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Inside Dudeism and the odd cult following of ‘The Big Lebowski’

The 1998 Coen brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski has grown larger than life over the years. Spawning conventions and even a religion, it has taken on a life that Ethan and Joel couldn’t have foreseen.

With comedies so rarely aging well, it speaks to its timelessness while being of the time. How did it get to be this way?

History of The Big Lebowski

It started after meeting producer Jeff Dowd, who referred to himself as “the dude.” He himself was a middle-aged burnout at the time. Joel and Ethan Coen had the idea to thrust his character into a complex situation he ultimately doesn’t care about.

Other inspirations for the character around The Dude who made it into the film were from the novels of Raymond Chandler. Chandler’s works often have loose plots that come secondary to the scene. This creates an episodic feel to the story, found in both cases.

Some didn’t know what to make of it. Upon release, The Big Lebowski made only $18 million. With a budget of $15 million, its $3 million profit margin was not seen as a huge success.

However, as time went by, word of mouth spread, and the quotes stuck around. Which brings us to today…

What is Dudeism?

Dudeism is as simple as just saying “fuck it.” Inspired by the simple yet happy life of El Duderino, it’s a religion that says “just take it easy, man.”

As The Church of the Latter-Day Dude‘s website puts it, “The beauty of Dudeism is its simplicity. Once a religion gets too complex, everything can go wrong.” Simply put, the core of it is just to live your own life, no need to worship anything or anyone.

That is to say, The Church of The Latter-Day Dude is not much of a religion at all, but a fascinating tribute. All the same, you can become an ordained minister via their site.

All cult classic movies have some form of big fan tribute, but only “The Big Lebowski” has spawned philosophy books about it. From Lebowski 101 by Oliver Benjamin to The Dude Testament, it’s a phenomenon like few others.

Why is Dudeism?

The devil-may-care attitude of The Dude resonates with a lot of people. He represents the side of us that just wants to do what we like without responsibilities.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about casual fans of the movie. The Big Lebowski is in my top three all-time favorites. However, I’ve observed people from Gen X to Gen Z who may take the wrong things from it.

With a character so relatable, some have used the film as an excuse not to take care of responsibilities. Dudeism is about hedonism. Therefore, it gives the hedonists validation. However, it’s a harmless following. More obscure than anything.

So it resonates with people, but why the religious aspect to the fanbase? The beauty of cult classic movies is while they may not make much at the box office, their merch sales are usually solid, to say the least.

Where there is love for something, there’s someone trying to package that love and sell it to you. Because The Dude has the look and lifestyle of a modern-day Jesus, that may responsible for that angle of sale.

Sometimes there’s every time and place for a fanbase …

While the fanbase of the movie may be a little odd, it’s as big as it is because of how great it is. Every scene delivers laughs and quotable lines for days. The story is complex and meandering but entertaining the whole way through.

It’s a film like no other, and one you’ll never forget. The Dude abides.