You wake up with a raging headache. Light streams through the blinds, and you raise your hand in front of your eyes to block it. You pick up your smartphone, which is barely clinging onto the last of its charge, and see that it’s already noon. There’s only one thought streaming through your mind, “what happened last night?” We’ve all been there. Last night’s party spills over into the early morning, and when you wake up, your memory is hazy. Hopefully, all you need to deal with is hearing embarrassing stories from your friends about what you did last night. However, many of us have dealt with the dread of a missing wallet or a misplaced phone. In the classic 2000s stoner comedy Dude, Where’s My Car? the two main characters grapple with the problem the title proposes: where is their car?
One of the many irreverent buddy comedies from the late 90s and early 2000s, Dude, Where’s My Car? is part of the Stoner Comedy genre. Although there are no rigid requirements for calling a film a Stoner Comedy, they typically have main characters who consume copious amounts of cannabis and exist to pleasing for audiences who are high. These movies helped bring cannabis to the forefront of pop culture and, by doing so, changed how American audiences perceived cannabis. Today, we will see how Dude, Where’s My Car? affected cannabis perception in the United States. We will incorporate a quick plot synopsis, a critical analysis, and some final cannabis conclusions. Buckle up for a critical look at Dude, Where’s My Car?
The movie begins with the two protagonists, Chester and Jesse, played by Seann William Scott and Ashton Kutcher, waking up with no memories of the night before. They now have a wacky roommate, receive an angry voicemail from their girlfriends, and their fridge and cabinets are overflowing with pudding. They decide to go out and eat but realize on the street that they have no clue where their car is, prompting the titular question, “Dude, where’s my car?”
The movie becomes a disjointed flow of scenes as the guys attempt to piece together the last evening. They meet a pot-smoking dog, try and order Chinese food only to be constantly asked “and then” by the drive-thru operator, and discover they had some fun with the hottest girl they know the previous night.
The early scenes in the movie function as vehicles to deliver laughs, but the plot gets jumpstarted by the Continuum Transfunctioner. A Sci-Fi device of unknown origins, they are approached by a Cult, a group of “hot chicks,” and two men claiming to be aliens who speak in thick Norwegian accents. As they search for their car for the rest of the movie, these characters constantly intervene, throwing Chester and Jesse off course.
The movie climaxes at a local arcade called Captain Stu’s Space-O-Rama. Every antagonist joins them and explains why they should have the Continuum Transfunctioner. Long story short, Chester and Jesse use the Continuum Transfunctioner to stop the destruction of the universe, battle a giant woman, and play mind games by asking questions about pudding. Then, the aliens erase their memories. They wake up the following day and make up with their girlfriends. The film ends with them finding their car and driving away.
Dude, Where’s My Car is not a grand achievement of cinema, but one should not brush the film aside completely. First of all, the movie is incredibly disjointed, coming off as more of a collection of loosely tied-together skits than a cohesive film at times. However, this mode of storytelling does somewhat fit the film’s plot, as Chester and Jesse try and discover their memories piece-by-piece in a disjointed fashion. The storytelling could be better, but it’s good enough to hold the film together.
Moreover, the biggest issue with this film is its blatant misogyny. Pretty much every woman in Dude, Where’s My Car functions as a sexual object. Chester and Jesse’s girlfriends, Wilma and Wanda, promise them a “special treat” that they think means a sexual favor. The desire for sex drives Chester and Jesse throughout the film and is the only reason they attempt to make up with Wilma and Wanda. Additionally, the “hot chicks” also promise them sex if they can get them the Continuum Transfunctioner. And then, shocker, it turns out they are the “evil” aliens. At the end of the film, the guys give their girlfriends necklaces, which came from the aliens, that make their breasts bigger. I could go on, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If misogyny easily triggers you, avoid Dude, Where’s My Car? at all costs.
For those who do watch the film, it’s essential to remember that Chester and Jesse are not role models. The movie must be watched in context, considering that the film is nearly 25 years old and came from a time when casual misogyny was often played for laughs. Although this movie is not an incredible artwork, it does serve as a time capsule, especially for cannabis use.
Cannabis Conclusions from Dude, Where’s My Car?
Dude, Where’s My Car? came out in 2000, when cannabis had a horrible stigma. Anyone who lived through that era remembers the rampant PSAs that said cannabis would rot your brain. Therefore, it’s always fascinating to see what a Stoner Comedy looks like during this era, and Dude, Where’s My Car? is an excellent example.
Throughout the movie, there is never a depiction of the main characters smoking marijuana. Marijuana is never shown nor mentioned. The only point where the film addresses cannabis is when a grandma runs over Chester and Jesse in her car and calls them “fucking stoners.” However, the two’s actions and speech make it seem like they are super baked. I believe the lack of cannabis imagery in this movie showcases just how bad the stigma against marijuana was in the late 90s and 2000s.
The movie implies that the characters are stoners, but it stops at outright depicting it. The lack of explicit cannabis depiction gives the movie a greater mainstream appeal, as many Americans at the time vilified cannabis. However, the movie offers an almost “inside joke” appeal to the stoners watching the movie, generating an implication of cannabis smoking only stoners would pick up on.
Although Dude, Where’s My Car isn’t a critical achievement, it is an excellent time capsule of a time when cannabis was relentlessly stigmatized. Perhaps, it’s the existence of movies like these that helped cannabis out of the dark age, one joke at a time.