Nothing bogus about this species
Distinguishing features: Brains and a ‘no-way’ attitude toward drugs
by Susan Wloszczyna and Karen S. Peterson
"Dude" is more than an awesome salutation. It’s a most excellent way of life.
Dude-ism. Dude-ocity. Dude-ology. Whatever you call it, dudeness has hit the mostly white, suburban and male teen-age world in a totally dude-dacious way.
Michael Cavaiola, 17, of Severna Park, Md., explains: "A dude is somebody who doesn’t care what other people think about him. It’s a kind of pleasant ignorance."
For the uninitiated (i.e. anyone who isn’t proficient at air guitar), this summer’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey - the stellar movie sequel to 1989's Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure - goes a long way toward defining modern-day dude-essence. Our heroes manage to melvin (dupe) Death, elude the devil and save the world from evil Bill and Ted robots.
Bill and Ted (Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves) do have some most non-heinous (good) soulmates. Like a wave crashing in from the West Coast, dudeness is washing ashore on many entertainment fronts.
There’s the Mike Meyers-Dana Carvey "Wayne’s World" skit on Saturday Night Live, soon to be a Paramount motion picture. (Perhaps in retaliation, Bill and Ted are in the midst of becoming a series on the Fox network.)
And Pauly Shore has the ultimate dude job (next to being a heavy-metal rocker) as MTV’s roving video jockey whose show is - what else? - Totally Pauly, midnight-2 a.m. EDT/PDT weeknights. As he says on his new comedy album, The Future of America, "In 30, 40, 50 years . . . you’ll probably be able to take your driving test in English, Spanish or Dude."
For little dudes, there are Bill and Ted cartoons, comic books and cereal. And what language do Bart Simpson and Michaelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles speak? Dude, of course.
Oh, the dude-acity of it all.
True, each incarnation has its own slang. For Bill and Ted, "no way" means "forget it"; "yes way" means "of course." For Wayne and Garth on SNL, it’s "no way" and "way." As for the female of the species, Shore prefers "nugs" to "babes." But a dude’s attitude speaks louder than any words.
"They’re open-hearted, good-spirited and would never say anything bad about anyone," says screenwriter Ed Solomon, 30, of Bill and Ted, the characters he created with Chris Matheson, 32, while they were at UCLA in 1983. "They treat the person who sits next to them in math class the same way they would treat Abe Lincoln" - or, as Bill and Ted call him, the Dude on the Penny.
Dudes aren’t just a media invention, though. Stroll through the mall and you’ll recognize the baggy jeans, cloddy sneaks, heavy-metal T-shirts, in-their-face hair. Music of choice: Faith No More, Metallica, Megadeth. Hobbies: skateboarding, surfing, air guitar. Vehicle: van. Food: junk.
Let’s do a reality check, dude, and see how it’s hanging on the teen scene:
* "Dudes are everywhere. I hear 3-year-olds using the language." - Jim Draheim Jr., 16, Cedarburg, Wis.
* "In Florida, being a dude means catching a wave. Dudes are always tan, always on the beach . . . I’m a partial dude. I like to surf, but I’m not a surfer bum." - Rob Bruce, 17, Jacksonville, Fla.
* At 4-H camp this summer, "these two guys called themselves Bill and Ted the whole week. I didn’t even know their real names until the next-to-last night." - Brian Lee Wingfield, 17, Rushsylvania, Ohio.
* "Dudes are good to date ‘cause you never know what they are going to do next. They are spontaneous." - Talyia Riemer, 15, Chicago.
* "It’s like if you lived in Mexico, you’d talk that language (Dude lingo), too. I’ve been using it since maybe fourth grade." - Korey Erra, 14, Poway, Calif.
Then again, dudeness is not for everyone. "Calling someone a dude is so generic. It’s like getting a form letter," gripes Jeffrey Brodsky, 17, Manchester, N.H.
Even though they may act that way, dudes weren’t born yesterday. Bill and Ted "are a parody of the counterculture kid, the kid who feels a little bit alienated from mainstream values," says Ross Goldstein of Generation Insights, a trend-tracking firm. "And there has always been a counterculture element in society."
History lesson time, dude.
Probably the first-known dude to be mass-marketed was Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik buddy of the title character of the TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-63 and now on cable’s Nick at Nite). What made Maynard, played by Bob Denver in cropped sweatshirt and goatee, a dude? His laid-back attitude, smart-stupid approach to life and a total aversion to "work."
The dude of the 70's was none other than the man with the amazing tan, Zonker Harris of the comic strip Doonesbury - a direct descendent of Archie’s Jughead.
Then came 1982, a most excellent year for dudes.
On the radio: Valley Girl, by Frank and Moon Zappa, which introduced such San Fernando Valley speak as "grody to the max," "totally" and "gag me with a spoon."
On the big screen: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, an ode to suburban Los Angeles high school kids. It introduced that most outstanding character of Jeff Spicoli, played by a pre-Madonna Sean Penn. A pothead surfer with a sun-bleached brain and a totally dude way of talking. Spicoli thought nothing of ordering a pizza to be delivered in the middle of history class.
Then, values seemed to change. Greed and workaholism were deemed good, and the preppie-yuppie spawned the nerd. Their heroes: David Byrne of the Talking Heads, Pee-wee Herman, the cast of Revenge of the Nerds, MBAs.
But as the 80's ended, the dude made a major comeback in a new, improved form - non-threatening idiot savants weaned of the evil weed habit.
"It started several years ago as a reaction against the make-it-at-any-cost, fast-track parents of the 80's," Goldstein says. "These kids put on being dumber than they are as a defense. It’s their way of not buying into the system. If they do, then things are expected of them."
What was the inspiration for Solomon and Matheson’s Bill and Ted? "We both knew guys like this in high school, stoners actually," says Matheson, who along with his partner is California-born and bred. "Long-haired guys who were dimly aware of life." For their version, they just said "no way" to the pot-smoking.
Though many have pointed out the similarities, Solomon and Matheson say Bill and Ted are a more evolved dude than Ridgemont High’s Spicoli. For one, they’re from San Dimas, Calif., miles from any surf. For another, Solomon says, "Bill and Ted are the kind of guys Spicoli would beat up."
Parents should not be unduly concerned if their son starts referring to Napoleon as the Short Dead Dude or Caesar as the Salad Dressing Dude in term papers. Or if their daughter brings home a Bill-and-Ted dude-alike.
Says Maureen Cavaiola, 43, of Severna Park, Md., who went to see Bogus Journey with her daughter, 10, and son, 12: "The value system of this movie is ‘Be excellent to each other.’ If that is dudeness, that is wonderful."
Decades of Dudes
Bill, Ted and a most excellent theory of evolution
Like, wow: That most esteemed beatnik Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) of TV’s ‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,’ one of the earliest purveyors of laid-back dudeness.
Zonker: His Royal Shagginess, comic strip’s pal to Mike Doonesbury and seeker of the perfect tan.
Ridgemont High: Nothing bogus about Valley Boy Sean Penn’s doped-up surfer Jeff Spicoli, blond of hair and dull of brain.
Journeymen: Totally awesome Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) blissfully go on bodacious adventures in heaven, hell and beyond in latest film. Party on, dudes!