I know what the Human Paraquat is.
Or, what it means.
We were watching The Big Lebowski the other day. That's not an unusual thing in our household as we watch bits and pieces of that movie at least once every couple of months. We've run the movie on a loop during parties and quote it without thinking. I have never been to a Lebowski Fest, and while those types of thing are not truly my bag I can see their appeal.
Anyway, we watched the movie and came to the part in the end where the Dude calls The Big Lebowski a "Human Paraquat". I never really thought too much about the line, it comes out of left field and is quickly skipped over to the part where Walter, convinced that the Big Lebowski is faking, lifts him out of his wheelchair and drops him to the ground in a puddle of the mans tears and Pomeranian slobber.
This time though someone asked out loud "What the hell is a paraquat?" More importantly why is the Big Lebowski the human incarnation of whatever this thing is? I guess this is a question that vexes Lebowski fans everywhere. Well, I have the answer to your questions pertaining to paraquats and all things literary.
Paraquat is an herbicide, it is used to kill weeds. In the late seventies there was a big scare about Paraquat-laced marijuana being smuggled across the border from Mexico and sold in the United States. In the early 1980's the DEA sprayed Paraquat, among other herbicides, on pot farms that were discovered on public lands. There was outcry from the pot-smoking community as the poisoned buds posed a health threat to pot smokers. The initial response from the straight community was "Smoking marijuana is illegal, get a job sir!" Ronald Reagan's Drug Czar Carlton Turner, a man who once tried to advertise a bogus paraquat tester in High Times, said that he didn't care if hundreds of kids died from smoking paraquat laced weed.
So, when the Dude is running down the Big Lebowski's scheme of setting him up and letting him take the fall for stealing the money intended for the non-kidnappers of Bunny Lebowski, tricking him into tossing a ringer for the ringer, Duder calls the elder Lebowski a human paraquat, associating the man with not just the herbicide but with the establishments attitude with pot smokers. The Big Lebowski didn't care if the Dude was killed by the real kidnappers or not.
In the end of course the Big Lebowski is not what he seems and ends up crying on the floor like a baby, his plans ruined and his scheme thwarted as he is exposed for the fraud that he is. So, there you go, the Human Paraquat.
If you found this article at all enlightening and would like to contribute to my kid's college fund, then click the link for the Amazon.com listing of The Big Lebowski Limited Edition. You don't have to buy the movie, but if you buy anything else after having followed the link I'll get a small kickback.
The Dude Abides.
The Big Lebowski - 10th Anniversary Limited Edition