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The Dream Abides: The Big Lebowski, Film Noir, and the American Dream


The essay argues that The Big Lebowski, like classic films noir, poses a critique of the American Dream and the alienation that the failure to achieve it creates. Because the film is set in a late-twentieth-century, a late-capitalist America, the alienation is amplified and focused on the widening gap between rich and poor, and on an intolerant multiculturalism, and prompts a reevaluation of the American Dream itself. Specifically, the essay explores how the film uses setting and place—namely, Los Angeles and several of its architectural hallmarks or landmarks—as well as the idea and fact of space itself—as exemplars or physical manifestations of that failure and alienation, and how they shed light on a late-twentieth-century take on the American Dream itself.