The Big Lebowski, which the Coen brothers released in 1998, was clearly a landmark in pre-millennial cult movie-making. This rambling tale about a slacking stoner existing in a Los Angeles peopled solely by nihilists and other assholes clearly struck a major chord with the disaffected youth and hippies of the time, as it spawned its own literal cult which lives and grows among us to this very day. 400,000 people from around the world have registered their dudeist priesthood with one man in Thailand even calling himself “The Dudely Lama.” He (his real name is Oliver) estimates that more than 200,000 dudeists currently live in the United States.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that I wasn’t also moved to action for self-analysis by this great film. After watching it myself, I decided, with a friend, to quit my life as a journalism student at Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnic University, and drive clear to the other side of the continent where I could just smoke joints, drink white russians, and bowl until I died. That eventually lead to a weird drug freakout in which I gave my car away to a mushroom picker in exchange for directions to the airport, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, since the start of the new millennium, I’ve remained on a rather even keel. dudeism, though, has not.
I continued to maintain interest in the pseudo-religion associated with the film, and once the community coalesced on Facebook, I dove in with both feet, actively trying to meet other laid-back, engaging and empowering individuals undertaking zen as their primary act of faith. But, of course, this took place “on the internet.” It quickly became apparent that the dudeist ideals from the movie (which still ring true, despite the film’s many ethical flaws) were enabling all manner of behaviour that is, in fact, not dudely at all.
So I quit the group, but I maintain a mole on the inside who keeps me apprised of the sad state of philosophic disrepair to which the religion has sunk. So please excuse the cell-phone quality screen caps. I chronicle the depths of this decline here, in hope that new viewers who are unfamiliar with the film, and the trainwreck of a social movement that it hath wrought, can perhaps avoid some of the semantic and ontological pitfalls which have thus far cast its adherents asunder.
1 Both the film, and the dude-bros who worship it, are wildly misogynistic
It is, perhaps, understandable that people who love a simplistic and misogynistic movie cast would evidence toxic masculinity in their resulting, erected belief system. Make no mistake, The Big Lebowski presents women as both horrible and simplistic, and does so using the hackneyed “holy trinity” of the virgin, the mother and the whore. The three female characters in the flick fit these archetypes to a tee; one cut off her toe and bleeds in sacrifice for her scam-artist dude-bros, one literally scams “The Dude” into becoming a father, and one offers to give him a blow job for a thousand dollars. It doesn’t get more cut and dried (and boring) than that. Furthermore, only two of these token stereotypes are named (in script or credits) and none of them ever share a scene, so the movie utterly fails Bechdel’s bare-minimum test for female participation in the narrative. In a word, the film is bad.
The attitude of the dude-bros tends to mimic this, and it was their regular and disheartening propensity to post rambling narratives of lost love in the group, seeking penis-stroking from similarly disaffected newly-minted “friend-zone” inhabitants. I realize that losing love, and the time you put into a relationship, sucks. I really do. But it gets really boring to read about, really fast. Especially when every third comment is abusive.
2 While the film, like all mainstream entertainment, essentially ignores trans identity, dude-bros revel in acting like they’re somehow above it.
This is the post that made me quit the group:
If you’ve been on the internet a while, you may have come across the following meme, or one of many others of similar ilk, most likely posted by a pothead:
Dudeists love this meme and those like it, and post them regularly, always to tremendous applause. Somehow this confusion of equality and egalitarianism rings true in the dudeist’s THC-engorged heart.
Now, I’m from a time back before we had the concept of “politically correct.” Back when we had manners. In those halcyon days, we had something called “polity” instead, and it consisted of “being polite” or “being a dickhole.” We use the correct pronouns not because some “trans privilege” is forcing us to do so. We do so BECAUSE IT IS POLITE. When you see the words “politically correct” you can mentally substitute the word “polite” in their place. If someone is against political correctness, that’s fine, because this is goddamn America, and people can be against any meaningless garbage they want. Even politeness and being a decent human being.
The insidiousness of the dudeist attitude towards pronouns is that it attempts to claim a moral high ground for impoliteness above that claimed by politeness, using the amoral justification that it is better simply because it takes less effort. But, as you are about to see, this glorification of self-serving sloth is endemic of dude-bro culture.
3 As far as religions go, it’s not very demanding.
Dudeism is considered by many to be a real religion primarily because some states and countries recognized self-appointed dudeist ministers (who have duly paid a fee to someone, somewhere, or otherwise arranged for their name to be recorded on an official document) as legitimate public trustees capable of performing the rites associated with state declarations, primarily marriages and funerals. They have struggled to give this pseudo-spiritual claptrap some theological legitimacy in the same way white people have been doing that since the 1800s – by stealing something from Asia and tweaking it slightly to make it more palatable in western markets (see: Yoga.) In this case, the victim of the appropriation was the zen tradition, and this is the result:
Yes, the greatest mandala of the dudeist belief structure is a basic yin-yang ( ☯, Unicode U+262F) flipped, rotated, and with four extra eyes crudely photoshopped in to make it look like two bowling balls. Isn’t that clever? The japanese may have invented shinto, but thank God white people invented flipping and rotating other people’s shit. Who knows where they’d be without it.
The bowling ball is central to the faith because it represents the primary means of escape from the trappings of material attachment that the dude in the movie employes. While the fake yin-yang is the primary mandal of dudeism, its primary mantra, and only real dogma, is “Fuck it, dude. Let’s go bowling.”
Now, the phrase is actually a Walterism, and not a dudeism, inasmuch as it was spoken in the move by the character Walter, not by the dude. But it remains the linchpin of dudeist thought. When people clamour for attention in the group regarding their tales of misandric woe, “Fuck it, dude, let’s go bowling” is the community’s expected reaction to the tired call-and-response game of avoiding dealing with one’s internal toxic shit.
Walterism is recognized as a subset of dudeism, one that’s more confrontational and abusive than primary dudeism, which is more apathetic and detached. I really could get into a very long discussion of the schism here, but I’m not going to because it’s fucking bullshit.
4 It’s like Buddhism, but if you’re drunk on liquor instead of enlightenment.
White Russians are not the only alcoholic beverage lionized in the movie, but they are unquestionably the most ubiquitous one. They are in most of the scenes, and many are mixed on screen in a manner that does little to hide the rampant fetishization. Dudeists drink this shit up, in the form of an unending torrent of images posted to the group, each featuring a newly-poured glass of Fuck It. While fucking it and going bowling is the sin qua non of classic dudeism, modern adherents are much more likely to suggest alcohol and also cannabis as the standard response to any type of spiritual conflict, or even lack thereof. Instead of attempting to understand and thereby escape the toxic nature of these spiritual crutches, as buddhism teaches, the dudeist instead is encouraged to revel in them, like a really weird cos-play that pervades your entire life, instead of being limited to geek conventions. Imagine a grown-ass man who spends his entire waking life living in a Sailor Moon outfit. Who claims this gives him the same level of spiritual attunement as a monk or a priest. That’s what you look like.
5 It’s really, really, really racist.
God, where do I even begin with this one. The movie is so incredibly, intricately racist that it could only have been made by a white person. First let’s talk about the black characters. Oh yeah, I don’t remember any. In a movie about Los Angeles, no less. It’s not like the Coen brothers were trying to depict racist small-town America. They simply ended up portraying the only Los Angeles they know, one where blacks are marginalized and relegated to one throw-away joke near the start of the movie where the Dude mistakenly thinks that The Big Lebowski has fathered a number of mixed-race children. But, oh no, ha ha ha, that’s a big joke and no way would he do such a horrible thing as that. Gross. Through erasure they treat the black community as poorly as they treat the trans community.
Next let’s talk how there is only one Mexican character, and the only real thing that we know about him, in the entire movie, is that he’s a child rapist. Way to break free from the stereotype, guys.
Finally, though, we have to talk about the “chinaman.” This is a rather lengthy and forced bit that the protagonists go through quite early in the film, which sets up our attitudes about the movie and the personalities of the different characters.
By having one character correct another character about proper usage, the writers are able to have the fun of saying a forbidden term repeatedly, while still hiding behind the cover of an edgy, “ironic” teachable moment. This has filtered down into the community as a blanket pass for anyone to say “chinaman” whenever they want, with no repercussions, simply because the Coen-bros wrote it into the script. They also wrote the word “vaginal,” and as a result, the dude-bros love to post crap like this:
I mean, it’s not even evil, it’s just bad. Bad, bad jokes, using bad language for the simple sake of being bad. In short, if you must reference the movie, reference the not-racist, non-misogynistic parts of it.
6 Despite all this, it claims to be apolitical.
This is the core of my discontent with my former faith. dudeism is supposed to be inherently political. This comes to us from the film itself, in which The Dude mentions that he was a drafter of the original Port Huron Statement, not the “watered down” version that was finally signed. The Port Huron Statement was put out by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS,) who were seriously political and adamant about things like universal disarmament through violence.
However, instead of following this inspiring lead, dudeists have taken a “fuck it” attitude towards political engagement, and have specifically banned the discussion of “politics” from their forum. So instead of being able to mobilize a 400,000-member army to fight for truth and freedom and justice, they’ve created a virtual safe-space for unchecked microaggressions of a most Trump-like nature.
And that’s not cool, dude.