The Rise And Fall Of Tucker Max: Part 3

by Frost on February 10, 2012

Addendum: Check out my Review of Hilarity Ensues

This is a guest post I wrote for In Mala Fide. Please read and comment on it here.

(Part 1 and Part 2)

It’s never fun to watch your heroes fall. I have zero shame in admitting that, for many years, Tucker Max was a hero to me.

At the age of 20, when I first came across Max’s website, I was already a hard-drinking, skirt-chasing asshole. I didn’t need someone to teach me that those choices were OK.

But at that point in my life, I had stopped reading, stopped writing, and in a lot of ways, stopped thinking. I was living an unexamined life, largely because that’s just what a cool guy does in college. Life was fun, but I was incomplete.

At a first glance, Tucker Max had some funny stories. As I read more though, I noticed that they were peppered with references to literature, history and science. Slipped in behind all the stories, was a reading list that kept me busy for the better part of a semester, and reawakened a habit – compulsive reading – that has benefited my life more than any other.

I had already figured out that I didn’t need to apologize to anyone for being an asshole. But I hadn’t realized that I didn’t need to be ashamed of having intellectual interests. Ironically, Tucker Max didn’t teach me that it was OK to get drunk and hook up. He taught me it was OK to read books that weren’t in my course syllabi and write for my school paper. For that influence, I will always be grateful, regardless of what the man has become, or will become.

But let’s take a step back, and consider the recent twist that Tucker Max’s career and outlook appears to be taking.

From 2002 until 2008 or so, Tucker Max was a cult hero to millions of college-aged American men. He achieved this status by writing stories about his adventures as an asshole completely unconcerned with the feelings and expectations of those around him. Who are the interesting characters in this story?

Tucker Max’s answer is that he is. Hence, psychotherapy, introspection, and ruminations on how his alcoholic mother and absentee father lead him to lead the life he did.

But explanations that centre around the experiences and characteristics of Tucker Max ignore the real story: The legions of young men who followed him. Did they all have absentee fathers, etc, as well? No? Then perhaps the Tucker Max phenomenon is better explained in broader terms – what is it about our culture that made Tucker Max a star?

– Why are Millennial men so eager to jettison society’s expectations of them?

– Why are they spending their early twenties in a haze of boozing, partying, chasing slutty girls, becoming pick-up artists, and playing video games? 

– How would Tucker Max have been received in virtually any culture outside of early 21st-century America? What is it about the present that makes us uniquely receptive to an ethos of nihilistic hedonism?

These are big questions. Tucker Max 2.0 doesn’t seem to be interested in them. And that’s fine, I suppose. I wish him all the best, with his yoga and psychotherapy. It’s just disappointing to see that one of the first distinct voices to truly speak to the young men of the 21st century is putting down his pen.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Browne May 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

Tucker Max writes very well for a someone trained as a lawyer. I made a pretty good living translating legalese into English for publication in the general interest press, and, trust me on this, writing for lawyers was a lot easier then doing the same for engineers. An engineer could never write about sex because an engineer never has sex. The rare engineer equipped with a libido may have “Intra Specie Biocoupling” as part of a research project on horizontal ergonomics, but that’s about it. Anyway, while Tucker Max’s style is amusing, it becomes tedious after 20 or pages. I much prefer the screeds of Tom Wolfe and the late Hunter S. Thompson.

Koanic February 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I disagree. Tucker Max remains an interesting voice because he is honest and speaks from direct experience.

One of the major flaws in your writing is that you overreach your topical grasp in most of your posts. You’d benefit from a reduced scope.

a February 15, 2012 at 3:51 am

No he isn’t.

No he wouldn’t.

Epicurus February 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

“Who are the interesting characters in this story?”

Great post. Tucker Max himself is not that interesting. There are ten thousand other alpha assholes out there doing what he did with the same results. The real story is his following. Men were starting to wake up to the fact that they will no longer get anywhere acting in the expected beta fashion, and they started looking for someone who could provide an alternative path.

Max had a nice run, but it did not turn into a movement because he did not put his exploits in context. He did not provide the same deep insight and analysis that evo-philosophers like Roissy do today. He’s been passed up by those who tell, not just show.

Rollory February 11, 2012 at 9:51 am

I should add that all this sort of information was pretty readily available to anybody who was curious about the man, and that anyone who considered him a role model – whether publicly advocating such, or just privately thinking it – was quite simply a fool.

I also just noticed you have Ryan Holiday in your sidebar. That’s another one. I guess most people do foolish things as young adults, but his stint as Max’s intern was more so.

Rollory February 11, 2012 at 8:17 am

The “tuckermaxdoucebag” [sic] blog spent a good deal of time on this guy. The 20,000 comment megathread has rather a lot of information in it about various aspects of the Max phenomenon, specifically, how most of what he claimed was “absolutely true stories” was in fact verifiably false. The “1.6 million” sales of IHTSBIH or Itsby as I call it is not necessarily as significant as it looks; it’s an airport book, people buy it for amusement and not as a life-changing experience, and the sales numbers themselves aren’t clearly accurate – I believe there was evidence he was counting copies shipped to bookstores instead of copies actually sold. I’d have to reread the megathread to dig up all the specifics and I can’t be bothered right now. He also was pretty clearly using sock-puppet reviews on Amazon to try to boost the ratings.

The problem is that if you’re going to make yourself a role model for “going your own way”, and you base that on things that aren’t actually true, OF COURSE any attempt to apply it to reality is likely to explode in your face. Which the movie did. There are comments from people who worked on that movie in various places detailing how Max just was not up to the task of running such a project, and did not have the sense to realize it himself. “The Quotable Tucker Max” site has a quite a few lines from his message board (before he took it down to hide his shame) which are just farcical in their delusions of grandeur.

If the man HAD succeeded, there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is setting out to be an asshole and falling flat on his face. That’s not admirable, it’s loserish.

Melville February 11, 2012 at 12:01 am

After a lifetime of worshipping a man, discovering he is no different than anyone in your family checks your reality. Realize that sometimes the best thing about gods being human is when they’re being human. We all want two things: Our lives to be perfect, and our heroes to be more than. Unfortunately, we die without both.

asdf February 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

People have always wanted to be raging narcisists. There is nothing “unique” about human psychology in this era. The only things that are unique are technological and economic. Post scarcity allows people to be irresponsible assholes because there is so much shit lying around you don’t have to life virtuously to survive. Birth control allows people to have all the sex they want without making babies. Freed from the burden of having to act properly out of need, people act like assholes.

In 1950 America, that place you long for, Tucker Max can’t get a wife, can’t get laid, and can’t get any kind of respectable job.

Gaurav February 10, 2012 at 9:43 am
Gaurav February 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

Maybe some more food for thought? –

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