Ok so by now you know the cultural importance of this Cohen brother’s classic. Some of the most quotable lines of dialogue, captivating plot and outright career defining performances from the likes of Jeff Bridges, Jon Goodman and John Turturro
But there is a theme running through this film that is nothing short of ubiquitous and that theme is the decline of masculinity and more precisely castration.
So lets dive right into one of the main examples of this - the character of Walter Sobchak played by John Goodman.
At first glance he appears like a man’s man - beer drinking, bowling team member with a penchant for firearms and the Vietnam war - but he is actually emasculated and cuckold by his ex-wife. So much so that he is dog sitting her Pomeranian while she holidays with her new partner in Honolulu.
Then we have the character of the Big Lebowski brilliantly portrayed by the late David Huddleston. Although on the surface he is the patriarch of the Lebowski tribe his life is controlled by women. We learn that his daughter Maude is in fact financing his life style and his real fortune is from his ex-wife and not his own achievements. The man is also literally powerless from the waist down.
All of the men in the film are inadequate while the women are powerful, cunning and ultimately solve the plot of the film. The scene that sums up just how pathetic the men are is this one..
Even the great writer Arthur Digby Sellers is useless without the help of housemaid, Pilar. In fact she is literally keeping alive due to his iron lung.
The men display their masculinity to each other by pissing on rugs to mark their territory, drawing gigantic penises, destroy prized sports cars, pull guns of each other and even physically and metaphorically polish their balls like it some act of dominance
Then we have the castration metaphor - and christ there is a lot of it in this movie. Firstly the Dude’s definition of being a man is simply having a pair of nuts.
We see scission throughout the film be it in dreams, hidden in the background or even used as a threat. But the biggest clue to it all is actually a line that was taken out of the final script.
When Walter pulls the Big Lebowki out of his wheelchair the character’s final line was in fact "You bullies! You and these women! You won't leave a man his fucking balls!"
But as we find out in towards the end of the film, testicles are needed by women no matter how powerful they are, no matter how rich the woman is, men play a role in the most important thing in life…life itself.