Almost everybody loves The Big Lebowski. It’s a small, cult movie with large critical acclaim, is infinitely quotable and a huge devoted following. It has spawned books, its own festival (Lebowski Fest) and even a religion (Dudeism). While much has been written about the film’s notable influences from existentialism, political ethos and film noir, there are simpler themes that generally tend to be overlooked.
My favorite character is Walter Sobchak. He’s the kind of guy who makes me proud to be a veteran. If John McCain would choose Walter as his VP, I would switch parties.
I like to watch the movie as a buddy comedy. Walter is along for all of the big action pieces and furthermore, in the only two instances where the Dude takes action himself, it’s Walter who drives him to it (literally, the second time). Whatever troubles the Dude gets himself into, Walter is there to help bail him out. Walter and the Dude are two sides of a coin, the left and the right. Do you ever notice how in most scenes, even when driving to the drop, the Dude is on the left and Walter is on the right? For all the Zen-Buddha, hippie beliefs that the Dude embraces, Walter is the polar opposite.
Conservative, religious and right wing, Walter could be called a zealot if he were a television pundit. He strongly believes in his ‘basic freedoms’ including free speech, the right to bear arms and freedom of religion. His conservative views are clearly on display whether dealing with Larry Sellers, Jesus or Smokey. Walter believes in the rules about everything from bowling to kidnapping and enforces them anyway he can. He’s not seeking validation when he asks, “Am I wrong?” but trying to make sense of a world that has disregard for the rules everyone has agreed on. Whether it’s race relations with Asian Americans, sex offenders or inept nihilists, his heart is in the right place, but his method is slightly mad. Even Walter’s best laid plans go astray, as he really didn’t have an exit strategy for the money drop/hostage exchange. But, most of the time, he is right. Mr. Lebowski’s spinal notwithstanding, let us not forget dude, the nihilists ARE amateurs, that is NOT her toe and NOBODY is going to cut the Dude’s dick off.
So, if Walter is the right and the Dude is the left, how do these two get along? How are a former hippie and a former vet best friends with each other? Walter is constantly talking about foreign policy and
People look at the Dude and want to be him, want to emulate him and wish they could live as carefree. I think we should all try to be a little more like the Dude AND Walter. Their bipartisan spirit I something that we can all aspire to especially in an upcoming election year. Walter and the Dude are the alpha and the omega and the rest of us are just Donny, along for the ride with open ears and a shut mouth.
The Big Lebowski is available on DVD from Focus Features.