Remember Tucker Max, the notorious “fratire” genre-writer of such misogynistic masterpieces as I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First? Well, the consummate hard-partying, bedpost-notching playboy is back in the news; but in a startling about-face from his customary position gazing narcissistically into a reflecting puddle of beer, Max is now looking to rehabilitate his image. Earlier this year, Max released his final collection of “dude, you did what?!” stories, Hilarity Ensues, with the promise that the tap would henceforth be closed. In a lengthy profile published in Forbes back in January, Max explained his attempt at a vita nova:
I never thought I would do that forever. … Nothing is forever. So why would the lifestyle I led in my twenties be forever? I never thought it would be forever. It was what it was when it was.
But unfortunately for Max, some things—like a despicable reputation—do last forever.
As part of his PR makeover, Max recently attempted to make a $500,000 donation to Texas’ Planned Parenthood chapter, a donation which, following some initial excitement from the besieged organization, was ultimately rejected. Planned Parenthood’s reasons seem obvious enough: Though they could clearly use the cash, accepting funds (with the requirement that a clinic be named after the donor) from someone with Max’s history of sexism and female objectification would contradict the organization’s mission of supporting women and their health. As Jill over at Feministe rightly points out, “there are entire organizations and large numbers of politicians who have made it their mission to destroy Planned Parenthood. PP can’t afford to take unnecessary risks. Unnecessary risks can mean that the organization ceases to exist.”
You’d think that Max (or at least his PR team) would be intelligent enough to recognize that this calculated stunt—Max has been honest about the need to reduce his taxes and get some good press—would not go over. But amazingly, they’ve reacted with shock. Ryan Holiday, one of Max’s representatives, wrote in Forbes yesterday that he just couldn’t understand the rebuff:
This would have been a win-win-win-win situation. Cut a check, keep a clinic open. Rehabilitate some of Tucker’s PR. Reduce a tax burden. Encourage other donors. And most importantly: Help women keep access to vital reproductive services. But nope.
Yay for synergy! But nope, PP wasn’t interested in reducing Max’s tax burden or rehabilitating his PR. And even opening or preserving a health clinic with his money, though certainly beneficial for patients, didn’t prove appealing to PP-Texas (nor, as Jezebel has revealed, did it entice a number of other PP affiliates over the past year). After all, any woman aware of Max’s history would be forgiven for harboring reservations about entering an office with his name looming above the door. But that’s just what Max and co. don’t seem to get—after a career like his, second chances cost a hell of a lot more than half-a-million dollars. In fact, they may be priceless.
Incidentally, the Forbes profiler, Michael Ellsberg, predicted Max’s misapprehension:
Tucker is on a serious and committed path of self-inquiry, self-responsibility, and growth at the moment. However, despite this serious commitment, at the current time he seemed mostly closed to this particular idea: that his writings, taken outside of the context of consensual teasing by which his many female fans enjoy them, are experienced as extremely offensive, and even hurtful and traumatizing, to some very large number of other women who come across them unwittingly. This was the specific point on which I found him to be least self-aware, over several interviews.
Though Max claims to be working to overcome his narcissism, this incident suggests that it has merely redirected focus—from his penis to his newly discovered soul. An enlightened person would know better than to attempt to attach his toxic name to an organization struggling to survive; while I support Max’s self-improvement project, I think we can agree that he still has a long way to go. And Planned Parenthood may be excused for wisely refusing to hold his hand along the way.