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People have always turned to religion to make sense of their world and to have something to believe in. In today’s society, where the internet and media play such a large role in people’s lives, many treat movies as more than just entertainment. To these people, who involve these movies in their daily lives and even meet up with others to discuss them, what they watch becomes a sort of religion. They learn to live by the principles of fictional characters, and share solidarity with others who feel the same way. Two examples of these “religions” that have cropped up are Dudeism, based on the film The Big Lebowski and the large fandom surrounding the Twilight series. Both of these films hold influence over large groups of fans, and resemble religious movements.
The Big Lebowski, a 1998 film by the Coen brothers, has a large cult following, and has given rise to a pseudo-religion called Dudeism. “For [Dudeists], it is not enough to watch the film, quote its gem-like aphorisms, or analyze the many puzzling linguistic errors that go by unmarked in the dialogue, but these dudley fans feel the urge to do something to celebrate and carry on the attitude of the Dude in the real world,” (Andrus, 2016, 114). This “Dude”, the protagonist of the film, is laid-back, mellow, and enigmatic, and many fans of the movie have adopted his mannerisms and personality. They “take it easy” and even have a website to encourage people to join the movement. Despite being a simple comedy movie, The Big Lebowski is a lifestyle for many of these fans. They insist Dudeism is a legitimate religious movement that anyone is open to join. However, the majority of Dudeists are male, as The Dude is seen as a masculine figure. Because of its widespread nature and the fact that it centers on one figure who people seem to emulate, Dudeism is very similar to many common religions. People use to have a purpose in life and share their experience with others.
Although less overtly religious than Dudeism, fans of the series Twilight seem to almost worship the books and movies. “New media technologies become a space for the formation, shaping, and performance of self-identity and negotiations of values, beliefs, and norms for young female users,” (Petersen, 2013, 84). In this case, it is mostly female fans who have created a large following around this series. Using the internet, fans of Twilight can create blogs and post in forums to share their feelings about the series. Beyond just a simple set of four books or movies, this simple story of love between a human and a vampire is often thought of and reacted to daily by young women. They shape their identity around who they want the protagonist to end up with, and write lengthy articles criticizing or praising parts of the story that they are drawn to. The supernatural aspect of the story, mixed with a classical romance, gives them something to believe in and relate to. Unlike Dudeists, Twilight fans do not consider their following to be part of a religious movement, but it nevertheless unites them and gives their daily lives more meaning.
These two different followings for movies show how media can be constructed to shape one’s identity. Both groups of fans make these films their lifestyle, and follow the examples they give. While The Big Lebowski is focused on male fans and is more of a legitimate religious movement, fans of Twilight still shape their lives around it. In today’s world, we often need to look towards media to find something to believe in.
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