Bender's name is a nice bit of wordplay because he is a bending unit, and also alcoholic (goes on benders).

But this reference[1] in Wikipedia says he was named after the character John Bender from The Breakfast Club.

So you have a triple conjunction:

  • named after John Bender from the Breakfast Club
  • goes on benders
  • is a bending unit

Is there behind-the-scenes information of the evolution of the development of the character? Which attributes came first?

[1]: "Intellectual Names". Sci-Fi Baby Names: 500 Out-of-this-world Baby Names from Anakin to Zardoz. p. 119

  • Are you specifically, preferentially looking for an out-of-universe answer?  I seem to recall an episode (in-universe) in which he says that he was named after his job; i.e., the function came first.  I have know idea what the writers were thinking when they wrote it. Aug 11, 2015 at 16:54
  • 1
    @PeregrineRook: I just don't think in universe is very interesting. Especially for Futurama, it's whatever the writers happened to be thinking on that day. Aug 11, 2015 at 17:39
  • Bender is fuelled by alcohol; he only gets drunk when he doesn't get enough. Also his real name is Rodriguez.
    – Gaius
    Aug 11, 2015 at 17:45
  • 12
    @Gaius I'm pretty sure it's Bender Bending Rodríguez.
    – user31178
    Aug 11, 2015 at 17:50
  • 2
    @Praxis???????? Aug 16, 2015 at 5:28

1 Answer 1


I believe the order is:

  1. Alcoholic
  2. Named after John Bender from The Breakfast Club
  3. Bending Unit

First of all, Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening conceived of the character of Bender as the "Homer Simpson" of Futurama:

GROENING: And then there's Bender. And Bender's like -- he's the standout character right now on this show. He's our robotic Homer Simpson. He's just totally corrupt -- lovably corrupt -- a la Homer. Loves his vices. I think he's the first robot in science fiction who shoplifts


The Simpsons, especially at the time, was an incredibly successful show, and therefore provided a model for projects such as Futurama. Groening wanted a Homer-esque character in Futurama — a solid move of course, considering Homer's popularity — and coming with that were vices, particularly alcohol dependency. It seems that the need to have such a character came before anything else.

enter image description here

Next up, Groening is known to be a big fan of The Breakfast Club. As mentioned in the original question, the chapter "Intellectual Names" of the book Sci-Fi Baby Names: 500 Out-of-This-World Baby Names from Anakin to Zardoz cites Groening as saying that Bender's name is an homage to Breakfast Club character John Bender. The name of course makes sense given the robot's alcoholism. (Note that John Bender is also the source of Bart Simpson's familiar "Eat my shorts!" refrain.)

enter image description here

Once these attributes were in place, it was only natural to give the robot a role that fit the name: bending, specifically "Bending Unit 22".

More evidence for this order

I decided to investigate early concept art as well.

Here is a sequence of sketches by Groening that eventually led to Bender as we now know him:

enter image description here

Notice that the sketches do not contain a name, whereas the analogous ones for other characters do. For example, Fry was "Fry" from the beginning:

enter image description here

Leela's early sketches are also labelled prominently with her name.

What the Bender sketches emphasize is a Homer-esque character, particularly beginning with the bottom-left drawing of Bender as a short-order cook with Homer-like features. Given that Groening's habit of labelling his sketches as soon as he has a name for them, it seems that Bender's name and function came later.


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