Monday, February 18, 2008

Jesus the Pederast and Walter the Veteran

I have to admit I got a kick out of Jesus Quintana, the pederast.  Admittedly, he plays a rather small and insignificant role in the film as a competitive bowler that, much to my surprise, we never even get to see Lebowski, Walter, and Donny compete against.  I did find two things about his character interesting.  First, the way he pronounces his name.  When I first saw the name on his bowling shirt, I assumed it would be pronounced Jesús (Spanish pronunciation), a name that is not uncommon amongst the latino world; rather, he pronounces it the same way that we pronounce the name of the Christian savior, a name that many in the American population would look down upon using.  We also know it is a nickname much like "The Dude", so it was a self-chosen name.  So just off the bat, we get a strong sense that he is meant to invoke the Christian religion or a connection to it.  Second, his opposition with Walter.  Walter, as we learn in the film, is Jewish (by conversion, thus he willfully accepts the faith much as Jesus chooses his nickname) as he observes the shabbos, which he does in practically orthodox seriousness.  With that in mind, we can regard Walter as a representation of the Jewish faith whereas Jesus is a representation of the Christian faith.  To make this even more secure, we are presented by the conflict between these two characters much as the religions often clash.

But these characters are more than just a representation of these two religions.  Why is Jesus a pederast with a painted fingernail and a hairnet made to look like a ponytail?  Or why is Walter a Vietnam War veteran with PTSD, one which crosses the line repeatedly in the movie towards being an absolutely annoying idiot?  Since these characters are both identified with religions and one is a pervert while the other is barely tolerable, could there be a commentary on religion here?  Arguably the movie is really about nothing significant, so it seems that the portrayal of these characters may be a way to make a negative commentary on two world religions as a way to show just how ridiculous they can both really be.

1 comment:

Samuel Wilson said...

I've just stumbled across your blog because the title showed up on the recently updated list. Your contents were quite a surprise. Just to complicate matters for you, let me remind you that the film features another set of antagonists, the Nihilists, who declare ad nauseum that they believe in nothing. Any attempt to discover a philosophy of religion in Lebowski will have to deal with them as rigorously as Walter and the Dude do. Furthermore, why does Jesus refer to himself as "the Jesus?" in one scene. Good luck in your further ruminations.