Study Guide

The Big Lebowski Scissors


What's with all of the scissors in the film? They're all over Maude's studio, and they make a scary appearance in The Dude's hallucinatory dream, when the nihilists come after him with a giant pair of scissors. You don't have to dig very deep to figure it out. After all, the nihilists have threatened to cut off The Dude's Johnson, and in the dream, they're keeping that promise.

One commentary posits that, in fact, castration anxiety is one of the main themes of the movie. There's that ferret in the bathtub and the burning joint that falls onto The Dude's lap. You've got Walter, who feels emasculated by his wife leaving him and compensates by being hyper-masculine. There's the Big Lebowski, who poses as strong and successful but is really living off an allowance Maude gives him and is being controlled by his young wife. Heck, he even says as much at the end of the film, when he says to The Dude and Walter, "You bullies! You and these women! You won't leave a man his f***ing balls!" The Dude is just plain scared of the nihilists making good on their threats, and the rest of the minor male characters are constantly running around engaging in macho contests to see who can be most intimidating. And we all know what that's covering up.

Maude is probably the most truly powerful character in the film, and she's got scissors everywhere in her art studio. She can be an emotional castrator. She "unmans" her father by revealing that he's really weak and powerless. And she uses The Dude for his Johnson and then tosses him out of her life. In fact, she sees men as irrelevant and useless except for that one small function.

It's the women in this film who are really running the show. None of the male characters in the film appear to be honestly strong and confident. Watch out for those scissors.