GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10.2 (2004) 308-312
In a key moment in the "witless white males" classic Dude, Where's My Car? (2000), Jesse and Chester, having been threatened by a male-to-female transsexual and her drag-king boyfriend, chased by a troupe of large-breasted hot female aliens, and kidnapped by members of a bubble-suit-wearing religious cult, stand before a pair of space travelers and request information about the universe. "What do you want to know?" ask the space aliens, disguised as Swedish gay men. Jesse and Chester smirk and say, "Have you been to Uranus?" We have not heard such a preponderance of anus jokes since Wayne's World (or, for those who missed Wayne's World and its sequel, grade school), but in a comedy where the bumbling male buddies share many a nude moment, and even engage each other in a little open-mouth kissing, the Uranus jokes register a new casualness about the homosocial-homoerotic divide. At a time of deep and continuing crisis, when George W. Bush can rally new support with every shit-eating grin, let us take comfort where we can find it, and Dude, Where's My Car? (hereafter referred to as Dude) is as good a place as any to start.
What can a film about two idiot stoners who lose their car and then have to reconstruct the events of the previous night to find it, repay money they owe, and win back the love of the twins they are dating while saving the universe from certain destruction and in the process kicking the ass of moronic jocks, pissing off male supermodel Fabio, escaping from a fifty-foot hot space alien woman, receiving as presents from the other space aliens some necklaces that make their girlfriends develop huge hoo-hoos (to use the film's own vernacular), and receiving in return not sex but only some dumb berets with their names embroidered on them—what can such a film tell us about the relationships among sexuality, gender, nation, and race today? More precisely, is this going to be another ridiculous essay about queering a fourth-rate adolescent comedy with a few laugh lines, lots of butt jokes, a weak heterosexual resolution, and no political consciousness whatsoever? The answer to the first question will engage us for the rest of the essay. The answer to the second question is, perhaps.
Why is Dude a queer narrative, and why should we care? Before the space aliens disguised as Swedish gay men leave planet Hollywood for a quick tour around Uranus, they force Jesse and Chester to forget everything that has happened to them and leave them to return to the state of oblivion from whence they came. Jesse and Chester return home, only to awake the next morning as befuddled as they were, wondering why they remember nothing of the night before and why their fridge is packed with chocolate pudding. The exchange that began their picaresque journey across the landscape of mini malls and miniature golf courses—"Dude, where's my car?" "I don't know, dude, where's your car?" "I don't know, dude, where's my car?"—begins again, and the lessons that the pair learned the night before are lost and remain to be relearned. This Nietzschean act or nonact of forgetting on which the loopy narrative depends arrests the developmental and progress narratives of heteronormativity and strands our feckless heroes in the no man's land of lost knowledge and scatological humor. While the deliberate forgetting of the George W. Bush kind can threaten the very survival of the universe, the benign forgetting of the dude variety allows for a free space of reinvention, a new narrative of self and other, and, possibly, the chance to revisit the hot chicks from the night before as if meeting them for the very first time.
While each dude lacks self-knowledge, each finds himself reflected in and completed by the other. Jesse and Chester face threatening obstacles—castration and humiliation at the hands (and beaks) of some mean ostriches, for instance—as a team, a unit, a...