A sub-trope of Anthropomorphic Personification, this is the representation of vices that are drunk, smoked, snorted, ingested, or injected as people or animated anthropomorphized objects.
The Trope Namer, John Barleycorn, is a character from British folklore who represents barley and the alcoholic beverages made from it (e.g., beer and whiskey). Temperance advocates would later use John Barleycorn to personify the social evils caused by alcoholic beverages.
This trope is frequently done for the purpose of warning about drinking, smoking, or using other drugs and the depiction can often come across as Anvilicious. Other times, the John Barleycorn and Friends trope will be employed in a less serious and more light-hearted fashion.
Can also apply to situations where a liquor that's named after a person is used in a sentence as if it were a person. As in "My friends Jack [Daniels] and Jim [Beam]." Additionally, if we expand "vice" to include unhealthy food, a woman may invoke the Heartbreak and Ice Cream trope by saying she has new boyfriends, Ben and Jerry.
Compare Food God, who embodies fertility instead of vice.
- An anti-smoking PSA done in limited animation (more a series of still drawings) featured a character "Johnny Smoke", an anthropomorphic cigarette as a ruthless Western killer.
- A 1980s series of anti-smoking PSAs in Britain pitted Superman against a villain called Nick O'Teen who acted like The Aggressive Drug Dealer in trying to get kids to smoke cigs. He had a top hat coloured to look like a cigarette butt and yellow teeth.
- Denis Leary anthropomorphosizes 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!
- 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.
- As seen in Moulin Rouge!, absinthe has been long anthropomorphized as "the green fairy".
- In Mac And Devin Go To High School there's an anthropomorphic CG joint that narrates the film and then filibusters about why weed should be legalized. It was made to be one of those movies.
- The 1964 Rat Pack musical Robin And The Seven Hoods features the "Mr. Booze" number which takes place at a phony temperance meeting where the participants testify to the evils caused by the title character of the song. (This scene was later paid homage to in an episode of Family Guy.)
- At the end of Half Baked, when Thurgood stands on the bridge with his last joint in his hand, intending to throw it in the water so he can be with his love Mary Jane, he imagines the joint as having the face of a black woman who begs him to smoke her/it.
- Kumar is trying to liberate Harold from jail in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle when he is distracted by a giant bag of weed at the police station. Kumar immediately forgets about Harold and has an elaborate Dream Sequence where he falls in love with the anthropomorphized bag of weed, makes love to said anthropomorphized bag of weed, marries the bag of weed and then is stuck in a miserable marriage with the bag of weed.
Harold: Kumar! Still in jail, asshole! Come here!
- The commentary for The Jackhammer Massacre had the director mention he wanted to have the junkie Villain Protagonist hallucinate some kind of "Lord Meth" character. The idea was ultimately reduced to just having him hallucinate that a man has giant syringes for arms.
- Get Crazy centers around a big New Years party concert where there's a big anthropomorphized marijuana cigarettein the audience who ends up smoked down to a stub.
- Jack London titled his autobiography, which described his struggles with alcohol, John Barleycorn.
- 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.
- In Simon R. Green's Hawk & Fisher novel The God Killer, 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 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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 Die - Jethro 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.
- 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".
- "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
- 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."
- 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 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.
- "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
- The Dropkick Murphys song "dirty glass" personifies the neighborhood pub as a quarrelsome girlfriend.
- "Sister Morphine" by The Rolling Stones, which is actually a song 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?
- "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 song "Ebeneezer Goode" by The Shamen had people singing the chorus "-eezer Goode, -eezer Goode, he's Ebeneezer Goode" (which sounds exactly like "Es are good, Es are good...") and was filled with oblique references to taking the drug Ecstasy. Ironically, it was number 1 during the BBC's Drug Awareness Week, and even appeared on the popular BBC music show Top Of The Pops at the time. The song described Ebeneezer as "A gentleman of leisure, he's there for your pleasure" but warned that "He's the kind of geezer who must never be abused".
- 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).
- Classical Mythology: Dionysus (a.k.a., Bacchus) was the Greek and Roman 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.
- From British folklore there's the aforementioned John Barleycorn who, in some form, goes back as far as the Middle Ages.
- 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).
- 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 which are Anthropomorphic Personifications of various vices and virtues) will often include these among Everyman's temptations.
- In Terence 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.
- 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 vices. Most of them represent gambling addiction, but there's the Tipsy Troop, a trio of alcoholic beverages, and Mr. Wheezy, a giant fire-breathing cigar, that represent alcohol and tobacco addiction.
- The Absinthe Fairy from Chimneyspeak, which represents Elgie's love of the beverage.
- The Tequila Monster in Questionable Content.
- In Sinfest, when Squigley swears off alcohol and other drugs, he begins to hallucinate animated joints, beer cans, and booze bottles in this strip (which is the image for this page).
- From Nobody Scores!: Puckish Mr. Jack, obviating the need for plot mechanics since 1957.
- 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.
- There's Smoke from Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, who represents drug addiction.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation: When Fowlmouth and Shirley the Loon go to the movies there's an announcement "no smoking in the theater." Cut to a disappointed anthropomorphic cigarette being booed and forced to leave. He just wanted to see the movie!
- Played for Laughs in The Simpsons, where Barney sees his addiction as a Harvey-esque white rabbit who he treats as a sponsor that keeps him drinking.
- 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).
- 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 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.
- 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!
- 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.