HUMN100 South Florida The Big Lebowski and Groundhog Day Movies Discussion


The file gives the format for the paper as two movies should be compared based on their subtext. The subtext only and not the main idea. This is because points will be deducted if not compared on the subtext. The files gives the lecture information about the movie which could be used to compare them. Also the format is given on how it should be done.

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T H E S I S : P H I L’ S J O U R N E Y T H R O U G H
• Groundhog Day can be seen as a metaphor for a person
becoming an existentialist
• Important idea: “Existence precedes essence” -Sartre
• There is no design for a human being
• No way that we have to be, no human nature to guide us,
no god to give us purpose
• Humans create themselves through the decisions they make
• In a world without fixed values, our choices make us who
and what we are
W H AT I S P H I L’ S P R O B L E M ?
• In the beginning of the film: Phil is in a state of anomie
• Idea from Emile Durkheim
• He feels disconnected from others
• He is unable to be social with others
• He feels trapped by societies rules
• But does not know how to escape
• After Phil begins repeating the day, he asks the two guys
from town “What if there were no tomorrow?”
• They reply “That would mean there would be no
consequences, no hangovers! We could do whatever we
• Phil says “That’s true. We could do whatever we want…it’s
the same thing your whole life: clean up your room, stand
up straight, pick up your feet, take it like a man, be nice to
your sister, don’t mix beer and wine ever, don’t drive on
the railroad tracks.”
• *next slide*
• Phil realizes he has been living in bad faith
• We tell ourselves that things have to be a certain
• Instead of how we want things to be
• We convince ourselves that we don’t have a choice
• Phil is beginning to see an upside to a life without
• “I’m not going to live by their rules anymore
• You make choices and you live with them”
• When Phil realizes that he can do whatever he wants
he uses the town like a play ground
• Sleeping around, eating too much, smoking, etc
• This is called the anguish of existence
• When you realize you can do whatever you want, its
• Everything is terrifyingly possible for the first time
B A D B E H AV I O R ?
“The wretch concentered all in self
Living shall forfeit fair renown
And doubly dying shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung
Unwept unhonored and unsung”
• -Walter Scott
• Rita think Phil is being self-centered and immature
• The poem implies that selfish people are unloved
and forgotten after their death
W H AT N O W ?
• When Phil is unfulfilled by acting selfishly he resorts to suicide
• He is having an existential crisis
• He realizes life has not meaning, purpose, or value
• What did Camus say about suicide?
• That when you begin to think seriously, we will see that life
has no meaning
• We might be compelled to wonder if life is worth living
• But Phil can not commit suicide, he must learn to cope
• He starts to make the best of his situation
• He betters himself instead of taking advantage of
• He helps others around him even though they won’t
remember him
• He starts to be part of something larger than himself
• He learns how to subordinate himself to others,
instead of putting himself first
P H I L’ S L A S T B R O A D C A S T
• “When Chekov saw the long winter, he saw a winter
bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that
winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But
standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and
basking in the warmth of the their hearths and hearts, I
couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous
• What has changed?
• Instead of seeing the townspeople as a nuisance, he
feels like he is part of their community
• He finally feels connected to other people
W H AT D O E S A L L O F T H I S M E A N ?
• The realization at the heart of existentialism is that there
is no pre-ordained meaning accorded to human
existence (the time-loop exemplifies this idea)
• Every day in the film is the same until Phil realizes he
has to give each day meaning
• There is no reason for Phil’s existence, no consequences
or rewards, everything he does is erased, he makes no
impact on the lives of others
• Connecting to something that gives him purpose, other
people, he is able to break the cycle
• Sisyphus from Greek mythology was fated to roll a boulder
uphill until he make it to the other side
• Before he can complete his task, the rock rolls back to
where it started
• Camus said that we are all Sisyphus, but we must learn to
cope with our meaningless existence
• Acknowledge the absurdity and triumph over hopelessness
• How do we do that? **Next Slide**
• Decide what is meaningful to you individually
• Make real connections with other people
• Relish the ordinary parts of life
• Camus says: sit in the sunshine, play sports, go
dancing, enjoy your favorite food, be creative, etc
• What parts of your life bring you meaning????
The Big Lebowski
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
What’s up with the ending???
● Do you think the end of TBL was strange or unsatisfying?
● It just ends, there was no big resolution, everything is
the same as it was at the beginning
● “I guess that’s the way the whole durned human comedy
keeps perpetuating itself…” – The Stranger
● This is closer to real life than a “Hollywood ending”
● Things end, things change, people pass away, life
goes on. Real life does not have big dramatic
resolutions, sometimes we have to learn how to live
with unresolved feelings.
● Medium:
● Film stock
● Genre:
● Motion Picture
● Style:
● Comedy
● Dark comedy: funny story about serious or taboo subjects
● Crime: story based around a “crime”
● Philosophical: discourse on existentialism
● Neo-Noir: revival or hommage to Film-Noir style
● Film-noir: stylish crime dramas from the early 1900’s
● Title:
● The Big Lebowski
● Release Date:
● March 6, 1998
● Place:
● United States
● Artist:
● Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
● Written, directed, and produced
● Existentialism
● Through awareness and free will, one can construct
meaning in a world that has no inherent meaning
● Absurdism
● Accepts that searching for meaning in a meaningless
world is in conflict with a meaningless existence
● Nihilism
● There is no inherent meaning in the world and it is
pointless to try and construct a substitute
● Objectivism
● Self-interest as a moral virtue
Camus and absurdity
● What does it mean that life is “absurd”?
● There is a conflict between the fact that life has no meaning
and the desire that humans feel for meaning
● Or the human desire to find meaning in a meaningless
● We long to know what life is about, but human existence does
not give us any answers
● Camus saw 3 possible reactions to this realization
● Suicide, philosophical suicide (rejection of absurdity), and
acceptance of the absurd (the absurd hero)
Character analysis
● The primary characters in The Big Lebowski represent
various world-views or outlooks reacting to
● We will examine these characters, using existentialism
as a guide
● The Nihilists, the Big Lebowski, Walter, the Dude
● The plot itself is absurd
● Does the plot actually mean anything or is it irrelevant
to the analysis?
The Nihilists: nihilism
● Rejection of moral principles
● “We believe in nothing!”
● Pessimistic understanding of
● If life has no inherent meaning,
what is morality?
● The Nihilists are bad at being nihilists
● They still want money and they
are still concerned with fairness
● What can we infer?
● Nihilism is actually an impossible
● Humans need each other to
survive, morality is necessary for
orderly societies
The Big Lebowski: objectivism
● TBL is driven solely by

● He is vain
He wants people to believe
that he is rich, successful, and
He does not get along with
anyone in his life b/c of his
ideas of how people should
But he is a fraud, he has no
money, no business acumen,
his wife and daughter hate
His life empty and
meaningless b/c of he is
judgmental and selfish
Walter: rejection
● Philosophical suicide
● He can not accept that the world is
absurd and there are no rules
● “This isn’t ‘Nam, there are rules”
● “Am I the only one who gives a shit
about the rules?”
● He can not “abide” like the Dude
● He turns to rule-following institutions or
the past to give him a sense of order
● Judaism, the military, security
business, his ex-wife, etc
● Everyone has to follow the same
● He defers to ready-made beliefs
systems in order to give his life meaning
and prevent an existential crisis
The Dude: acceptance
● He experiences the absurd throughout

the film
His carpet is peed on, his apartment
gets wrecked, his car is stolen, he gets
punched or hit in the face several
times, he is used as a patsy, etc
He hardly moves the plot along
He reacts to others instead of taking
action himself
He exerts very little control
But he is ok with that, he knows that
real control is impossible
● He passively accepts everything
● He doesn’t worry or stress about
● Unlike all of the other characters
The Dude: The Absurd Hero
● “I don’t know about you but I take comfort in
that. It’s good knowing he’s out there. The
Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”
● He “abides” the absurdity
● He does not worry about the trappings of
society (money, success, reputation,
looks, etc)
● He chooses to find meaning in things
that make him happy: bowling, his 2
friends, white russians (cocktail), etc
● He is the absurd hero or the Happy
● If you can accept that there is more to
life than the absurd struggle, you can
find happiness
● If you can learn to cope with the
meaninglessness of life, you make
meaning for yourself
What does all this mean?
● The Cohen brothers are illustrating the various reactions that a
person might have to the realization that life has no inherent
● The Nihilists, the Big Lebowski, and Walter are example of
how NOT to react
● They struggle through life because of their world-view
● They act contrary to the Dude’s easy going attitude
● The Coen Brothers are encouraging us to be like the Dude, take
it easy a little bit, don’t stress too much, decide what makes
YOU happy (not society), and enjoy life as much as possible!
HUM1020 Essay Assignments
Parts I & II (approximately 400 words total, 200 per artwork)
• Historical context
o What is the title of the artwork?
o Who created the artwork?
o When and where was it made?
o What was happening at the time and place that is relevant
to the artwork?
• Text
o What is the genre, type, and/or style?
o What is the artwork constructed from (made out of)?
o How is the artwork created or performed?
o Types of artworks:
▪ Literature: writing style, structure, etc.
▪ Architecture: building materials, layout, decoration,
inhabitants (who lives or lived there?), etc.
▪ Theater/ drama: stage, costume, music, performers,
▪ Music: lyrics, instruments, sound, musicians, etc.
▪ Film: point-of-view, mise-en-scene, sets, props,
costumes, performers, camera shots, etc.
▪ Painting: brush strokes, materials, etc.
• Subtext
o Deeper or hidden meaning of the artwork
o What is the goal of the piece?
o What is the artist implying?
o What can we infer?
o What cultural values are expressed?
o What historical circumstances are expressed?
o **List 3 – 4 points that will be discussed in the
▪ Make sure to cite various aspects of the piece
that support your argument
Part III (approximately 800 words)
• Compare and contrast the subtexts of both artworks together.
• Analyze similarities only (no differences)

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Human life

Film industry


The Big Lebowski

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