Eat your Smeat, Drink a Duff, Then Smoke a Morley: Examining TV Products That Eerily Resemble Real World Ones

As consumers of popular culture, we have often been indoctrinated into the bizarre, yet effective, cult of fake products. Most of us have heard of Duff beer or seen a character asking for a beer or cigarettes and get one easily without thinking about products or personal taste. "Hey, give me a beer?" "Okay sir." No one has to worry about choosing between a Miller Lite or a Craft beer; the world is an easier, less obtrusive place. Devo wouldn't have to advise us about using our freedom of choice if we lived in most versions of TV land. It's more like in Desperado when Steve Buscemi has to accept piss-warm Chango; his response is happy like most television and movie characters when accepting service: "That's my brand. Oh, this is damn good! Say, this is the best beer I've ever had." But what if the choice between fake products rears its funky head?

Some of these products are show, director, or movie specific: Futurama has Slurm made from worms, The Simpsons have Duff Beer, The Drew Carey Show has Buzz Beer, and there are many more. And this is just for beer; there are many other products as well. Sons of Anarchy has Glencallan Whiskey. Quentin Tarantino exclusively uses Red Apple Cigarettes and Big Kahuna Burgers. Kevin Smith has Mooby Burgers. The list seems endless, but there are also those that appear on many shows.
and a ridiculous number of fake beers, including Pabst Blue Robot,

This discussion comes out of a conversation my friend John and I had concerning Smeat, and its appearance on an old episode of the Chris Carter show, Millennium. He said that Smeat appeared in many places, and sure enough, it does. Smeat is a canned, processed food product, much like Spam or Treat, and, if you Google it, pictures of the can show up, but there is also a Wikipedia page that directs you to Spam -- the urban dictionary page is a whole 'nother ball game, but lists the shows and movies the product appears in (The Walking Dead, Being Human, and Days of Our Lives are a few examples that show the range).

There are many other products that are cross-promoted across different shows. There would probably be a major market if these products were actually manufactured as they have been seeping into people's minds for decades. Prop houses base their products on real brands, and most of these are distinctive marketing ideas as they have to appear real to people who are used to seeing marketed products. I remember watching the video for Black Flag's "TV Party" and wondering where they got white cans that where generically marked Beer; if they would have looked more like regular cans, I would have wondered less. But since the song was about consumer consumption, the video surely served its purpose.

The product that most interests me, besides Smeat, is Morley Cigarettes. I remember first seeing them on X-Files years ago, and they stuck with me. As ubiquitous as Smeat or Heisler Beer, Morleys are everywhere; the iconic product is meant to mirror Marlboro's red and white package, and apparently plays with the idea that some people call Marlboro cigarettes, Marleys. While Morbs might be a more common use of name play, Morleys are found everywhere on television and film, from Breaking Bad to Weeds and even in video games, but are still most associated with X-File's Cigarette-Smoking Man.

All of these products are meant to mirror real life items or marketing schemes, playing into the human need to recognize patterns and see branded items. We have been trained to notice product placement. Some shows block recognizable bottles or bags so they don't have to pay advertisers, but savvy consumers can still figure it out, while others pay for shameless product placement depending on their budget. Fake products actually build a recognizable human world, like ours, but different. The comical names reflect real ones, and I wonder if they replaced those in our world, if many consumers would even notice.

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