Commentary | Mysogyny is not comedy

Humour does not excuse hatred

Correction appended on February 4, 2011.

Tucker Max is a bestselling author, self-proclaimed asshole, the spearhead of the “fratire” genre, and a film producer. His movie I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell grossed over $1,400,000 in the U.S. He has been published in Esquire, the Huffington Post, and several other major publications.

He’s known for many things, but has achieved most fame as an internet personality. Among his notable practices are the objectification of women and the delegitimizing of serious issues like rape and violence through comedy. Many feminists have criticized him without reading his books or seeing his movie – unfortunately, I am not one of them. In fact, to my embarrassment, a ninth-grade version of myself found some his stories quite funny. Fascinated by Max, I’ve voraciously read his articles, frequently referenced his drunk rating scale, and spent hours on his web site.

Clearly a smart man, this graduate of the University of Chicago and Duke’s law school is not just some random blogger. In fact, he spent two weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list. I’m not disputing his intelligence, or even necessarily his intentions; I’m saying that what he puts forth is not constructive. It’s harmful: it perpetuates violence against women and invalidates criticism of that violence by playing the humour card.

As a guideline for my deconstruction of his arguments, I will use the quotes that Max used as advertisement for his movie. These quotes, all related to at least one of his stories, are intended to be satirical.

“Fat girls are not real people.” “The best thing about fat girls is heart disease.” “Every woman has her price.”

The cover of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (the book – not the film of the same title) is a photo of Max with his arm around a blond woman in a little red dress. Her face is replaced with a cut-out that says “your face here.” Even before you open the book, women are reduced to a lower standard than men: they have no individual identity or personality.

Worse, his web site has a rating scale for women that goes from zero stars (“Wildebeests”) to 5 stars (“Super-hotties”). The in-between gradations are labelled things like “common-stock pig,” “respectable pig,” and “girlfriend material.” “Wildebeests” are ugly, fat, and boring – like common-stock pigs – but they’re also annoying. According to Max, women like this “should all be put to sleep” and are generally so pervasive that when you see a “wildebeest,” “you have to actively restrain yourself from kicking her in the crotch and stomping on her throat until she drowns in her own blood.” He adds that “basic human rights do not apply.”

Obviously basic human rights do apply to everyone, not just the physically attractive, as deemed by Tucker Max. But it’s more than that – Max avoids responsibility for spreading such repugnant views by arguing that humour cannot be censored. Call me a turgid feminist devoid of a sense of humour, but I don’t find violence, objectification, or disrespect particularly hilarious.

“Deaf girls never hear you coming.” “Scott Peterson killed his pregnant wife. But not in a funny way.” “AIDS isn’t funny. Until it happens to someone you hate.”

I don’t know how many times anyone has to explain this: rape is not funny. Coat these jokes in fatal illnesses and disability, and you get something so reprehensible I find it difficult to believe anyone laughs at them. But they do.

These quotes were part of a national ad campaign that appeared in multiple locations: textsfromlastnight.com ran them, and the Chicago Transit Authority was going to, before they pulled out of their contract at the last minute. People aren’t dismissing these jokes as offensive, either. Max is getting praise for being devilishly humorous, pushing the envelope, and saying things others aren’t willing to. Many think Max is funny because he’s edgy.

But what Max might be failing to consider is that there’s a reason people don’t joke about AIDS, murder, and rape. Not because they’re afraid to or because they’re being controlled by feminist bitches, but because these things are actually not humorous. Real people encounter these situations, suffer, and die in ways that Max probably couldn’t imagine if he tried.

Tucker Max is problematic not just because of his claims, but because of whom they inspire. Fratire, as the genre he works in is so appropriately named, is supposed to represent what “real men” think. His argument is then that “real men,” whatever that may mean, should objectify women to the point that they are deprived of their humanity (provided they don’t fit his standards). If you’re not thin, attractive, and a little passive, you aren’t worthy of equal treatment.

I’ve seen countless friends eat this ideology up, using his rating scales and his famous euphemisms to degrade women while praising Max for providing the entertainment they were so desperately deprived of before. But what is he really providing? He claims that he’s giving a voice to the voiceless middle-class men emasculated by society. Thank goodness. We know how little privilege and volume the middle-class, heterosexual white man had before Max came along.

Olivia Messer is a U1 Humanistic Studies and Women’s Studies student. Write her at olivia.messer@mail.mcgill.ca.

This article was originally titled “Tucker Max? More like Fucker Max” when it was released on April 14, 2010.


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