It’s important to recall a pervasive attitude that persisted throughout a lot of 1990s popular culture. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the start of an enormous economic boom, America began to gaze inward and was a little terrified with what it saw. There was, all of a sudden, no more decades-long Cold War hanging over the heads of the citizenry. There was no longer an Enemy to fear. And with no Enemy to Stand United against, many Americans felt that the nation no longer had a unifying, generational identity. There’s a reason why the generation of the 1990s was called Generation X. They had no name. They had no unity. And how sad was it, the found, that America required hatred and suspicion of other nations to unify it?
The characters in “The Big Lebowski” are not Gen-Xers, but Boomers. The Dude recalls the 1960s with halcyon joy, carrying out his shiftless, weed-consuming fantasies into an adulthood that requires nothing of him. On television monitors, George H.W. Bush gives speeches about Saddam Hussein and his invasion of Kuwait, but the Dude can hardly acknowledge it. This war does not spark the moral outrage of a previous generation’s war. This war (already seen from 1998’s perspective) is a floundering attempt by politicians to assert dominance. The Dude writes a check for 69 cents while Bush blithers. The so-called glory of unifying war efforts are long past.
Late in the film, the Dude repeats Bush’s words by saying “This aggression will not stand.” In the Dude’s mouth, is sounds absurd. There is no aggression in Jeff Lebowski’s heart. He’s too busy bowling and getting high.