would be too boring. The dude has earned prestige, i.e. volunteered affect, for presenting a novel version of a strategic, value-driven male that can be aspired to. From the very start, he most likely has been purposefully provided an outfit and haircut that make him match the kind of gift card Jesus portraits you might find in supermarkets (not shown though). At the same time, this outfit can emerge in a fully believable manner from the natural environment of an LA supermarket of the time. Just to walk through one of the most likely most overlooked implicature porn scenes in movie history. For starters: Check the number he writes on the check and the directions of his gaze while doing so. In an outragingly funny way, his is transactional sex at its core. Add to it milky fluid below his nostrils. The protracted irony of this scene is that the movie will provide, among other things, an exploration of the movie industry’s porn branch. And that’s just the first 2 mins of the masterpiece.
A second major theme is, one may say, manhood in the forms of male relationships and the general context of friendship. Together with Donny and Walter, we have a new version of the three musketeers in front of us. As clear as this is in terms of number and gender, they are equally clearly different from the original template. Yes, all three are united and back each other as the honor of one has been violated (that is the actual consequence/significance of the manly carpet desecration). And in some sense, they are united in rescuing a woman in danger. But they are revolutionary in doing this in a relatable manner without any hint of heroic attitudes or qualities. If undisturbed, these unripped musketeers will let the world alone, meditating the rhythmic flow of earthly time and the significance of chance in a game called bowling. And yet, even here, they remain that manly team that competes against others.
Donny and Walter differ in the starkest terms, of course. Donny compensates his cluelessness by being loyal and caring. Walter is Vietnam-traumatized, irritably trigger-prone. Of the two, Donny is the most surprising, creative invention. But they match in being pure in the sense of being unfiltered, lacking evidence of much premeditation of their actions.
Walter is the historically explained counterpart to the Dude. The latter made it through the struggle of avoiding Vietnam not so much by non-confrontationally worshipping earthly peace but by fighting the undercurrent political forces, joining demonstrations and action committees. That makes both, Walter and the dude, fighters. This is why we get to see more of them than of Donny. 
The dude, finally, stands out for his quality of a strategic, more controlled thinker in contrast to Walter who struggles to suppress his anger and gun-readiness.
Friendship grows from experiences of mutual support and the resulting prospect of continued support. Friendship can take an even higher level if maintained despite different interests and dispositions among participants. But that can happen if there is some form of unity around a shared cause. If you look at it this way, the three become a sadly prescient example of something badly missed these days.
For sake of space, let me end on Donny’s anti-hero end. His strong friends’ hapless way of providing a farewell in honor, verifies “honor” as a leitmotif. Walter and the dude struggle with this, reaching the brink of losing each other. Only to ultimately succeed in building another block of their unlikely friendship. While dressed in irony like the entire movie, this actually melts down into a tender moment of comfort and hope, and a hug. The dude knows better. And he might have it better without Walter. But he forgives. Kinda like Jesus. But for the value of friendship. Showing how the world could be a better place for all these knuckleheads out there. Scenes like these may be why the dude has found his following for a duration of time that has stood the test of time.

Last edited 1 year ago by Markus Friedrich
Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago

I remember watching TBL the first time and thinking, John Goodman’s character is uniquely unlikable, even by John-Goodman-character standards, and also Julianne Moore’s acting is consistently as bad as her British accent. Our long-term feelings about pop art have everything to do with where we were and who we were with when we were first exposed to it. So criticism of TBL, for a lot of people, is tantamount to a criticism of a place and time and the people who were there. It’s not fair. It’s not rational. It is, however, very relevant to how we experience pop art, music, cinema, etc.

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago

I remember watching TBL the first time and thinking, John Goodman’s character is uniquely unlikable, even by John-Goodman-character standards, and also Julianne Moore’s acting is consistently as bad as her British accent. Our long-term feelings about pop art have everything to do with where we were and who we were with when we were first exposed to it. So criticism of TBL, for a lot of people, is tantamount to a criticism of a place and time and the people who were there. It’s not fair. It’s not rational. It is, however, very relevant to how we experience pop art, music, cinema, etc.

Markus Friedrich
Markus Friedrich
1 year ago

5 cents from a cult member guilty of “studying” TBL more than a hundred times by now. Among other things, for its unique irony-driven but forgiving humor, outstandingly beautiful and creative visuals celebrating cinematic Holywood and choreography, and, finally, easily overlooked complexity and ingenuity.
Re the main concern: the inconsistency of the dude’s hippie cult persona in contrast to his correctly noted rigidness. The dude grew a cult-like following not for being a close to mindlessly mellow character. I dare to claim that this would be too boring. The dude has earned prestige, i.e. volunteered affect, for presenting a novel version of a strategic, value-driven male that can be aspired to. From the very start, he most likely has been purposefully provided an outfit and haircut that make him match the kind of gift card Jesus portraits you might find in supermarkets (not shown though). At the same time, this outfit can emerge in a fully believable manner from the natural environment of an LA supermarket of the time. Just to walk through one of the most likely most overlooked implicature porn scenes in movie history. For starters: Check the number he writes on the check and the directions of his gaze while doing so. In an outragingly funny way, his is transactional sex at its core. Add to it milky fluid below his nostrils. The protracted irony of this scene is that the movie will provide, among other things, an exploration of the movie industry’s porn branch. And that’s just the first 2 mins of the masterpiece.
A second major theme is, one may say, manhood in the forms of male relationships and the general context of friendship. Together with Donny and Walter, we have a new version of the three musketeers in front of us. As clear as this is in terms of number and gender, they are equally clearly different from the original template. Yes, all three are united and back each other as the honor of one has been violated (that is the actual consequence/significance of the manly carpet desecration). And in some sense, they are united in rescuing a woman in danger. But they are revolutionary in doing this in a relatable manner without any hint of heroic attitudes or qualities. If undisturbed, these unripped musketeers will let the world alone, meditating the rhythmic flow of earthly time and the significance of chance in a game called bowling. And yet, even here, they remain that manly team that competes against others.
Donny and Walter differ in the starkest terms, of course. Donny compensates his cluelessness by being loyal and caring. Walter is Vietnam-traumatized, irritably trigger-prone. Of the two, Donny is the most surprising, creative invention. But they match in being pure in the sense of being unfiltered, lacking evidence of much premeditation of their actions.
Walter is the historically explained counterpart to the Dude. The latter made it through the struggle of avoiding Vietnam not so much by non-confrontationally worshipping earthly peace but by fighting the undercurrent political forces, joining demonstrations and action committees. That makes both, Walter and the dude, fighters. This is why we get to see more of them than of Donny. 
The dude, finally, stands out for his quality of a strategic, more controlled thinker in contrast to Walter who struggles to suppress his anger and gun-readiness.
Friendship grows from experiences of mutual support and the resulting prospect of continued support. Friendship can take an even higher level if maintained despite different interests and dispositions among participants. But that can happen if there is some form of unity around a shared cause. If you look at it this way, the three become a sadly prescient example of something badly missed these days.
For sake of space, let me end on Donny’s anti-hero end. His strong friends’ hapless way of providing a farewell in honor, verifies “honor” as a leitmotif. Walter and the dude struggle with this, reaching the brink of losing each other. Only to ultimately succeed in building another block of their unlikely friendship. While dressed in irony like the entire movie, this actually melts down into a tender moment of comfort and hope, and a hug. The dude knows better. And he might have it better without Walter. But he forgives. Kinda like Jesus. But for the value of friendship. Showing how the world could be a better place for all these knuckleheads out there. Scenes like these may be why the dude has found his following for a duration of time that has stood the test of time.

Last edited 1 year ago by Markus Friedrich
Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

What a great read. I don’t agree with the conclusion and yet
 and yet. I’m going to watch it again.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

What a great read. I don’t agree with the conclusion and yet
 and yet. I’m going to watch it again.

Geoff Wilkes
Geoff Wilkes
1 year ago

I know this might shock Mr Feeney, but among the few things I care less about than The Big Lebowski (and Adorno) are his thoughts on either.

Geoff Wilkes
Geoff Wilkes
1 year ago

I know this might shock Mr Feeney, but among the few things I care less about than The Big Lebowski (and Adorno) are his thoughts on either.

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
1 year ago

How many people like me had never heard of a White Russian before the film and went out in 98 to pubs in the UK setting out to try it and struggled to find a barman/barmaid who knew how to make a White Russian .When i did not wondered why it is ‘The Dudes’ drink?
It is a film that has scenes with acting & dialogue so great that i have watched the film at least 7 times.and there are not many films i can say that about

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
1 year ago

How many people like me had never heard of a White Russian before the film and went out in 98 to pubs in the UK setting out to try it and struggled to find a barman/barmaid who knew how to make a White Russian .When i did not wondered why it is ‘The Dudes’ drink?
It is a film that has scenes with acting & dialogue so great that i have watched the film at least 7 times.and there are not many films i can say that about

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago

I have to admit that I read this piece, which is a much smarter take down of The Dude than I could ever come up with myself, repressing a sort of morbid anticipation of the emotional responses that I knew would fill the comments section. And ya’ll didn’t disappoint! People tend to become enraged when art that they considered sacred is exposed to real scrutiny by someone outside of the cult of unanimous adoration. There’s something distinctly Lebowski about the stoner-like fulminations of the Unherd-Butt-Hurt-owskis. I don’t get to bowling alleys very often and but after ten minutes reading the comments, I feel like I just got home from one.

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago

I have to admit that I read this piece, which is a much smarter take down of The Dude than I could ever come up with myself, repressing a sort of morbid anticipation of the emotional responses that I knew would fill the comments section. And ya’ll didn’t disappoint! People tend to become enraged when art that they considered sacred is exposed to real scrutiny by someone outside of the cult of unanimous adoration. There’s something distinctly Lebowski about the stoner-like fulminations of the Unherd-Butt-Hurt-owskis. I don’t get to bowling alleys very often and but after ten minutes reading the comments, I feel like I just got home from one.

Paul Darst
Paul Darst
1 year ago

I saw the movie when it came out. For me it was another Coen brothers film: clever, amusing, noticeably different from most Hollywood movies. I liked it, but have never wanted to see it again. Perhaps part of the reason is my dislike for anyone who would ask me to address them as “the Dude,” — or the “Duke of Earl,” or the “Maestro,” or the “Gangster of Love.” I take that as them trying to enlist me in their deification. No way — I’d be thinking, how fast can I get away from this load?

Paul Darst
Paul Darst
1 year ago

I saw the movie when it came out. For me it was another Coen brothers film: clever, amusing, noticeably different from most Hollywood movies. I liked it, but have never wanted to see it again. Perhaps part of the reason is my dislike for anyone who would ask me to address them as “the Dude,” — or the “Duke of Earl,” or the “Maestro,” or the “Gangster of Love.” I take that as them trying to enlist me in their deification. No way — I’d be thinking, how fast can I get away from this load?

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

I liked Lebowski but maybe that’s because I am not the sort of person who likes movies or complains about others’ (awful, I think to myself,) taste in music.
Imagine Lebowski ended like Fight Club, with Walter revealed as the Dude’s Jungian shadow–not to the exclusion of his “Big” Freudian double, mind you. (This is Lacanian cinema.) No, let’s take it further: entertain the thought that this revelation is the story’s “real” ending, deferred from inclusion in the film on account of the Coen’s finer aesthetic sensibilities. Then you will see the the movie is, indeed, about: “What makes a man”

Mark 0
Mark 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

Thumbs up for the Lacanian reference

Mark 0
Mark 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

Thumbs up for the Lacanian reference

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

I liked Lebowski but maybe that’s because I am not the sort of person who likes movies or complains about others’ (awful, I think to myself,) taste in music.
Imagine Lebowski ended like Fight Club, with Walter revealed as the Dude’s Jungian shadow–not to the exclusion of his “Big” Freudian double, mind you. (This is Lacanian cinema.) No, let’s take it further: entertain the thought that this revelation is the story’s “real” ending, deferred from inclusion in the film on account of the Coen’s finer aesthetic sensibilities. Then you will see the the movie is, indeed, about: “What makes a man”

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
1 year ago

Funny, I always interpreted the “abides” in “the dude abides” to mean “remains,” “is unchanged”, “persists”, rather than “puts up with stuff.” So his stubbornness seemed quite appropriate. As for the depressive pessimism, maybe a natural consequence of being stoned all the time for years on end?

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
1 year ago

Funny, I always interpreted the “abides” in “the dude abides” to mean “remains,” “is unchanged”, “persists”, rather than “puts up with stuff.” So his stubbornness seemed quite appropriate. As for the depressive pessimism, maybe a natural consequence of being stoned all the time for years on end?

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Weil
leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago

I grew up around contrarian drug-addicted male artists and art critics, whose behavior was as destructively hypocritical and harmful at the family level as it’s been at the cultural and political level.

I hadn’t heard anything about TBL before I went to see it alone. You could see the ashes-gag coming a mile away, and frankly, I was just, well, b-o-r-e-d, just like I was, ultimately, with the “edgy” artists in my life whose students & other fans held in such awe. While I was predisposed, unfairly I guess, to dislike the “edgy” pretense of this film, I loathe the pseudo-intellectual cult that follows it.

The only thing worse than being raised by lightweight narcissistic Dude-guys on whom everyone projects far more talent & brilliance than they really possess is listening to equally mediocre Dunning Kruger fans, today, assume my disinterest reflects an unimaginative suburban square, man, who needs to reflect upon The Dude’s “truths.” I GREW up with this bullshit. I was around it day in and day out. But I _have_ learned to value the free sorting mechanism that the film’s fan-dom provides–anyone who thinks The Dude is some type of god has saved me a lot of time getting to know them.

Last edited 1 year ago by leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago

I grew up around contrarian drug-addicted male artists and art critics, whose behavior was as destructively hypocritical and harmful at the family level as it’s been at the cultural and political level.

I hadn’t heard anything about TBL before I went to see it alone. You could see the ashes-gag coming a mile away, and frankly, I was just, well, b-o-r-e-d, just like I was, ultimately, with the “edgy” artists in my life whose students & other fans held in such awe. While I was predisposed, unfairly I guess, to dislike the “edgy” pretense of this film, I loathe the pseudo-intellectual cult that follows it.

The only thing worse than being raised by lightweight narcissistic Dude-guys on whom everyone projects far more talent & brilliance than they really possess is listening to equally mediocre Dunning Kruger fans, today, assume my disinterest reflects an unimaginative suburban square, man, who needs to reflect upon The Dude’s “truths.” I GREW up with this bullshit. I was around it day in and day out. But I _have_ learned to value the free sorting mechanism that the film’s fan-dom provides–anyone who thinks The Dude is some type of god has saved me a lot of time getting to know them.

Last edited 1 year ago by leculdesac suburbia
Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
1 year ago

Some people just take movies too seriously.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
1 year ago

Some people just take movies too seriously.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

Cute cult. I have been an ordained Dudeist priest for 7 or 8 years, it’s handy for running off evangelists and mormons. Pompous Pete should have done some research prior to pontificating, Dudeism is included in the curriculum of Harvard and Yale divinity schools, among others. You can choose it as your denomination in the military, should you make the ultimate sacrifice for us the Dudeism symbol is going to be on your headstone at Arlington, or any other military cemetery. If I know this, and I don’t study on it much, how does this not know shit guy get paid to write tripe? Well I deserve a promotion so now I’m an Archbishop. We don’t have ranks or anything formal, but I snitch from the Anglicans so I will be updating my card to the title The Right Reverend.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

Cute cult. I have been an ordained Dudeist priest for 7 or 8 years, it’s handy for running off evangelists and mormons. Pompous Pete should have done some research prior to pontificating, Dudeism is included in the curriculum of Harvard and Yale divinity schools, among others. You can choose it as your denomination in the military, should you make the ultimate sacrifice for us the Dudeism symbol is going to be on your headstone at Arlington, or any other military cemetery. If I know this, and I don’t study on it much, how does this not know shit guy get paid to write tripe? Well I deserve a promotion so now I’m an Archbishop. We don’t have ranks or anything formal, but I snitch from the Anglicans so I will be updating my card to the title The Right Reverend.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Does the caption photograph remind anyone of an UnHerd commentator?

T A
T A
1 year ago

I looked at the author’s name after reading this article. While I may not care about this movie, which I’ve still not seen, I did read the author’s book Little Platoons when it first came out and thought it was excellent. The author has actually made a huge difference in our parenting approach towards childhood activities. I definitely recommend his book, it’s much more compelling than this article (which isn’t bad, just a bit too niche for me).

Rando Howard
Rando Howard
1 year ago

This was fun! Thanks. My two cents:

The Dude is a man with high self-regard who hides his disappointment with his life by playing the role of wise philosopher when really he’s just frustrated. Without weed he could be a Withnail-style alcoholic or some other rebel without a cause. His silly pseudonym is a bit of a giveaway. A classic man for whom things didn’t go well. We all know one. Not a big enough fish? Just find a smaller pond. But even there you find a Walter. So funny.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rando Howard
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

Please stop using the term hippy so loosely. In the same time period I was a radical activist and feminist, SDS, YIP, the Weather Underground, we weren’t hippies. We hated hippies. They’d spare change you, give you crabs should you mingle unwisely, too lazy to protest and they reeked of patchouli. You might think lumping everyone in the counter culture as hippies is cool, many of us find it insulting. I certainly do.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

What’s so funny (or insulting) about peace love and understanding man (or woman)?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

What’s so funny (or insulting) about peace love and understanding man (or woman)?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

Please stop using the term hippy so loosely. In the same time period I was a radical activist and feminist, SDS, YIP, the Weather Underground, we weren’t hippies. We hated hippies. They’d spare change you, give you crabs should you mingle unwisely, too lazy to protest and they reeked of patchouli. You might think lumping everyone in the counter culture as hippies is cool, many of us find it insulting. I certainly do.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

This article is precisely what’s wrong with US culture.
I’ll come clean – i’ve never watched The Great Lebowski, and neither do i intend to, especially so after this article. That the author cites all the usual suspects from European philosophy (Marx, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein) that an undergrad trying to sound clever would use, just typifies the shallowness exuding from the pores of the nation, whilst understanding nothing. An “empty cult” indeed, but one which the author nevertheless seems intoxicated with.
That’s not to say i believe this applies to all the individuals who dwell there (there’s plenty of US contributors to Unherd to whom it wouldn’t) but if film is the major cultural contribution of the US, the medium that exemplifies its soul, it’s no coincidence that whatever soul the US had is in imminent danger of being lost.
There are, of course, some great US movies. Oddly enough though, some of the greatest have required input from British actors, such as Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind to Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Somehow, this TransAtlantic input adds depth that might otherwise have been missing, and simply can’t be replicated. I wish the US of A well, but it really does need to grow up.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Perhaps a bit much applying it to the nation, but I was certainly left with a strong impression of the author as a pompous poseur full of sh*t.

You do raise an interesting question, has the US produced a philosopher of note? Genuine question, I’ve never studied philosophy but when the big names come up they all seem to be European.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

A number but probably William James is the most significant. Generally, I would agree with you , original thought is not their strong point.

Last edited 1 year ago by Isabel Ward
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

It’s hard to have an original thought when you are only about 250 years old.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

No original thought in the US? What typical British chauvinistic load of shit. Let’s start with the US constitution and creation of the 1st codified federal democracy. Then you might want to consider that the US produces more patents per capita than any other country. Where did the internet start? What country was the main driver behind the ongoing tech revolution. I could go on, but I think the point is made.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Correct, but wasn’t it renegade Englishmen who wrote that Constitution, in a vain attempt to recreate Republican Rome?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

They weren’t Englishmen, but Colony-born descendants of Englanders. They certainly owed a massive debt to English precedent, both in law and aspirations to liberty. The Declaration of Independence, for example, lifted many near-verbatim passages from John Locke. But whatever our major national shortcomings, and despite your foregone disagreement, the US has done no worse than your vaunted (bloody, expansionist) Rome–or Britain.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If you had asked them say in 1773 if they were Englishmen the answer would have been correctly, a resounding YES!

When mentioning Locke I am very surprised you didn’t also mention Tom Paine.

I have no quibble with American expansionism, it was (is) a Darwinian imperative, and just like Rome and the British Empire before it I regard it was one most benign Empires in history. Particularly if judged by comparative analysis with some of the ‘others’.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

You seem to wrangle a qualifying angle to insinuate that anything of real substance has a British or at least a Continental stamp. Tom Paine is a solid example of a influential Revolutionary Era figure born and raised in England. But most of the Founders (sorry for this 18th Century-esque capitalization, but standard usage you know) had never set foot in England.
I think some might have said they were Americans well before 1773, don’t you–with “the loudest yelps for liberty” coming from “the drivers of Negroes”, in Samuel Johnson’s memorable line?
While successful and long-lived, with enduring influence, I think your sometimes-charming Classicism misleads you when you call Rome “benign”. I agree on Britain, in the comparative sense.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

You seem to wrangle a qualifying angle to insinuate that anything of real substance has a British or at least a Continental stamp. Tom Paine is a solid example of a influential Revolutionary Era figure born and raised in England. But most of the Founders (sorry for this 18th Century-esque capitalization, but standard usage you know) had never set foot in England.
I think some might have said they were Americans well before 1773, don’t you–with “the loudest yelps for liberty” coming from “the drivers of Negroes”, in Samuel Johnson’s memorable line?
While successful and long-lived, with enduring influence, I think your sometimes-charming Classicism misleads you when you call Rome “benign”. I agree on Britain, in the comparative sense.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If you had asked them say in 1773 if they were Englishmen the answer would have been correctly, a resounding YES!

When mentioning Locke I am very surprised you didn’t also mention Tom Paine.

I have no quibble with American expansionism, it was (is) a Darwinian imperative, and just like Rome and the British Empire before it I regard it was one most benign Empires in history. Particularly if judged by comparative analysis with some of the ‘others’.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

They weren’t Englishmen, but Colony-born descendants of Englanders. They certainly owed a massive debt to English precedent, both in law and aspirations to liberty. The Declaration of Independence, for example, lifted many near-verbatim passages from John Locke. But whatever our major national shortcomings, and despite your foregone disagreement, the US has done no worse than your vaunted (bloody, expansionist) Rome–or Britain.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Well first of all I’m not British (I wouldn’t comment on whether they talk chauvinistic sh*t). Secondly I was commenting on US philosophers so you’re comment is irrelevant. You seem rather over sensitive.

Last edited 1 year ago by Isabel Ward
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

US philosophers?… what a beautiful contradiction in terms? as plentiful as Sahara Desert polar bears?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

US philosophers?… what a beautiful contradiction in terms? as plentiful as Sahara Desert polar bears?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Fair comment, but wasn’t the internet invented by a Brit?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Correct, but wasn’t it renegade Englishmen who wrote that Constitution, in a vain attempt to recreate Republican Rome?

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Well first of all I’m not British (I wouldn’t comment on whether they talk chauvinistic sh*t). Secondly I was commenting on US philosophers so you’re comment is irrelevant. You seem rather over sensitive.

Last edited 1 year ago by Isabel Ward
Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Fair comment, but wasn’t the internet invented by a Brit?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

What about the late Jimmy Hendrix?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Excellent example and one which hints at the great musical innovations of the United States, (Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country, Gospel) largely owed to an African–as well as British and Celtic–influence. I’ll name Louis Armstrong as my example.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago

Sorry you are right. I forgot about that well known American philosopher

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

ex Lance jack in 81st Airborne!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Excellent example and one which hints at the great musical innovations of the United States, (Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country, Gospel) largely owed to an African–as well as British and Celtic–influence. I’ll name Louis Armstrong as my example.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago

Sorry you are right. I forgot about that well known American philosopher

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

ex Lance jack in 81st Airborne!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

Ah. So Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, James Baldwin, Steven Foster, George Gershwin, Robert Johnson, and Bob Dylan were highly derivative or (in the case of the musicians) insufficiently thoughtful artists, or not philosophical or abstract enough for you?
The list could be expanded indefinitely. You mightn’t like American thought for a variety of defensible reasons, but to deny a share of originality seems absurd to me.
(Follow-up: If you’re referring only to philosophers, please further disregard the majority of my rant).

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

It’s hard to have an original thought when you are only about 250 years old.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

No original thought in the US? What typical British chauvinistic load of shit. Let’s start with the US constitution and creation of the 1st codified federal democracy. Then you might want to consider that the US produces more patents per capita than any other country. Where did the internet start? What country was the main driver behind the ongoing tech revolution. I could go on, but I think the point is made.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

What about the late Jimmy Hendrix?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

Ah. So Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, James Baldwin, Steven Foster, George Gershwin, Robert Johnson, and Bob Dylan were highly derivative or (in the case of the musicians) insufficiently thoughtful artists, or not philosophical or abstract enough for you?
The list could be expanded indefinitely. You mightn’t like American thought for a variety of defensible reasons, but to deny a share of originality seems absurd to me.
(Follow-up: If you’re referring only to philosophers, please further disregard the majority of my rant).

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

George Santayana moved to the US before he was ten…so we have a least half a big name in addition to William James, who was mentioned by Ms. Ward.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Georges left soon enough after his stint at Harvard did he not?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Right, but he spent about 15 formative years in the US, and was later a middle-aged professor/author at Harvard from 1889-1912 (had to look all of this up, to be honest).

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Right, but he spent about 15 formative years in the US, and was later a middle-aged professor/author at Harvard from 1889-1912 (had to look all of this up, to be honest).

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Georges left soon enough after his stint at Harvard did he not?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Each of these gentlemen knocks any of their European contemporaries into a cocked hat:- W.V.O.Quine, Donald Davidson, Saul Kripke, David Lewis. But here is a more comprehensive list:-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_philosophers

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

A number but probably William James is the most significant. Generally, I would agree with you , original thought is not their strong point.

Last edited 1 year ago by Isabel Ward
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

George Santayana moved to the US before he was ten…so we have a least half a big name in addition to William James, who was mentioned by Ms. Ward.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Each of these gentlemen knocks any of their European contemporaries into a cocked hat:- W.V.O.Quine, Donald Davidson, Saul Kripke, David Lewis. But here is a more comprehensive list:-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_philosophers

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Funnily enough, I agree with you. I worked for a US company and have travelled all over their country. I saw many bad things and many good things but kept my thoughts to myself. When my US friends visted Europe they made comments like, “Our toilets (trains, cars, roof shingles, food, hotels, beer, …) are better than the European versions.”
To me those comments were just immature and sometimes plain wrong. They do need to grow up.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“You can’t polish a t**d”*.

(* Diogenes of Sinope, 4th century.).

Stewart Midwinter
Stewart Midwinter
1 year ago

I have been to that Northern Turkish town, and read the following about that philosopher on an informational brochure in my hotel: “Diogenes believed in disregarding all social conventions and rules, and made love in the street like a dog.”

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Correct, he was incidentally fascinated by dogs, and maintained that we should live like them!

He is often regarded as one of first Cynics, the word being derived from Ancient Greek word for dog= kyĂŽn or dog like knikos, and probably first used as an insult!

He was famously rude to the homicidal Macedonian pygmy, sometimes referred to as Alexander the Great, on one occasion, and lived to tell the tale!

All in all a very great man!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Correct, he was incidentally fascinated by dogs, and maintained that we should live like them!

He is often regarded as one of first Cynics, the word being derived from Ancient Greek word for dog= kyĂŽn or dog like knikos, and probably first used as an insult!

He was famously rude to the homicidal Macedonian pygmy, sometimes referred to as Alexander the Great, on one occasion, and lived to tell the tale!

All in all a very great man!

Stewart Midwinter
Stewart Midwinter
1 year ago

I have been to that Northern Turkish town, and read the following about that philosopher on an informational brochure in my hotel: “Diogenes believed in disregarding all social conventions and rules, and made love in the street like a dog.”

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I’m sincerely sorry those friends of yours were so rude. Traveling is an opportunity to have new experiences and expand your life, not criticize your surroundings. Sometimes keeping your dislikes quiet is the more socially mature choice. They come across as maybe a little spoiled, not realizing so many people around the world don’t have the opportunities for travel that they do.

Not all of us US citizens are like that. Some of us still have manners, consideration of others, appreciation of opportunities and understanding that not all places are like home. Unfortunately, we don’t bellow like bullfrogs, so we don’t receive the same amount of recognition that the complainers do.

If it’s any consolation, the locals in places where I’ve lived (North Carolina and Florida) have to deal with complaints from tourists and new residents about “home” being so much better. Our reply is “If it’s so much better, why are you still here?” Apparently, rudeness is universal.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

I wouldn’t dream of criticizing another country while being a guest there, any more than I would do so in the home of a neighbor. But I have had the very unpleasant experience of Europeans tell me to my face that my town/state/country is sh*t, the food is lousy, culture is nonexistent – and there are certainly several commenters on UnHerd who happily let fly how much they hate America and her citizens.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

For us in Europe the US is very large and scary, especially if you never, ever go there. When you drive around from state to state, as I did in my job, the nature of the people definitely changes. Southerners exude more warmth and have more time for you. Those in the centre – Kentucky or Indiana, say – seem more closed to visitors. Those in the west seem very strange (to me).
My wife came with me a few times and she especially thought Atlanta was great. Everybody wanted to talk to her.

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
1 year ago

Alison

That’s horrid. I am so sorry you had to experience rude people like that.

The people I’ve known who weren’t native Americans (ranging from Latin American immigrants to Chinese, German and French graduate students) were very kind and never insulting of my native country. The Europeans were all fascinated by different aspects of American culture: clogging, Applachian culture, especially country cooking, American football, and owning a car and driving a lot, especially road trips. My immigrant friends were intent on assimilating – learning English and becoming good and productive citizens. I guess I’ve been fortunate in that my foreign friends have always been considerate. Unfortunately, consideration and good manners are not universal.

My own thoughts are: 1) if you disparage somewhere you shouldn’t go there in the first place, 2) be happy if you have the money, the time and the health to travel, and 3) be nice to the locals – they can make your trip much worse if you treat them badly!

I hope the rest of your experiences with Europeans will be positive. My European friends would be so embarrassed by the bad behavior of those rude babies! After all, the Golden Rule, though a cliche, is worth following in dealing with others.

Good luck.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

Thank you for your lovely reply. One of my favorite trips abroad was renting a canal boat and going from Whitchurch to Wales on the Shropshire Union Canal with our two young children. It was not an American sort of holiday – which is why we wanted to do it. Everyone (except one surly pub waitress in Llangollen) was delightful.
We do ourselves no favors by pouring scorn on each other’s cultures. It’s especially galling when one’s own countrymen do it to our shared homeland: coasts vs middle states, North vs South, city vs suburbs vs rural, and so on.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

What did you all think of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct?

Was that pub waitress in Llangollen Welsh by any chance?
If yes, be reassured that she and her type hate us (the English) far more than they hate you. It was forever thus.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

What did you all think of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct?

Was that pub waitress in Llangollen Welsh by any chance?
If yes, be reassured that she and her type hate us (the English) far more than they hate you. It was forever thus.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

Thank you for your lovely reply. One of my favorite trips abroad was renting a canal boat and going from Whitchurch to Wales on the Shropshire Union Canal with our two young children. It was not an American sort of holiday – which is why we wanted to do it. Everyone (except one surly pub waitress in Llangollen) was delightful.
We do ourselves no favors by pouring scorn on each other’s cultures. It’s especially galling when one’s own countrymen do it to our shared homeland: coasts vs middle states, North vs South, city vs suburbs vs rural, and so on.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

“Manners maketh man” as the good Bishop and founder of the New College of St Mary, Oxford said a few centuries ago!

(* He also founded a minor Public School.)

ps. The late John Betjeman put well in a short poem which included a line about Englishmen “regretting Americans”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Me neither! And I certainly wouldn’t fly the flag of my country while there, nor rail against the locals and demand they change their laws to accommodate me or the interests of my particular people.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

For us in Europe the US is very large and scary, especially if you never, ever go there. When you drive around from state to state, as I did in my job, the nature of the people definitely changes. Southerners exude more warmth and have more time for you. Those in the centre – Kentucky or Indiana, say – seem more closed to visitors. Those in the west seem very strange (to me).
My wife came with me a few times and she especially thought Atlanta was great. Everybody wanted to talk to her.

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
1 year ago

Alison

That’s horrid. I am so sorry you had to experience rude people like that.

The people I’ve known who weren’t native Americans (ranging from Latin American immigrants to Chinese, German and French graduate students) were very kind and never insulting of my native country. The Europeans were all fascinated by different aspects of American culture: clogging, Applachian culture, especially country cooking, American football, and owning a car and driving a lot, especially road trips. My immigrant friends were intent on assimilating – learning English and becoming good and productive citizens. I guess I’ve been fortunate in that my foreign friends have always been considerate. Unfortunately, consideration and good manners are not universal.

My own thoughts are: 1) if you disparage somewhere you shouldn’t go there in the first place, 2) be happy if you have the money, the time and the health to travel, and 3) be nice to the locals – they can make your trip much worse if you treat them badly!

I hope the rest of your experiences with Europeans will be positive. My European friends would be so embarrassed by the bad behavior of those rude babies! After all, the Golden Rule, though a cliche, is worth following in dealing with others.

Good luck.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

“Manners maketh man” as the good Bishop and founder of the New College of St Mary, Oxford said a few centuries ago!

(* He also founded a minor Public School.)

ps. The late John Betjeman put well in a short poem which included a line about Englishmen “regretting Americans”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Me neither! And I certainly wouldn’t fly the flag of my country while there, nor rail against the locals and demand they change their laws to accommodate me or the interests of my particular people.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

Thanks for this. I travel abroad and see Brits behaving badly, shouting at waiters because their English is not good. I guess that what surprised me was that my colleagues were middle-class, clever people who were senior managers.
In my US travels I’ve had bad and good experiences – as a rule, the further west you get the worse people seem to treat strangers – maybe they don’t have as many visitors.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I’ve always found New England very attractive and in particular a tiny little town in Vermont called Peacham*

(* I once had a to judge an ‘Afternoon Tea’ competition there, which required some stamina due to the diuretic property of tea.)

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I’ve always found New England very attractive and in particular a tiny little town in Vermont called Peacham*

(* I once had a to judge an ‘Afternoon Tea’ competition there, which required some stamina due to the diuretic property of tea.)

Suesan Matthews
Suesan Matthews
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

As an Australian, living in the UK, when I first arrived, I would often find that if I simply compared Australian things with British things, people would assume I was complaining, when I was merely pointing out what I thought was an interesting difference. ‍♀

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

I wouldn’t dream of criticizing another country while being a guest there, any more than I would do so in the home of a neighbor. But I have had the very unpleasant experience of Europeans tell me to my face that my town/state/country is sh*t, the food is lousy, culture is nonexistent – and there are certainly several commenters on UnHerd who happily let fly how much they hate America and her citizens.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

Thanks for this. I travel abroad and see Brits behaving badly, shouting at waiters because their English is not good. I guess that what surprised me was that my colleagues were middle-class, clever people who were senior managers.
In my US travels I’ve had bad and good experiences – as a rule, the further west you get the worse people seem to treat strangers – maybe they don’t have as many visitors.

Suesan Matthews
Suesan Matthews
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

As an Australian, living in the UK, when I first arrived, I would often find that if I simply compared Australian things with British things, people would assume I was complaining, when I was merely pointing out what I thought was an interesting difference. ‍♀

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“You can’t polish a t**d”*.

(* Diogenes of Sinope, 4th century.).

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I’m sincerely sorry those friends of yours were so rude. Traveling is an opportunity to have new experiences and expand your life, not criticize your surroundings. Sometimes keeping your dislikes quiet is the more socially mature choice. They come across as maybe a little spoiled, not realizing so many people around the world don’t have the opportunities for travel that they do.

Not all of us US citizens are like that. Some of us still have manners, consideration of others, appreciation of opportunities and understanding that not all places are like home. Unfortunately, we don’t bellow like bullfrogs, so we don’t receive the same amount of recognition that the complainers do.

If it’s any consolation, the locals in places where I’ve lived (North Carolina and Florida) have to deal with complaints from tourists and new residents about “home” being so much better. Our reply is “If it’s so much better, why are you still here?” Apparently, rudeness is universal.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I think you are imparting way too much importance on movies. They are merely an escape for most people and Hollywood knows this well. People have always seen a need for entertainment to escape reality for a while. For heaven’s sake, even the ancient Romans used to provide free entertainment for the masses.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

And free food and wine!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

And free food and wine!

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Perhaps a bit much applying it to the nation, but I was certainly left with a strong impression of the author as a pompous poseur full of sh*t.

You do raise an interesting question, has the US produced a philosopher of note? Genuine question, I’ve never studied philosophy but when the big names come up they all seem to be European.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Funnily enough, I agree with you. I worked for a US company and have travelled all over their country. I saw many bad things and many good things but kept my thoughts to myself. When my US friends visted Europe they made comments like, “Our toilets (trains, cars, roof shingles, food, hotels, beer, …) are better than the European versions.”
To me those comments were just immature and sometimes plain wrong. They do need to grow up.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I think you are imparting way too much importance on movies. They are merely an escape for most people and Hollywood knows this well. People have always seen a need for entertainment to escape reality for a while. For heaven’s sake, even the ancient Romans used to provide free entertainment for the masses.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

This article is precisely what’s wrong with US culture.
I’ll come clean – i’ve never watched The Great Lebowski, and neither do i intend to, especially so after this article. That the author cites all the usual suspects from European philosophy (Marx, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein) that an undergrad trying to sound clever would use, just typifies the shallowness exuding from the pores of the nation, whilst understanding nothing. An “empty cult” indeed, but one which the author nevertheless seems intoxicated with.
That’s not to say i believe this applies to all the individuals who dwell there (there’s plenty of US contributors to Unherd to whom it wouldn’t) but if film is the major cultural contribution of the US, the medium that exemplifies its soul, it’s no coincidence that whatever soul the US had is in imminent danger of being lost.
There are, of course, some great US movies. Oddly enough though, some of the greatest have required input from British actors, such as Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind to Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Somehow, this TransAtlantic input adds depth that might otherwise have been missing, and simply can’t be replicated. I wish the US of A well, but it really does need to grow up.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray