In this essay I explore the stupidity and sexism of the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski (1998) to read it as suggesting—by way of its emphasis on fetishism, castration, and commodification—a recontextualization of gender roles and a critical portrayal of the dedifferentiation of sexual and commodity fetishism as in the service of capital. First, the narrative frustrates all manners of substitution and exchange, so vital for both forms of fetishism. Second, the paternal function is continually evoked—typically in the form of the titular “Big Lebowski”—to be first submitted to critique but then rewritten, as Jeff Bridge's “Dude” comes to abjure both the imaginary and the symbolic dimensions of paternity in favor of more material and yet less oppressive and monolithic construals of paternity and masculinity. Third, I examine the consequences of the Dude's refusal of phallic mastery for the viewer and theorist.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.