How the Past Stays with Us: The Big Lebowski and the Legacy of the 1960s

David Parsons at Online

Fri, May 29 at 8 p.m.   |   75 minutes
Olios: Drop-in classes led by professors

In this Olio, we will explore The Big Lebowski as a meta-text on the 1960s, unpacking how the film’s relentless references to specific events, movements, people, and other historical ephemera reveals a struggle to deal with the era’s many unanswered questions.

In 1998, the Coen brothers film The Big Lebowski was released to middling reviews and poor box office numbers. In the years since its release, though, Lebowski has evolved into a massive cultural phenomenon, with a loyal fan base whose reverence for the film’s eccentric characters, surreal dream sequences, and highly quotable dialogue fuels the film’s enduring popularity. In 2014, The Big Lebowski was chosen for preservation in the Library of Congress, declared “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Despite this attention, the film’s specific engagement with American history is often overlooked. Underneath a shaggy stoner detective story, the Coens constructed a complex engagement with the past, demonstrating how the social and political legacy of “the Sixties” remains operative in late ‘90s Los Angeles.        

In this Olio, we will explore The Big Lebowski as a meta-text on the 1960s, unpacking how the film’s relentless references to specific events, movements, people, and other historical ephemera reveals a struggle to deal with the era’s many unanswered questions. Populated with characters that serve as stand-ins for 1960s archetypes, from the angry Vietnam veteran (Walter Sobchak), to the former student radical (The Dude), to the feminist avant-garde artist (Maude Lebowski), and many more, The Big Lebowski invites its viewers to consider how the past stays with us, forming lasting identities that reflect the wider social and political context from which they came. By viewing the film through the lens of history, we’ll uncover layers of meaning that may have eluded even the most devoted fans, examining how a seemingly lighthearted story masks a deep conversation about an era that continues to shape our cultural and political reality. What is The Big Lebowski really telling us about the 1960s?

Teacher: David Parsons

David Parsons, Ph.D., received his doctorate in History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is a professor and writer whose work focuses on the political, social, and cultural history of 20th century America. He teaches U.S. history and media at California State University, and hosts a long-running weekly podcast on history and politics called The Nostalgia Trap.


Venue: Online

Zoom link will be sent upon signup.


Add to Calendar May 29, 20208 p.m. May 29, 2020 America/New_York Think Olio | How the Past Stays with Us: The Big Lebowski and the Legacy of the 1960s In this Olio, we will explore The Big Lebowski as a meta-text on the 1960s, unpacking how the film’s relentless references to specific events, movements, people, and other historical ephemera reveals a struggle to deal with the era’s many unanswered questions. Online

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Classically, the liberal arts, were the education considered essential for a free person to take an active part in civic life. To counter a humanities that has been institutionalized and dehumanized we infuse critical thinking, openness, playfulness, and compassion into our learning experience.

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Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.