On Tucker Max, Mighty King of Douchebags

Posted: September 28, 2009 in Braak, poetics, reviews
Tags: , , ,

You have maybe heard of Tucker Max, King of the Douchebags.  He wrote a book called I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, which is basically about how he’s a huge douchebag, and is maybe also a guide to how other bros can embrace their inner jackass and become huge douchebags, as well.  Now, there is a movie of his book!  The movie, by all accounts except for Tucker (KotD)’s own, is a steaming pile of shit-covered self-aggrandizing idiocy.  It’s generally inappropriate for me to levy commentary against a thing I haven’t seen, and I have no intention of seeing this movie, which is why this article is going to be directed primarily at Tucker (KotD)’s advertising for the movie.

A woman at…Feministing, I think?  (I can’t find it now!)…did a pretty serviceable takedown of the the humor applied in these bus-shelter and internet advertisements, but there are a few things I’d like to address still, because I believe a careful analysis of the ads will provide a certain insight into the nature of humanity.

The ads are:  black posters with plain white writing on them that say things that are meant to be funny and provocative.  The first one that I saw says this:

Blind girls never see you coming.

Now, this is, technically, a joke.  “[x] never saw you coming” is a fairly common-use expression whose meaning is primarily figurative–that is, you don’t use it very often to actually describe a situation in which a person has been sneaked upon, but rather in situations in which they’ve been taken by surprise as though they’ve been sneaked upon.  To use a blind girl a referent X is to unexpectedly literalize the commonly-figurative expression–ambiguity, or, more precisely, unexpected but correct usage of familiar forms, according to stochastic aesthetic theory, ought to provide some humor.

But here’s the thing.  He follows it up with certain similar ads, that make progressively less and less sense.  For example:

Deaf girls never hear you coming.

Now, first of all, Tucker (KotD) obviously deserve a kick in his withered testicles for using the same form twice to make the same joke, without substantial structural reversal.  But secondly, “never heard you coming” is a much less common form of the phrase in question.  Without the commonality of the basic form, the unexpected literalization doesn’t produce any substantial result.  So, what’s the actual funny part happening here?

Some answer is provided by one of his other ads:

Bros before Hos.  Except if she’s blind.

This, of course, isn’t even a joke.  There’s no common-form reversal, no ambiguity, no anything.  The structure seems to imply that “if she’s blind” is the reversal, but the ideas are purely unconnected.  Why should “Hos” come before “Bros” if the ho in question is blind?  Are we meant to assume that, because of her disability, she needs to walk in front of everyone else?  No!  The joke actually appears to be the fact that she’s blind at all.

The implication, taken in concert with the deaf girl ad, and another midget girl ad, seems to be that dating, or seducing, or having sex with a blind girl, a deaf girl, or a midget, is an inherently unexpected situation.  That commonly, we would assume a person would NOT pick up a blind girl in a bar, and therefore the suggestion that Tucker (KotD) Max would is an uncommon assertion of his douchebag status, and this is meant to be the humorous juxtaposition.

I’ll admit that I find this a little puzzling, as I’m not sure why blind, deaf, or midget women ought to be inherently any less appealing choices in partners than any other women.  Does the joke rely on a common, perceived inferiority of such women?  Such that, if you don’t share that perception, the joke lacks the necessary juxtaposed elements?

Maybe.  Certainly, that’s the case with this one:

Strippers will not tolerate disrespect

(just kidding)

It relies on the presumption that a woman, if she is a stripper, must have no sense of dignity or personal value in order to perform her job.  It also relies on, if you’ll forgive my saying so, a pretty clumsy tonal change gag.  In reality, a person insisting on one thing as though it were true, only to say “just kidding” a second later, makes use of the juxtaposition between mock seriousness in the first part and sincere joking in the second part.  But text is a very poor medium in which to convey tone, so the juxtaposition is nearly impossible.  A better choice might have been:

Strippers absolutely will not tolerate disrespect.

No, I’m serious.  Seriously.  I am 100% serious.

As it both preserves the mock-serious tone throughout the joke and the factual reversal implied by the previous example.

But I digress.

In any case, the underlying perception of a lack of dignity on the part of some women is probably what’s behind, as well, the ad:

Fat girls aren’t real people

Except Max (KotD) asserts that he has many fans who are “fat girls,” and they find his jokes to be funny.  Are we meant to interpret that these women have a sense of self-inferiority that is fueling their appreciation for Tucker (KotD) Max’s humor?

This is reasonable.  But I think there’s one more thing going on here, which, as I said lends a certain insight into human nature.  I believe that the primary joke here is that, socially speaking, it is considered inappropriate to make jokes about blind people or deaf people.  Midgets and the overweight are more acceptable, I suppose–but there is a lot of counter-pressure from a number of groups that are trying to change that.  The joke, then, is not some structure which includes “blindness” in its reversal or juxtaposition, but the very fact that it is a joke about a blind person.

The joke is itself the uncommon usage in relation to common perception.  This, of course, obviates the need for any other structural or semantic juxtapositions (which explains the bros before hos joke, and also why “deaf girls…” actually is a separate joke from “blind girls…”).  Now, maybe you’re like me, in which case you see this as a fairly pointless exercise in provocation–it’s not as though society prohibits us from making fun of blind people, and certain routines rather famously revolve around the condition.  It’s just that, as a society, we tend to assume blindness is a shitty condition, and would rather not make fun of it solely for the sake of making fun of it.

It’s not, after all, that Tucker (KotD) has anything interesting to SAY about blindness.  He’s just saying it because he thinks he’s not supposed to, and he’s got a cadre of similar-minded douchebag buddies that laugh at him for it.

Which leads to the human insight.  When I was in high school, I had a friend who was a big fan of Howard Stern.  Now, I didn’t find Stern particularly entertaining, so I asked my friend what was appealing about him.  “He says,” my friend told me, “what everyone else is thinking!”  Which isn’t really true.  I didn’t think those things.  Why would I think stuff like that?  It’s just mean.

And there is the answer, of course.  There are in the world people who are decent human beings, and people who take pleasure in being mean to other people.  They’re still possess of the mentality of the 13-year-old, who thinks it’s funny to drop someone else’s schoolbooks in the mud, for no reason other than the particular pleasure to be taken in exercising one’s power over another.  These people are assholes.

The problem that assholes have is that society is constantly telling them to act like decent human beings.  And so the assholes do.  But assholes are resentful of it.  They think that they should have the right to be assholes, that no one should be able to stop them from being assholes, that they’re entitled to do whatever they want.  Of course, they actually ARE–no one ever stops them from being assholes, and the other thing that’s important to realize is that most assholes are also cowards.  Anyway, the assholes that are pretending to be decent human beings adore and idolize people like Max (KotD), who is an unrepentant asshole.  They admire the fact that he will do what they can only imagine (and what they assume everyone must imagine, because it is, apparently, inconceivable to assholes that a person might actually BE a decent human being, instead of just pretending).

Assholes resent the kindness that society is expected to show to the blind–because, of course, assholes resent all kindness that is not directed towards themselves–but they don’t personally have the guts to actually pick on blind people.  So, they engage in a kind of vicarious bullying through someone like Max (KotD), who, in the guise of “humor,” gives them an outlet for their resentment.

I don’t know why this is the case.  I suspect it’s because most assholes have never considered the fact that it’s easier and actually more pleasurable to just BE a decent human being, rather than pretending all the time.  I suspect it’s also because all of us have, since the early years of our nativities, been taught that “being yourself” is the most important thing you can do.  Which is, of course, nonsense.  There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t be yourself.

What if you’re an asshole?

  1. Sam says:

    I’m reminded of all those “You DO look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall” ads for Forgetting Sarah Marshall that irritated people named Sarah Marshall (Sarah Marshall Sarah Marshall), but on a much larger (and more troubling) scale.

    I have read the book. It is a catalogue of reprehensible behavior, but I’m not sure it is reprehensible in and of itself. Max is somewhat conscious of how pathetic and horrible he appears in the stories, but he doesn’t avoid douchiness when he thinks he’s being funny (whether he is or not is verrrry debatable). It has become a kind of Bro Bible, which casts a harsh light on it (probably deservedly so!).

    As for the movie, there’s a slightly illuminating interview on that subject on AICN : http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42500

  2. Moff says:

    My editor at the local alt weekly reviewed the movie (and live appearance by Tucker Max!). The dude has some credible bona fides, which to me just makes him sadder. He also seems really committed to the deeply profound notion that his life is his to lead.

    Which again, just amplifies the patheticness. Walking away from a life dictated by society’s expectations? Hey! That’s great. I can get behind that. But it’s not like it’s a binary choice between (1) graduating from Duke law school and getting a job at a white-shoe firm and (2) making yourself famous by way of lowest-common-denominator humor.

    I mean (as you’ve shown), it’s not like the jokes that are Tucker Max’s stock in trade take a whole lot of brainpower or showcase any talent beyond a willingness to say things that most people find deplorable. (Willingness to say things most people won’t can, of course, be an asset, but only when it’s paired with a certain level of insight.) I just see in him a guy who wasn’t up to the challenge of doing something genuinely creative with his brains, and who recognizes that, but of course isn’t up to the challenge of admitting it, either — and so is forced to spend his time concocting blatantly ridiculous defenses of himself and finding comfort in the admiration of a bunch of follower-monkeys all extolling his “Don’t let anyone keep you from being yourself” philosophy in cultish unison.

    (Also, I really like his line in the interview about how now Howard Stern is the king of all media. Dude. That is not an actual title.)

  3. katastic says:

    Well, I think some people think he’s funny because he’s breaking taboos. It’s taboo in polite society to make fun of disabled people, because it’s insensitive and cruel and makes you an asshole. His brand of humor is that of a frat boy taking a big long fart during wedding vows. What Tucker Max and his meat-head audience don’t understand is that some taboos exist for a REASON, that they are sometimes GOOD things. Breaking taboos doesn’t automatically make you avant-garde or clever or funny. Sometimes it makes you a douchebag. Killing children is taboo. Fucking your siblings is taboo. There’s no inherent value in DEFYING CONVENTION just for the sake of DEFYING CONVENTION. Sometimes it just makes you an asshole.
    Lord, I hate this guy.

  4. katastic says:

    I also loathe that he sets himself up as some sort of counter-culture subversive when his ‘humor’ REINFORCES the sort of misogyny that’s common as dirt. HAHAHA, FAT GIRLS ARE UGLY, TUCKER? REVOLUTIONARY!!!!

  5. Moff says:

    @katastic: Yeah, I like how he prides himself on eschewing the stereotypical white-male-asshole life track (fancy law school, make a lot of money, be a good ol’ boy who sleeps with his assistants and treats women like sex objects) so that he could embrace a totally different stereotypical white-male-asshole life track.

  6. Carl says:

    @ katastic: Well said.

  7. V.I.P. Referee says:

    He should be exactly who he is. See how long he enjoys it. He’ll realize that–shocker–people don’t actually like him and that maybe he doesn’t appreciate people like himself, either.

    But your game’s out of the bag now, Tucker! Embrace what it’s really like to be you, without any social niceties to mask the foul odor of your being. Cling to that dude squirting cheese spread up his nose because he’ll be loyal to you for life, man! It’s going to be a long, bumpy road of doofy guys lighting their balls on fire and loser ladies clamoring to borrow your credit cards. Enjoy your ilk! Keep yourselves occupied!

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