The Dude is back – but is Jeff Bridges about to pull the rug from under us?

Sometimes there’s a man. I won’t say a hero – ’cause what’s a hero? – but sometimes there’s a man – and I’m talking about the Dude here – sometimes there’s a man who, well, he’s the man for his time and place. And over the last day or so, the Dude – AKA Jeffrey Lebowski, the iconic stoner-deadbeat-turned-understated-hero played by Jeff Bridges in the Coen brothers’ 1998 classic The Big Lebowski – well, his time and place has been on Twitter, a realm even weirder than his home turf of 90s Los Angeles.

On Thursday, Bridges posted a 15-second video on Twitter, since watched more than 7m times and pored over in great detail, teasing the return of the Dude.

Those familiar jelly sandals walk in on a floorful of party detritus, with smashed wine glasses, salad plates and asparagus spears suggesting somewhat classier surrounds than the Dude’s typical hangouts. The camera pans up to reveal the character’s timeless knitwear and hair. He turns toward us, all goatee and shades, gives a perfectly low-key smile and nod, and goes on his way. As in the original movie, tumbleweed drifts down the urban pavement and Bob Dylan sings The Man in Me.

For Lebowski fans – or Achievers, to give us our proper title – merely seeing that the Dude abides is enough to warm the heart. It’s good knowing he’s still out there, takin’ her easy for all us sinners, and Bridges still absolutely looks the part. But a couple more things come to mind, too. The date given at the end of the video is Sunday 3 February: the day of the Superbowl, which is as famous for gimmicky high-profile commercials as it is for touchdowns. Has the Dude sold out to the Man? And, if so, why does the Man even think he’s worth buying?

The bad news is that Bridges’s video looks like an ad for an ad rather than a new Lebowski movie. Bridges has said he’d be happy to revisit the role – and John Turturro has reportedly spun his character, Jesus, off into a whole new movie – but the Coens have ruled out a Lebowski sequel. We’re likely looking at a commercial, then – though given that the Coens have made Superbowl adsin the past, there’s still a chance they’re involved.

Judgment should be reserved until the date rolls around but, given the Dude’s avowedly underground sensibility, the idea of him shilling for some corporate product can’t help deflate the excitement of seeing him at large once more. Well, he might shrug, you gotta feed the monkey.

Yet it’s interesting to ask why the character is still deemed resonant enough to exploit. Why, more than two decades on, does the Dude still strike a chord?

Call me a sap but I’d like to think it’s because he represents qualities that can seem hard to come by these days – relics of a different era, even. He’s a live-and-let-live kind of guy, a devotee of peace and love with beliefs about mutual care that are deeply held but lightly worn. He’s slow to anger or insult, abhors aggression and conflict, and happily drinks and bowls with a best bud, Walter (John Goodman), whose politics and life experience are the polar opposite of his own. At a time when division, accusation and contempt seem to be all around, the Dude offers an offbeat model of love. Here’s hoping that, on 3 February, Walter will be back to share in it too.