Genre and The Big Lebowski

Essay by turburrUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2014

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In cinema, films are traditionally organized into structured genres so that the audience may be aware of the type of movie they are seeing based on preconceived notions about that genre's narrative form and style. However, Joel and Ethan Coen's 1998 cult hit, The Big Lebowski, disrupts traditional cinematic genre codes by utilizing devices seen in an array of vastly different genres. By mixing together various genres and styles, the Coen brothers successfully created a film that is hard to pin down or type as any one specific genre, often disrupting audience expectations for the film. The Big Lebowski successfully incorporates elements from popular film genres such as the western, the road movie, the buddy comedy, and of course, classic film noir in order to form one of the most adored films in modern cult cinema.

The Big Lebowski is, first and foremost, a deconstruction of the film noir genre.

At the beginning of the film, Jeffery Lebowski, or, "The Dude," is mistaken for a wealthy billionaire with the same last name. From there, the film spirals into a world where the hero becomes immersed in a world of crime, pornography, corrupt policemen, nihilists, and murder. Although this description may present the film as a classic film noir, the genre is actually parodied as pieces of other genre codes are littered throughout. The film's opening, complete with western music and tumbleweed, present the film at first as an American western. Instead of a classic, stoic, film noir hero, we have "The Dude," a man who spends most of his time smoking weed and hanging around with his bowling buddies; the film thus successfully incorporates themes and narrative present in buddy and stoner comedy movies. Additionally, the way the characters speak and react to certain events further highlight aspects...