The Dude Abides

hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here — a refreshing look at how the dude abides in academia.

At long last, a New York Times article that does not simply dismiss academic efforts to take pop culture seriously.

In  “Dissertations on His Dudeness,” book critic Dwight Garner earnestly engages scholarly analyses of the cult film The Big Lebowski while also, with congenial subtlety, poking fun at the attempt to philosophize alongside the Dude.

This is a cause for celebration. For even if you’re into the whole brevity thing, and you don’t like mixing your highbrow and your lowbrow, Garner let’s you enjoy the fun of taking this strange, absurd, borderline-insane/borderline-profound Coen Brothers film seriously. This approach of twinkling and rolling the critic’s eye all at once is so much more refreshing than the umpteenth version of the typical New York Times reactionary response to academic studies of popular culture.

In the typical Times article, the reader, the film, popular culture, the academy all get bashed repeatedly by a “can you believe those daffy professors are writing about American Idol?” tone of incredulity that has become even more tiresome and limiting than the worst mismatches between high theory and low culture could ever be. What started out as a healthy guarded skepticism in profiles of the ivy tower gone prime time became nothing more than a long line of gimmicky, close-minded, clichéd puff pieces-in-reverse: one loud lazy whine of hack-job elitism masquerading as populist outrage.

In Garner’s review, which makes fabulous use of Umberto Eco’s essay “Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage,” we can have our white Russians and learn how new shit has come to light too. And this, thankfully, is how the whole durned human comedy can keep perpetuatin’ itself.

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