THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 27, 2009
Few movies released in recent years--or, let's be honest, ever--look as abysmal as I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, a beer-and-boobs-saturated bro flick that came out Friday. Based on the book of the same name, the movie is a vehicle for popular blogger Tucker Max, whose claim to fame, put bluntly, is thinking that he's totally awesome because he parties and sleeps with women (allegedly). Lots of women (allegedly). And then, he writes about it. His blog, Tuckermax.com, begins with the salutation, "My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole." Charming. And among his most famous "stories," as he calls them, are ones titled "Tucker tries buttsex; hilarity does not ensue" and "The Blowjob Follies." The new movie, which is a memoir of Max's antics, includes a character asking, "You're saying that Magic Johnson is black and has AIDS and has it better than me?" Not surprisingly, in the lead-up to the film's release, there were heated discussions about his deplorable, sexist, painfully unfunny humor, and even protests at his public events. (He told the LA Times, though, that he doesn't care about the "[k]ooks and trolls and haters" that don't like him. Again, charming.)
While I'm all for free speech, people enjoying sex, and, yes, even (good) bromance humor, the fact that Max has a New York Times bestselling book--the cover of which depicts a photo of a blonde woman draped on him with the words "Your face here" where hers should be--and a movie--which includes the line "fat girls aren't real people"--is nauseating. And yet, my reaction to him runs deeper than that. Why does he inspire more than just fury in me? Why does Tucker Max make me sad?
Let me share a story. On New Year's Eve 2005, I went to a party in New York City, hosted by the Princeton Club. Lo and behold, the featured celebrity guest of the evening was none other than Tucker Max (because, apparently, the club couldn't spring for Andy Dick). The place was a madhouse--lots of very drunk young banker-types swarming with lots of very drunk young women, one of whom, in a teeny gold dress, accidentally yet happily flashed the room several times. A friend I was with spotted Max and wanted to introduce herself. I followed along.
Max was unremarkable--average height, average build, average looks. He was underdressed. The most notable thing about him was his air of nonchalance. On the one hand, I could argue that it was reasonable for him to give off the "I don't give a rip about this party" vibe--it was, after all, a mindless affair. But his vibe reeked mostly of "I don't need to give a rip, because I'm Tucker Max, and my life is about not giving a rip." Even the lovely brunette--whom, as I recall, had posed or was soon to be posing for Maxim--and the entourage of dudes who'd showed up with Max didn't really seem to interest him. He just seemed bored.
In an attempt to strike up conversation--because, warmed by some Bacardi O, I thought, "Why not?"--I told him that I went to Duke, where he had gone to law school. He told me he didn't think a whole lot of the university (a point he reiterated recently) or the student newspaper where I worked, which had just interviewed him. I talked more about journalism or some other general topic. He nodded a lot. There were awkward pauses. He wore a permanent smirk.
I admit that my memory is muddled--it was, after all, four years ago, and we'd all had cocktails--so I won't put words in the man's mouth, but he soon conveyed to me that I talked too much and that guys, all of them, don't like that. (A perusal of my e-mail account from the time reveals that I told a friend Max had referred to me as something along the lines of the "loud Southern girl.") The night ended a while later at a club downtown, where I was more than happy to leave my party schmoozing with the still-nonplussed Tucker and his flurry of followers.
Now, I do talk a lot, and loudly. And I don't care a bit what Tucker Max thinks of me. But that encounter crystallized much of what's wrong with this guy, from his oversized ego to his view of women to, most conspicuously, the fact that boredom is his life. I'm sure his fans will say he's living the dream by partying it up and getting laid (allegedly)--and, now, getting paid to do it. But, really: As it happens, he turns 34 today. And he’s used his adult years to become a world-class purveyor of the fratty art of the stunt. As he told The Huffington Post's Brad Balfour today, he has a "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" and cares little to not at all about how his exploits affect or offend anyone. For instance, why seek out sex with a "midget" or a "deaf girl"? Why simple! "It's a novelty," Max says.
It's hard to imagine this guy, with his blasé, can't-be-bothered persona, ever having taken a risk in his life. Risks, you see, are different than stunts. They require the strength to lose something important, something of substance that you might have to learn to live without, if things don't go according to plan. But Max has built himself and his brand around the notion that, really, nothing is that important--so what is there to lose? And that is why Tucker Max makes me sad.