Serious Art, Frat-guy Fun

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You’ve probably heard of Tucker Max, the 30 year old self-proclaimed “asshole” popularly known for his elaborate online stories recounting his booze and sex-fueled adventures. He sums it up: “I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.” Tucker Max is purportedly the reason Duke Law School dropped from 7 to 11 in the U.S. News rankings during his tenure; after reading his “Sushi Pants” story, in which he decides to buy a portable breathalyzer and match his blood alcohol content to his age, I would completely accept the claim as fact.

Described by The New York Times as “highly entertaining and grossly reprehensible,” Max’s self-titled website is largely composed of his documented escapades and receives around 1.2 million visitors a month. He’s made a career out of selling his stark frankness. And in the “truthiness” age, where it is the responsibility of the reader to discern between truth and “kinda” truth, Max’s unabashed candor is a relieving quaff of honesty (or beer) for parched throats.

Max’s stories are also ancillary to a greater literary revolution, defined by columnist Warren St. John as “fratire”: “Young men, long written off by publishers as simply uninterested in reading, are driving sales of a growing genre of books like Mr. Max’s that combine a fraternity house-style celebration of masculinity with a mocking attitude toward social convention, traditional male roles and aspirations of power and authority.” Max is often the first to admit that his work is not high brow and that his audience is composed partly of “dudes who can’t spell ‘dude’ right.” But fratire, in a grander context, represents an outlet for angst, a philosophy of expression and, surprisingly, a candid methodology that can be construed as art.

It would be credulous to simply brush this off as boys being boys. Something about this new genre sells: Only a year ago his first book “I Hope they Sell Beer in Hell” made it to No. 26 on the New York Times Bestsellers list with over 100,000 copies sold. And while many would initially conclude that women would be repulsed by Max’s stories, almost half of his readership is female, revealing his lessons as truly universal in both their repugnant and liberating appeal.

Max provides a novel (albeit extreme) antidote to the disease of conformity endemic in today’s culture. The tales of streaking through hotels and fighting hockey mascots possess only a sophomoric appeal, but somehow, Max concurrently fights for an ideal best summed up by E. E. Cummings, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Max has either intentionally or unintentionally established himself as a modern role model for our generation. Once dismissed by a Chicago Sun-Times reporter as “some sort of uber-frat boy,” many judged Max’s stories as they immediately appeared. But Max defends his work: “Fratire is not about acting immature, or animosity towards women or fraternity life, or anything of these other things it is accused of being. Fratire is, at its essence, nothing more than men writing about being men in an honest and authentic way.”

Further demonstrating his dedication to this ideal, Max has spurned many publishing, television and film offers from firms who wish to alter or censor his raw message. This is why our demographic admires Max—not because he’s brash and disgusting, but because he’s unapologetically true to himself. To a generation struggling with confidence and identity amidst the overbearing machine of corporate America, Fratire provides the outlet of protest.

Max proudly assumes leadership of this antithetical movement for beer-pong beatniks clawing at the chains of societal convention. “I live my life the way that I want to and not the way others want me to,” he writes. “That’s a very appealing message to a lot of young kids. They’re bombarded with these messages of ‘This is what you’re supposed to do.’ I show that the best way to live is to be true to yourself.”

In a time of uncertainty and self-doubt, it’s reassuring to get that kind of advice, even from a self-proclaimed asshole.

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