I’ll admit it– I am a slow guy.
A Futurama fan publishes a great video about Bender’s complicated relationship to beer and I don’t get around to responding to it until two whole years later. To my credit, I didn’t have any intention of prowling YouTube for Futurama videos until just recently, but even so, I am a bit like the tortoise from that classic children’s story.
Regardless, I am responding now. There’s a time and place for everything it seems and my time has come. All the same, I suggest not hiring me as a delivery man. Heaven’s know that if you do, your package won’t arrive until the end of this era.
The video below is my response to YouTuber Jon Solo’s theory on why Bender drinks beer. The full script the episode can be found below the video.
Recently, I was browsing the Futurama theory videos on YouTube. One video caught my eye, if only because it was a great example of close reading and because it homed in on an aspect of the show which most people overlook—that is, Bender and Booze.
So, as any Bender fan will know, all robots in the world of Futurama need alcohol to survive; the alcohol powers their fuel cells; though there is other ways for robots to power their fuel cells, such as through “efficient” mineral oil, alcohol is the most widespread fuel that exists. Bender in particular drinks almost exclusively alcohol, beer, and so he has become a bad-boy icon.
Youtuber Jon Solo put out a video some time ago wondering about why Bender drinks beer; he reasoned that if alcohol powers his fuel cells, then wouldn’t it make more sense for him to drink hard liquor? Solo argued that Bender’s drinking was mostly aesthetic, that like his smoking, most of it was just a façade to make him look cool.
Is this right? I think it is close to the truth but my own investigations have uncovered a different reality.
Consider the season two episode “The Honking”. After waking up in the impound lot—that “Happiest Place on Earth”—Bender shambles in to the Planet Express building. He explains that he “passed out much earlier than usual”. Wait… what?
How can a robot pass out? As we know, Bender, being a robot, does not pass out by booze’s negative effects: he is not a human. He drinks to stay sober. But, booze, also causes Bender to pass out: taking a wild guess why this happens, I would postulate that Bender’s relationship with alcohol is analogous to an energy drink; this seems obvious since in the pilot he mentions how “alcohol powers his fuel cells”. So, if he was to pass out from booze, it would not be because of his blood-alcohol level, since he lacks a nervous system and blood, but rather because he crashed—crashed as in an energy crash.
In effect, alcohol can provide Bender with too much energy and so his software, not being able to do anything with the energy, likely just puts Bender into a sort of forced sleep-mode to let the energy be expended regulating background programs. Once the energy is spent, Bender wakes up. This way, Bender’s anatomy mimics that of a human’s own.
Following this logic, it would make sense for Bender to only drink beer instead of hard liquor. As Solo mentioned, hard liquor has a higher proof and so the alcohol is much greater in volume. If Bender drank nothing but liquor, his system would always be overloaded with access energy—and as we have seen from the show, hard liquor can quickly power-up a robot: returning to “The Honking”, early in the episode, after Bender is infected with the were-car virus, his friends find him and offer him hard liquor (discernable from the flasks which Bender is offered); Bender drinks from one and is immediately able to spin his tale. In other words, hard liquor super-charges Bender’s robotic body in the same manner that an energy drink would a human.
I want to touch on one last reason why Bender primarily drinks beer instead of hard liquor, though: it is because of drinking etiquette. Being a robot, he is forced to obey his programming; apparently, this means only drinking hard liquor in the evening. In season one’s “My Three Suns”, Bender comments “look, the sun’s going down, I can finally switch to hard liquor”, which suggests that Bender’s drinking rationale is pre-defined (keep in mind, here, that Bender is on a planet other than Earth when he says this; if Bender’s drinking wasn’t defined by algorithms then it is reasonable to assume that he would drink whenever he wanted, the old “it’s five o’clock somewhere” excuse. But, he does not and instead wait until evening).
What does all this mean? It means that “coolness” may be why Bender drinks beer, but it is superficial. But more to the point, it means that Bender’s beer drinking has more to do with his ontology—his body—than it does with social norms; Bender drinks beer because if he drank hard liquor, he would be constantly passing out. Additionally, he drinks beer because he can only drink hard liquor during evenings: to power himself through the morning and afternoon, he must drink beer.
Okay, that’s all I have for now. Thanks for watching