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Anthropomorphic Vice

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A sub-trope of Anthropomorphic Personification, this is the representation of vices that are drunk, smoked, snorted, ingested, injected, or even gambled as people or animated anthropomorphized objects.

This trope is frequently done for the purpose of warning about addictions, and the depiction can often come across as Anvilicious. Other times, this trope will be employed in a less serious and more light-hearted fashion.

Can also apply to situations where a vice that's named after a person is used in a sentence as if it were a person. As in "My friends Jack [Daniels], Jim [Beam], Joe [Camel], and Mary [Jane]." Additionally, a woman may invoke the Heartbreak and Ice Cream trope by saying she has new boyfriends, Ben and Jerry. Someone may also invoke self-intimacy by saying that their date is Jill (based on representing the thumb and index finger as "J" and the other three fingers as "I, L, L") or Rosie Palms.

Compare Food God, who embodies fertility instead of vice, and Embodiment of Vice, an otherwise normal character who represents a negative quality.


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  • Denis Leary anthropomorphizes beer, cigarettes, and coffee in one routine.
    Denis: I love him. [indicates beer] He's hops, he's barley, he's protein; he's a meal. But without him [indicates cigarettes] he's NOTHIIIIING!!! And I love the two of them together, they're great. Maybe their cousin coffee comes over on the weekends, but otherwise it's just him and him. And as much as I love him [beer], I love him [cigarettes] even more, because I. Love. To. Smoke!
  • Jim Breuer has a well-known bit where he describes drinking as having a party in your stomach and the drinks as guests, so you have to only invite guests who get along. Beer is a regular dude, scotch is a potentially Violent Glaswegian, tequila is a Bandito, and your stomach is the bouncer who throws everyone out when he's had enough.

    Comic Books 
  • In the second issue of Mr. T and the T-Force, Mr. T is forcibly injected with a needle full of drugs of some kind and ends up cast into a surreal world of demonic creatures insisting he give up in terms of "[forgetting] the pain", giving in and enjoying the ride, and being his new best friends, leading to the visual of Mr. T fighting these things, declaring no one takes away his pain.
  • In the Very Special Comic Book Spider-Man, Storm, Power Man the trio battle Smokescreen, who is a villain making kids smoke (and destroying one kid's track career) and is made of pure smoke.
  • Nick O'Teen was a villain in a series of Superman PSAs.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Doonesbury, there's Mr. Butts, a giant talking cigarette used to represent the tobacco industry. Occasionally, he's joined by his friend Mr. Jay, who is a giant anthropomorphized joint. December 6, 2020 also has Mr. Brewski, an anthropomorphized beer can representing alcoholism, and Dum-Dum, an anthropomorphic bullet representing gun violence.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf character article files on Smurfs Fanon Wiki, there's Pitufo Juano, who is a green-skinned version of Wild Smurf who tempts Smurfs with the joys of smoking smurfnip.
  • In Ten Alternate Universes: Havelock Vetinari by pedanther, the Western fic describes Sheriff Vimes as spending a lot of time "in conference with his good friend Jimkin Bearhugger." Bearhugger's is the Discworld's main whisky brand.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Discworld: John Barleycorn is briefly mentioned in Hogfather when Susan finds the area of the lifetimer room reserved for anthropomorphic personifications. The Oh God of Hangovers might count as well.
  • Forest Kingdom: The Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 3 (The God Killer) has the medieval-fantasy beat cops stop off at the Temple of John Barleycorn for a refreshing libation after a hard day of investigating a crime spree in the religious district in one scene.
  • Jack London titled his autobiography, which described his struggles with alcohol, John Barleycorn.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Community has Annie put on a play for children where Pierce plays the role of Drugs and almost ruins it by playing it as a charismatic bad boy who all the kids admire. Chang saves the situation by taking over the role and making the kids associate drugs with his trademark loathsomeness.
  • In Father Ted, when the priests give up their various vices for Lent, they start hallucinating, seeing each other as personifications of those vices — Ted appears to Jack as a pint of Guinness and to Dougal as a giant rollerblade, while Dougal appears to Ted as a huge talking cigarette.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver features Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat, an ironic mascot of Marlboro which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, "compromising" between their desire to have mascots and countries' desire to have anti-smoking advertisement.
  • In the pilot of Supernatural, Sam claims that his father John has gone hunting "with Jim, Jack, and José", meaning Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and José Cuervo.

  • Brad Paisley's "Alcohol" is a song about all the things it can and has made people do, sung from its perspective.
  • The British folk song "John Barleycorn" (that's been performed by many artists including Traffic — appropriately, in their album that's actually called John Barleycorn Must DieJethro Tull, and Fairport Convention) describes the apparent "murder" of the title character as a way of depicting the planting, harvesting, and distilling or fermentation of grains into alcoholic beverages. Folk duo The Wild Oats, noticing they were performing in more cafes than alehouses, parodied the song as "Juan Coffeebean".
  • Another name well known from British folk songs is Nancy Whiskey. She personifies whiskey as an alluring femme fatale.
  • The Morality Ballad parody "Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild Wild Women" features a spoken word introduction intoning, "A preachment, dear friends, you're about to receive on John Barleycorn, Nick O'Teen, and the temptations of Eve." The Hombres later did a Shout-Out to this at the beginning of their single "Let It All Hang Out".
  • "Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds" by The Beatles is widely interpreted as an anthropomorphism for LSD. (It ain't, it was actually inspired by a drawing John Lennon's son made about his classmate Lucy O'Donnell.) Doesn't mean that people don't take it that way anyway or that the song isn't pretty damn trippy:
    Picture yourself in a boat on a river
    With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
    Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
    A girl with kaleidoscope eyes
  • The spoken-word recording "King Heroin" by James Brown is a first-person narrative from the drug's point-of-view on the damage he causes to people who use him.
  • The Neil Diamond song "Crackling Rosie" is about a poor drifter who sings an ode to his "store-bought woman," which is commonly believed to be a variety of fortified wine (a likely suspect being Wild Irish Rose).
  • The Dropkick Murphys song "dirty glass" personifies the neighborhood pub as a quarrelsome girlfriend.
  • In the Gucci Mane led Posse Cut "Coca Coca" cocaine is referred to in may anthropomorphic terms:
    "cocaine is my Girlfriend"

    "White girl with me, Cindy Lauper"

    "In the kitchen with Patrick Swayze, me and the yay is Dirty Dancing"
  • Kilo Ali "America Has a Problem" talks about Cocaine as a white girl that gives you what you want until it all comes crashing down, and while the dealer is locked up, the white girl slip out the back door to the next man.
    ''There's a white girl in town, name is Cocaine
    Get inside your brain, play you like a lame.
  • "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, an anti-drug song from the '70s, uses the phrase "monkey on your back", a common idiom for drug addiction, usually to heroin.
    One little problem that confronts you
    Got a monkey on your back
    Just one more fix, Lord, might do the trick
    One hell of a price for you to get your kicks
  • In the eponymous song, Marius Müller-Westernhagen refers to a certain Johnnie Walker as his best friend without whom he just can't get along.
  • Migos "Hannah Montana" is not in fact about the Disney show protagonist, but ecstasy and cocaine.
  • The title character of "Panama Red" by New Riders of the Purple Sage is a particularly strong strain of marijuana who'll "steal your woman" and "rob your head."
  • "They'll Need a Crane" by They Might Be Giants also personifies a whiskey brand:
    Lad looks at other gals
    Gal thinks Jim Beam is handsomer than lad
    He isn't bad
  • Rick James "Mary Jane".
  • "Sister Morphine" by The Rolling Stones, about lying in a hospital bed drugged up:
    Here I lie in my hospital bed
    Tell me, Sister Morphine, when are you coming round again?
  • In "I Drink Alone" by George Thorogood, the singer refers to his "friends," which are actually brand names for beer and liquor. These include "his good buddy Weiser," "Jack Daniels and his partner Jimmy Beam," and his "dear Old Grand-Dad."
  • The song "Ebeneezer Goode" by The Shamen is a song very obviously about ecstasy, down to its chorus of "eezer Goode, eezer Goode, he's Ebeneezer Goode" being a homophone for "E's are good". Other references in the song credit him for the creation of rave culture, references the effects of the drug, and also warns against overuse "But go easy on old 'Ezeer he's the love you could lose [...] He's the kind of geezer who must never be abused"
  • The WASP song "Thunderhead" depicts heroin as a demon who demands that his followers ruin themselves and their families in his service, namely the title character, a man who's hopelessly addicted to it, dying of withdrawal in a detox clinic.

    Myths & Religion 
  • John Barleycorn is a character from British folklore who in some form, represents barley and the alcoholic beverages made from it (e.g. beer and whiskey). His character goes back as far as the Middle Ages. Temperance advocates would later use John Barleycorn to personify the social evils caused by alcoholic beverages.
  • In Classical Mythology, Bacchus — also known as Dionysus in Greece and Liber in Rome — was the god of winemaking and wine. Eventually, he became the personification of wine itself along with its positive and negative effects upon drinkers. In some later depictions, like this 1870 cartoon by Thomas Nast, he is shown as the embodiment of alcohol-caused human misery.
  • Another Older Than Dirt example is the Egyptian Hathor, goddess of intoxication, love, and festivity.
  • In Mesopotamian Mythology, Ninkasi and Siduri were the goddesses of beer and wine. "The Hymn to Ninkasi" is, in part, a recipe for beer.

  • Subverted in the Noir Episode of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, Finnemore repeatedly says the only partner he needs is Jack Daniels, who lives in a bottle in his desk. It turns out that, while his desk does indeed contain a bottle of whiskey, it also contains his partner, a little man named Jack Daniels (no relation).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons module UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave. The PCs may encounter a deity named the Green Man, who is involved with (among other things) the production of alcoholic beverages. His breath causes intoxication in any creature who breathes it. One of the names he goes by is (wait for it!) John Barleycorn.

  • Modern updates of the 15th-century morality play Everyman (which ordinarily features characters that are Anthropomorphic Personifications of various vices and virtues) will often include these among Everyman's temptations.
  • In Terrence McNally's play Whiskey, different brands of whiskey are anthropomorphized as performing circus cowboys who have an act together: I. W. Harper, Tia Maria, Johnny Walker, Southern Comfort, and Jack Daniels (and their horse "Whiskey"). The personality of each is based on the branding of the liquors.

    Video Games 
  • Condemned 2: Bloodshot has protagonist Ethan Thomas experience hallucinations of his addiction appearing as "the alcohol demon," who sometimes gives him in-game hints. Ethan later cures his alcoholism by slaying the demon, who gets replaced by another personal demon called "Acceptance."
  • The King's Court bosses in Cuphead are anthropomorphic representations of various entertainments and vices that the Devil's Casino can indulge. Most of them represent various forms of gambling — Chips Bettigan (a stack of poker chips) and Hopus Pocus (a Rabbit Magician who attacks with cards) represent poker, Pip and Dot represent dominoes, Phear Lap is horse racing, Pirouletta is roulette, Mangosteen is pool, and King Dice himself represents dice games — but there's also bosses for arcade games (Mr. Chimes), alcohol (the Tipsy Troop), and cigarettes (Mr. Wheezy).

    Web Animation 
  • Brad Jones' Lloyd features this exchange in an episode:
    Glynis: Do you have any friends, Lloyd?
    Lloyd: Well, of course I do! There's Chloe, and bartender, and... Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker...
    Glynis: Those last three are whiskeys.
    Lloyd: At least I'm on a first and last name basis with them! Which is more than I can say about Chloe and bartender, and bartender is the one who introduced me to those three!

  • The Absinthe Fairy from Chimneyspeak, which represents Elgie's love of the beverage.
  • The Tequila Monster in Questionable Content.
  • A giant talking cola can occasionally shows up in User Friendly, possibly just as a hallucination, and seeks to corrupt someone. Caffeine is after all a stock geek vice, especially in the form of cola, and these characters are very geeky.
  • One Wondermark strip features a booze dragon who tempts a recovering alcoholic. The dragon's actually a hallucination that has nothing to do with alcohol.
    I have got to stop doing ayahuasca.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs had one being thrown out of the Water Tower by Yakko and Wakko during the line "Yakko and Wakko don't allow tobacco" in the song "The Big Wrap Party Tonight".
  • There's Smoke from Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, who represents drug addiction.
  • A food-based example occurs in Goof Troop when Pete must abstain from eating for a certain period of time. The Chickens stand up in the fridge and sing, causing him to cover his ears and roll around on the couch.
    Chickens: We are calling Peeete to get something to EAAAAAAT!
  • Happy Harmonies: One of the sequels, "Pipe Dreams", to the MGM short "Good Little Monkeys" has the three title monkeys smoking and then encountering several anthropomorphic cigars, cigarettes, and tobacco products.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Wholly Smoke", a young Porky Pig gets sick smoking a cigar and hallucinates being taunted, teased, and chased by a tobacco shop full of anthropomorphized cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and tobacco accessories led by a smoky spectre named Nick O' Teen (a different Nick O' Teen than the one that appeared in Superman anti-smoking PSAs).
  • Ozzy & Drix:
    • "Where There's Smoke" pitted the eponymous duo against the demonic Nicotine (voiced by Tim Curry) and his henchmen Butane, Carbon Monoxide, and Tar.
    • Stickety Lipid (anthropomorphic bad cholesterol) was the villain of the overeating-themed episode "A Growing Problem."
  • Regular Show has an example in the form of Starla. She decides that she and Muscleman need some time apart and wants to test the strength of their love. As a result, Muscleman sees her face everywhere. His chicken nuggets turn into her along with almost everything else and they all beg that he call her.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Tooth and Nail," Rocko goes to rehab for nail-biting. The Chameleon Brothers tell him they can't treat him at their facility (because he doesn't have much money), but they do send him away with a bag containing their "outpatient" treatment. Rocko opens it, and it turns out to be the 12 steps. Each is a personification of some vice or problem (drinking, gambling, bedwetting, among others.)
    The Twelve Steps: Nail biting?! Is that all?! You'll only need six of us. The rest of us are going to Vegas.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played for Laughs when Barney sees his addiction as a Harvey-esque white rabbit who he treats as a sponsor that keeps him drinking.
    • Also played for laughs in "D'oh-in' in the Wind", where Barney experiences a Mushroom Samba from the episode's hallucinogenic juice that involves a three-eyed monster appearing before him. He quickly downs a Duff Beer, causing "Pinky, the Pink Elephant" to show up and kill the monster.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): John Barleycorn And Friends


Ain't it Funny

Drug addict Uncle Danny gets killed by his vices, literally.

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Main / AnthropomorphicVice

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