There were famous writer/drinkers, and then there was Charles Bukowski. The 20th-century American icon of the twin artforms of thick masculine prose/poetry and alcoholism inspired countless young men and women to pursue both writing and being a drunk, and now Dewar’s White Label wants to inspire them to get drunk–specifically on its scotch–by repurposing Bukowski’s poem, “So You Want To Be A Writer?” over images of a bunch of people with interesting-looking jobs getting ready to face the day again.
The poem, built around the ever-present Bukowski motif that writing is a terrible burden that only the most damaged souls would dare feel the need to do, isn’t an obvious choice for pitching a product, but scotch is probably a better fit for most (laptops, not so much). The implication that if there’s anything else you might be happy doing other than writing, you should do that instead doesn’t lead directly to “alcohol,” but there are probably only a few quick bumps along the way.
It seems almost ridiculous that it would have taken this long to hear a Bukowski poem read aloud in a liquor ad, given the man’s reputation, but there are also plenty of devotees of the man’s work who are unhappy with hearing their hero’s words used to sell a product. That’s a legitimate complaint, given that Bukowski died nearly 20 years ago and thus has no say in how his words are used. But it’s also probably true that he’d have been willing to license a poem to any company with a check for him during his more destitute years (y’all have read Hollywood, right?), especially one whose product he consumed so enthusiastically, so let’s not get too high-and-mighty about the integrity of his work. If you hear “Raw With Love” used in a 1-800-FLOWERS commercial, let’s talk. The only real bummer about Dewar’s using Bukowski to sell booze is that he can’t use the licensing fee to buy himself a drink.