USA’s excellent hacker drama Mr. Robot undercuts television tropes in many ways. Its depiction of hacking makes stuff like CSI: Cyber or Homeland rightfully look like tech-n00b BS. Strong and complicated female characters such as Darlene and Shayla choose reality instead of any manic pixie dreams. Even the characters who live outside the city actually experience the time consequences of suburbia rather than magically teleporting.
But quietly, Mr. Robot put an end to another long-running but less discussed piece of lazy pop culture shorthand. Like any good (non)joke, it starts with two guys walking into a bar.
In S1E3 “d3bug,” Elliot Alderson leaves work for a neighboring watering hole in order to hash out recent issues with Mr. Robot. It’s a classic NYC divebar—sunlight kept outside by a quiet, dark interior; a small space overall with only a handful of seats at the long wooden bar—so these two budding anti-society types will obviously bluntly discuss any hurt feelings over a whiskey, maybe a domestic beer. Instead, Elliot enters to find Mr. Robot has already ordered.
“What? It’s an Appletini.”
The Appletini has a long history in pop culture of being some kind of code for the not-so-manly man. Perhaps most famously favored by Scrubs’ awkward and introspective Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian, other notable imbibers include Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby, and Two And A Half Men’s Alan Harper. (Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg shares one with Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker, too, in The Social Network.) The drink has essentially represented an “I’m just saying, not saying” way of painting these characters as not tough, not masculine, not cool, et al. (And that’s taking the gracious interpretation, because Hollywood would never resort to unsubstantiated and offensive stereotype allusions, right?).
Reality, of course, tells a different story. In the last decade-plus, the Appletini evolved into an iconic LA drink. People from all walks of life have dabbled because… it’s delicious. “It tastes just like a Jolly Rancher,” Loren Dunsworth, owner of Lola’s (where the drink was created), told the LA Times 2012. “We sell ludicrous amounts of apple martinis.”
Mr. Robot evidently feels the same way, and he encourages Elliot to order his own. The bartender reacts with a quizzical look, representing either that long pop culture history or, well, the stuff of deep Reddit threads. “Take it as a compliment, guy!” Mr. Robot exclaims. “These things are goddamn delicious.”
And with that, Elliot—the show’s flawed, but undeniably hip and capable hero—downs the $12 concoction in a swift gulp. Not a single joke comes at the expense of his cocktail choice. Suddenly, Mr. Robot has yet again done away with a tired trope by siding with reality as opposed to fiction.
Later on, the show proudly declared the Appletini the perfect cocktail to enjoy alongside its S1 finale, and who knows how it may play into the upcoming S2 (which begins tonight). As for how the series’ best bar scene plays out, sadly there’s no second round. Instead, Mr. Robot merely suggests a slight change for next time.
“I really don’t think you enjoyed that,” he says. “I suggest sipping.”
Mr. Robot returns for a second season tonight (7/13) at 10pm Eastern.