The Big Lebowski is one of the enduring classics of 1990s cinema, an authentic grower that took several years to find its cult, which has turned into one of the most intense movie fandoms you can find. The protagonist (NOT the title character, who was actually played by David Huddleston) is “The Dude,” played by Jeff Bridges in what has become his signature role, and the magnetic and humorous portrayal of an ageing hippie out of his natural time has touched millions. “The Dude Abides,” indeed, and slogan and character alike are natural advertisements for an indelibly American form of Zen.
It’s been well known for a while that the Dude was based on Jeff Dowd, a former member of the Seattle Liberation Front who was part of the “Seattle Seven,” as the defendants in a 1970 court case were called. The entire group did three months in prison for contempt of court, but the original charges of inciting a riot, intent to incite to riot, and conspiracy to damage the Seattle Federal Building were never successfully prosecuted.
Later on Dowd moved to LA and became active in the movie industry, producing Zebrahead, among other ventures. He met the Coens in 1982 while they were making Blood Simple, and he obviously made an impression.
To make sure everybody got the reference, the Coens threw some dialogue into The Big Lebowski to help people along. The Dude tells Maude that he was one of the original authors of the Port Huron Statement—“the original Port Huron Statement, not the compromised second draft”—the political manifesto hammered out by SDS in 1962. Then he asks her, “Did you ever hear of the Seattle Seven?” but it seems she has not.
More after the jump…