Every so often, a film comes along that connects so deeply with the hearts and imagination of its viewers, that fans find it impossible to walk away from the Hollywood-manufactured universe they experienced in the movie theatre. Whether it’s Fight Club fans engaging in actual bare-knuckle boxing tournaments that inevitably result in hospitalization, or South Park fans shamefully bullying other kids because of a joke that was made on the show, the big screen tends to bring out the worst in us.
One such cult-classic film is The Big Lebowski, a movie about a carefree stoner-type character who calls himself “The Dude,” who is accidentally pulled into a million-dollar kidnapping scheme intended for a wealthy man who shares The Dude’s last name, Lebowski. Played by Jeff Bridges, The Dude is such a loveable, eccentric character that fans could not help but extract his persona and inject it into the offscreen world by creating a de facto religion based on his laid-back persona.
They call the religion Dudeism, though officially, the religion organizes under The Church of the Latter-Day Dude. And according to the official website, there now are over 350,000 “Dudeist priests.”
You too can become a Dudeist priest, advertises the website, with a free, fast and online ordaining process. This will appearently allow you (hilariously) to “minister over religious ceremonies in most U.S. States.” According to The New York Times, marriages have actually been officiated by Dudeist Priests.
So what is Dudeism exactly? The religion was founded by author and journalist named Oliver Benjamin in 2005, who lives in Thailand. According to the Dudeism website, “The idea is this: Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you’ll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others – that is to say, abide.” You can read the “Take it Easy” manifesto of Dudeism here.
But it gets deeper than that.
“While Dudeism in its official form has been organized as a religion only recently, it has existed down through the ages in one form or another. Probably the earliest form of Dudeism was the original form of Chinese Taoism before it went all weird with magic tricks and body fluids.” Reads the website. The website is also sure to point out that linguistically, the word “dude” can mean both genders, and that there is no sexism intended by the name of the religion. As proof, the website’s “great dudes of history” section includes both men and women, like Jennifer Lawrence, Joni Mitchell, and Julia Child.
Subscribers of Dudeism remain steadfast in their assertion that this is, in fact, a religion, not a cultish fan-following. But the line is understandably blurry, given that the origin of the religion is a movie character. Therefore, some are liable to chalk Dudeism up to another instance of toxic fandom, the latest display of which resulted in Rick and Morty fans staging tantrums in McDonald’s nationwide, to get their hands on a specialty sauce that Rick jokes about in one episode of the show. But if Rick and Morty fans acting like little assholes exemplifies toxic fandom, then The Big Lebowski’s fans forming of a religion that more than anything encourages one to “take it easy,” might instead exemplify constructive fandom. And while I don’t encourage anyone to spend their life sipping White Russians in their underwear, sometimes we all need to remember the importance of taking a deep breath, leaning back, and just taking it easy. Disagree? Well, that’s just like…your opinion, man.