What Bud Might Have Said About Flight

The folks at Anheuser-Busch are choosing to be offended by the way their Budweiser beer is used in the film “Flight” starring Denzel Washington.
Steve Roberts black ink drawing: bottle of stars being poured into a person’s open head
The folks at Anheuser-Busch are choosing to be offended by the way their Budweiser beer is used in the film “Flight” starring Denzel Washington.  Mr. Washington plays an addict in the throes of self-destruction, and Budweiser is one of the intoxicants which fuel his spiral into oblivion.

“We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving,” said Anheuser-Busch Vice President Rob McCarthy while requesting that, in subsequent distributions of the film, the Budweiser label be blurred to unrecognition. 

Mr. McCarthy’s words suggest to me an incomplete understanding of alcoholism.  One unfortunate consequence is a missed opportunity for his company and others like it in the libation business to be beacons of insight into the nature of responsible drinking, including special emphasis on those millions, like Mr. Washington’s character, for whom the only “responsible drinking” is no drinking at all. 

Among the cues that one is afflicted with the disease of alcoholism is that the drink controls the drinker rather than the drinker controlling the drink.  Moderation is, basically, a fantasy.   At issue isn’t a lack of character or will power; it’s addiction.  Few are the AA meetings where you don’t hear that it’s the first drink that gets the drunk drunk, because after the first one all bets are off as to what happens next––except perhaps to say that the more time one puts in as an active alcoholic, the more insane one’s life becomes.  Speaking for myself.

Also, Mr. McCarthy’s apparent concern that Budweiser is being portrayed as the cause of unhealthy behavior is misplaced.

According to LearnAboutAlcoholism.com, some 6% of adults who drink alcohol are alcoholics, which totes up to be more than 12 million in the U.S. alone.

A modest fraction of that number are attempting to manage their addiction and live without alcohol.  They consider themselves “recovering” alcoholics or “sober” alcoholics.  And because I’m pals with many members of that fellowship, I can report that I’ve yet to hear a single one of them claim that the cause of their alcoholism was Budweiser or any other alcoholic beverage.

An alcoholic has a problem with booze, yes––but not with any particular kind of booze or brand of booze.  We may rhapsodize about our shot of Bushmills and a Bud, but all we really crave is the buzz.  The next time I hear a person in recovery say, “Dang, if it weren’t for those Clydesdales, I’d have had a sober life,” it will be the first time.

So what might Mr. McCarthy have said?  Presuming it’s the truth, perhaps something like this:

It is always painful to witness the harm caused by addiction, and it is equally painful to witness your product being used to fuel that addiction, as recently occurred in the film “Flight” starring Denzel Washington.  That’s why we at Anheuser-Busch are such strong advocates of responsible drinking.  For those afflicted with the disease of alcoholism, that means no drinking at all as part of an active program of recovery.  For the majority of those who drink, drinking responsibly means being mindful of the choices we’re making while enjoying the pleasure of alcohol––driving a vehicle being just one such choice.  “Flight” is a welcome, powerful reminder that addiction is dangerous and deserves our compassion and loving action to treat.  It also reminds us that even the non-alcoholic who has one beer a year is engaging in a sacred trust: to drink in a manner that causes no harm to oneself and others.


  1. Absolutely Steve!
    And incidentally, every Budweiser I ever had is “blurred to unrecognition”….
    Thanks for sharing,
    Avid Supporter of the Prince of Light

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

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