The Big Lebowski as an anti-war film
Looking at the plethora of Hollywood's attempts to drive home the hackneyed "war is bad" theme, one would assume that it is impossible to find originality. The moviegoer imagines guns, bloodshed, and corpses when the genre is mentioned. To say that a comedy could describe the horrors of war seems ridiculous, yet that is exactly what the Coen brothers' film does. On the surface, The Big Lebowski seems to offer little more than (many) laughs, but it also takes a novel approach to the war movie genre.
Jeff Lebowski's character is the first symbol of the horrors of war. After losing his legs in battle, Lebowski goes on to financial and social success, yet his life is incomplete. He fills his life with trifles, from limousines to a trophy wife. Lebowski is insatiably greedy, setting The Dude up with the empty bag. One may even surmise that he is forced to occupy his time with work so as to avoid his horrific memories of war. His obsession with masculinity stemming from his years in the military run his life, as he asks The Dude, "what makes a man?" When he screams at The Dude, "the bums have lost," we get the impression that he sees everything as a battle of sorts. We also question whether or not "bums" have been defeated, since they never agreed to fight in the first place.
The battle in the Gulf is mimicked here by Jesus Quintana's delusional struggle to win the bowling tournament. The "pederast" pervert Jesus is portrayed as a goofy, flashy, belligerent man who, despite lack of opposition, sees fit to instigate quarrels with other bowlers.
When Donny dies at the end of the movie, the Coens are cleverly showing us that innocent people suffer the most from war. Donny is uninvolved in the action of the film, yet he dies of a heart attack during the final "battle" of the film.
Walter Sobchack is the best example of the ludicrousness and long-term affects of war. He is haunted by his experiences in Vietnam and tries to connect unrelated events to the conflict. This is because, since the war affected him so deeply, he rationalizes that it must have similarly affected all other events. As The Dude puts it, "he is living in the past." Also, when the two discuss pacifism, we see how obstinant Walter is. Like countless leaders, his rage blinds him, turning him into a bellicose, irrational human.
Finally, we learn at the end of the film that "a little Lebowski" is on his way, the child of The Dude and Maude. Thus, the Coens are telling us that an age of pacifism and easy living is upon us.
A more shrewd, sophisticated statement on war has yet to be made in film. Not only is the movie one of the funniest I've seen, but it is also artful and meaningful.