Bridges, for his part, helped promote the book by appearing on "The Daily Show," where he placed a clown nose on Jon Stewart and generally appeared baked out of his mind (practicing what most would agree is a key tenet of any Dude-related theology).
As a Marxist feminist anti-militarist allegory for neo-conservative masculine post-modernism:
There's also a fair amount of searching for secular meaning in the film, and understandably enough: for all the protestations of the filmmakers, a film this packed with signifiers (prominently name-checked in the film: nihilism, the Gulf War, feminist art, pornography, the Port Huron Statement, Theodor Herzl, Vladimir Lenin, the Eagles, etc) must mean something, right? The academics whose essays form the delightfully titled collection The Year's Work In Lebowski Studies would seem to think so. Consider a few (admittedly very reductive) samplings of such cogitation:
•The Dude and the New Left (Stacy Thompson) — Considering former student radical Dude as both parody and utopian embodiment of Communism, since our hero avoids the exploitative capitalist relations of daily work, monthly rent, and paying for healthcare (provided to him here by "special lady friend" Maude).
•No Literal Connection: Mass Commodification, U.S. Militarism, and the Oil Industry in The Big Lebowski (David Martin-Jones) — The film as critique of American foreign policy and consumerist car culture, given its setting during (and Walter's commentary on) an overseas war for oil, as well as the string of violence that is visited upon The Dude's car.
•On the White Russian (Craig Owens): Discussing the symbolism of The Dude's cocktail of choice, particularly as it relates to Leon Trotsky, who defeated the anti-Communist White Russian army in the Russian civil war and years later fled to the very country that invented Kahlua — Mexico.
As something taken far too seriously:
Of course, most fans (myself included — for the most part, anyway) prefer to just revel in the comic mystery of the film. That the Coens themselves probably feel the same way seems clear enough from their quotes on Lebowski and particularly from their 2009 film A Serious Man. That film follows a spiritually seeking schlemiel in Minnesota who, during a crisis of faith, isn't satisfied with his rabbi's admonition to "Accept the mystery." Instead, he continues seeking for meaning, which leads, directly or not, to an endless series of horrible things that happen to him. So, you know, be careful what you search for — you might not find it and incur divine wrath anyway.
As a reason to party:
One thing that pretty much every Lebowski fan can agree on, however, is the joy of getting together with other Lebowski fans to endlessly quote the movie and sip a beverage or two. That's why Lebowski Fests have sprouted up all across the country. Fans get together to dress up as their favorite characters (including the usual favorites and the incredibly obscure — if you can remember who Knox Harrington is without re-watching the film, you're a more devoted Dude-ologist than myself), swig Kahlua, and recite most of the movie from memory. Hartford's own Dude Fest, complete with a Dude Look-a-Like contest and the chance to win a rug that could really tie your room together, will be happening at Spotlight Theatres Front Street on Feb. 9th. If you've never seen the film, it's about the perfect way to be initiated into the cult, and if you have, well … aw, hell, I done introduced it enough.