'The Man for His Time and Place': Identity, Musical Comedy, and the Compiled Soundtrack in The Big Lebowski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Coen brothers’ 1998 cult crime-caper, The Big Lebowski follows the adventures of middle-aged slacker and bowling fan, the Dude, who accidentally becomes embroiled in a surreal kidnapping plot. The film’s mistaken-identity storyline is used as a vehicle for darkly humorous explorations of politics, philosophy, and identity, and music engages with these themes and registers in a variety of ways. The film’s soundtrack consists of diverse array of pre-existing music, sourced and supervised by T Bone Burnett, and featuring tracks and artists that range from the familiar to the obscure. Music is key to the Dude’s navigation of The Big Lebowski’s plot, and therefore also to audience engagement with both the dramatic and comic aspects of the narrative. This chapter explores the use of pre-existing music as a flexible, polysemic tool for comedic expression in The Big Lebowski, exploring related broader questions about the cinematic construction of musical identities, contemporary fan practices, and the use of pre-existing music in film.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Music in Comedy Cinema
EditorsEmilio Audissino, Emile Wennekes
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan, Cham
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783031334221
ISBN (Print)9783031334214, 9783031334245
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2023

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