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July 27, 2007 | Homer Simpson's 18 years of Duff love
IN THE RUN-UP to today's opening of "The Simpsons Movie," 7-Eleven temporarily converted a bunch of its stores to Kwik-E-Marts and filled them with products from the animated series, including Krusty O's and Squishees.
Great idea but, as many complained, where's the Duff Beer?
The short answer is that the movie is rated PG, and no one wanted to be accused of promoting sales of booze to kids.
But in fact, over 18 years, "The Simpsons" has done a superb job of promoting the nonexistent brand. Duff, and the unrepentant giddiness surrounding inebriation, are among the subversive joys of the cartoon.
From its goofy logo to its sunglass-wearing mascot, Duffman, you can't (as the slogan says) "get enough of that wonderful Duff!" Homer pounds it by the case and Barney, who was headed to Harvard before he discovered Duff, belches it right back up.
The beer is perfectly imagined as the prototypical American macro brew. Though there's never a word about its actual taste, it boasts all the necessary supporting accoutrements: moronic commercials, spokesmodels, brewery tours, corporate sponsorships, a stadium and even an amusement park.
Anheuser-Busch itself couldn't do a better job.
Indeed, another major brewery, Lion Nathan in Australia, once tried to cash in on all that make-believe marketing. In a bold move back in 1995, it virtually copied the beer's familiar logo and began producing its own version of Duff.
The brewery had discovered through focus groups that the Duff name had "very strong consumer appeal." The brand was so well known, the brewery found, it would hardly have to advertise the product to get it off the ground. All it would take, internal documents at Lion Nathan revealed, was a simple commercial with an unforgettable tagline:
The Fox network and cartoonist Matt Groening sued and won, but not before thousands of cases of Duff hit the streets. You can still buy sixpacks of the pirated brand for about $250 on eBay.
If that's too pricey, look around and you'll find plenty of other Duff merchandise. T-shirts, neon signs, posters, beer trays — there's more Duff stuff for sale online than products from Sam Adams.
It does raise the question: Why doesn't Fox license the name and brew an actual Duff beer? You know it would sell like, well, Laramie cigarettes.
Groening has said he considered giving permission to make the beer a few years ago but pulled back over concern that it would encourage kids to drink. But even as he's being overly cautious, "The Simpsons" continues to push the envelope when it comes to beer and boozing.
It mocks AA, laughs off drunken driving and even giggles at underage drinking. Since the demise of "Cheers," I can't think of any other network sitcom that has had so much fun with suds, whose main character could get away with muttering, as Homer once memorably declared, "I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."
Homeric odes to beer