The Rise And Fall Of Tucker Max (Part 1)

by Frost on February 7, 2012

Addendum: Check out my Review of Hilarity Ensues

(This is a guest post I submitted to In Mala Fide. Please read and comment on it here.)

Tucker Max had the opportunity to be a spokesman for a generation.

He had the opportunity to lend his voice to the revolt against the effeminization of North American Men, and maybe even lead a 21st-century revival of classical masculinity. Instead, he is pissing that opportunity away, in the hopes that he’ll earn a morsel of approval from the gatekeepers of mainstream culture and literature.

The sad part is, he’s not even selling out. He’s trading principles, honesty and consistency for nothing. He will not reap money, power, or fame from his transformation into an emasculated poof. Tucker Max is ignoring his opportunity to be a part of history, and his only reward will be a well-deserved slide into obscurity.

The Rise

You probably already know Tucker Max. If you’re a North American male born in the 1980s, you almost certainly know Tucker Max. But just in case, here’s an abridged CV:

Tucker Max is the author of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Assholes Finish First, and the upcoming Hilarity Ensues. Each is a collection of stories from Max’s debaucherous young adulthood. He’s a smart guy, his life has been pretty hilarious, and he’s a good writer.

But funny stories about debauchery alone could not explain the massive, cult-like following that sprung up around Tucker Max. At the peak of his popularity, he was a household name on American college campuses, and his first book tour filled up auditoriums across the country.

The lasting appeal of his writing was the underlying philosophy woven into it: An ethos of complete and total rejection of society’s expectations. This, not cheap frathouse humour, is what explained Max’s fame.

His success raises an interesting question: Why were young men in the late 20th century uniquely primed to be drawn to a personal philosophy of unbridled nihilistic hedonism? Why did they need a role model to give them permission to live, as Max suggested, unconcerned with the expectations of others?

The short answer is that late-20th century western culture is extremely hostile towards the values of classical masculinity. Male role models in pop culture are either effeminate prigs or clueless buffoons. Schools are replacing the competitive environments men thrive in with quiet, heavily-structured self-esteem factories that cajole little boys into acting like little girls, while drugging those who can’t be so easily tamed. The American economy is shedding jobs in manufacturing, mining and the trades, prodding men into white-collar docility. College curriculas demean men as oppressors, potential rapists, abusers, and generally the source of all the world’s problems. The men of the Millennial generation are surrounded by people, publications and media that belittle and insult them at every available opportunity. And still, there are no shortages of parents, teachers, employers, pastors,  girlfriends, writers, and TV producers, who insist that the postmodern man fulfills his manly obligations to this same society.

A fair contract confers both rights and duties to each party. But the social contract that western society offers the men of my generation is so one-sided, it should come as no surprise that the smarter and more self-aware among us are choosing to abrogate it. It should also come as no surprise that Tucker Max – one of the first men of our age to publicly toss off the shackles of society’s expectations, and write competently about it – achieved the fame and influence he did.

Tucker Max was the right man, with the right message, at the right time. Perhaps even more importantly, he was the first to leverage the internet to bypass the politically correct gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry.

The Fall 

So what became of Tucker Max?

What became of his message, that our society fails to offer smart young men an option in life that beats getting wasted and chasing tail?

What became of the man who was going to shake up the literary world, smash the rotten publishing industry, and lead a 21st-century intellectual movement to rehabilitate and redefine masculinity?

If you haven’t already seen it, read this ten-page interview of Tucker Max in Forbes.

For starters, he’s retiring from writing about sex, drugs and rock and roll:

 “I publicly, explicitly retire. I want to be free to move on with my life, and I think the way I have to do that is to set a public end to this.”

OK, cool. Tucker does not want to continue getting blackout drunk and chasing slutty teenage girls into his forties and fifties. No surprises. I’m twenty-six, and even I’m ready to slow it down a notch.

But what direction will Max take his writing in, now that he is past debauchery?

Might he be tempted to reflect on why his writing attracted the attention of so many young men? Will he try to offer an alternative to booze and sluts? Better yet, will he devote his attention to understanding the problems with our society that have resulted in a majority of men pissing away their early 20s drinking, partying, getting high, and playing video games? Will he ask why young men are eager to take a pass on marriage and monogamy, instead choosing to live lives of one-night stands and pickup artistry?

In a word, No.

Rather than mature and evolve into an effective adult male role model, Tucker Max has chosen to have an Oprah moment:

“I know some of the stuff I did is, um, beyond the pale or f***-up sometimes, or mean to other people or destructive to myself. But I still did it anyway.”

“I understood intellectually in my twenties that this had something to do with unresolved parental, emotional issues. But I didn’t process it.  I could look at other people and see these kinds of issues playing out in them, but I didn’t apply it to myself, because that’s the hardest thing to do for anybody. I couldn’t do that then.”

“I was a ridiculous narcissist in my twenties. It’s not even that I didn’t care about other people. It’s way beyond that. I just didn’t even understand that other people even existed or mattered. I do not believe I was a true NPD [narcissistic personality disorder] in the clinical sense. But, dude, I was close.”

 “I ended up hurting a lot of people and not even realizing it. Because of that narcissism, I didn’t connect well to other people. I used a lot of people a lot of times, in ways I didn’t understand.”

“Listen I’m 35 now, I can look back on my writing and I can say this. This is something I’ve never really said before in public or admitted on the record, and I’ll admit it now: I didn’t realize this when I was writing it, but I think if you read between the lines a little bit, in between all the bravado, you can see a lot of self-loathing.

“I knew it was inevitable that I would have to look into this stuff eventually. In some vague sense, I understood the whole time that a lot of my extreme acting out came from unresolved emotional issues. And I knew deep down at some point I was going to have to face them.

“So many people describe my book as just pure id. What I’m trying to do now is to connect my ego and my superego to my id. I’m trying to understand, why was I doing all this stuff? Why was I acting this way? Through understanding all of that, you start to resolve the underlying problems that you’re acting out, in a healthier, more productive way.

“And I’ve found that, what I now want the most in a woman is—I want a partner. I want someone who is my partner in life. Who supports me, and I support her. I can share all my experiences in life with her, and she can share hers back with me. Not only do we love each other, but we accept, embrace, nurture, and care for each other.”

Break out the violins. Tucker Max was a jerk because his f-f-family was m-m-m-mean to him. He’s sorry for what he’s done, and perhaps now that he’s in therapy to talk about his feelings, the world will realize that his life up until now has just been a great big misunderstanding, and maybe Simon and Shuster will offer him a six-figure advance to write about the joys of his simple life of health shakes and yoga.

Not likely, though. Stay tuned for part 2.

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