Tucker Max, a 34-year-old writer and blogger from Florida, could be the most infamous Duke Law graduate since Richard Nixon. Max has built a career as a frat boy nonpareil, writing and blogging about sex, bodily functions, alcohol and his personal fetish for handicapped women.
As a wordsmith, he falls somewhere between a bad romance novelist and a "some assembly required" instruction manual writer ("...she desperately intensified her attack on my loins"), but it's not his prose that sells books—it's his sheer vulgarity. The stories posted on his Web site include "Tucker tries buttsex" and "The Miss Vermont story," in which Max recounts his alleged sexual exploits with a former Miss Vermont, who unsuccessfully sued to have the story taken down. On his site, Max describes his childhood like this: "My mom told me when I grew up I could be anything I wanted. So I became an asshole."
Max brought his cheeky road show to N.C. State's Witherspoon Cinema in Raleigh on Wednesday, Aug. 26 for a sneak peek screening of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, the film based on Max's allegedly true memoir of a bachelor party gone bad. Before the screening began, Max stepped onstage to introduce the movie. "This premiere has been ... interesting," he said. The 250 people who bought $10 tickets to the sold-out screening had just passed a gauntlet of signs and pamphlets decrying the "rape culture" that protesters believe Max condones in his writings.
NCSU seniors Kelsey Lambdin and Christina Scarano were among the hundred or so students and activists who showed up to protest the film. They stood outside Witherspoon before the screening began, handing out flyers claiming that some of Max's sexual exploits meet the legal definition of rape in North Carolina. They called out to the moviegoers, most of whom shuffled past without looking up.
"We can't live in a culture where this treatment, crimes against women, is treated as funny," Lambdin, a women's and gender studies major, said.
Back inside, Max introduced his film, which is scheduled for a wide release Sept. 25, with a final caveat.
"You're going to think this was put in just to mess with the protesters," he said of the first scene. The lights dimmed. The movie opened on a shot of police officers, alerted to a rape in progress, busting down the door of a house, inside of which Max—played by former WB boy wonder Matt Czuchry—is having intercourse with a deaf girl. It's not rape. She's just deaf. The audience laughed.
The movie's version of Tucker Max as played by Czuchry is a charming but narcissistic naïf to whom other human beings are either partners in crime or hopelessly prudish, sex-deprived and ugly. He lies to his friends and nearly ruins a marriage, all for the opportunity to sleep with a stripper with dwarfism. He is cruel to his amorous pursuits—he calls the little person "Grumpy" and remarks on her "tiny little sausage fingers" before sleeping with her. In the film's climactic moment, Czuchry waddles through an empty hotel lobby in his boxer shorts, soiling himself.
As Teddy Roosevelt once said, "I could carve a better man out of a banana."
None of this is to say the movie isn't funny. It is, at least in the sense that shocking things can be funny the first time you see them. On that count, Beer in Hell is a child of the American Pie series, just with more crudeness and less heart. It does not, as some protesters alleged, depict Max having sex with a women who is unconscious from consumption of alcohol. But while the current crop of gross-out sex movies tend to at least tip a hat toward plot and believability, Beer in Hell is simply an excuse to show nudity, poop and Tucker Max making fun of "fat chicks." The characters and scenes are poorly drawn and preposterous—one of Max's buddies wins his way into a stripper's bed with sweet nothings like, "If you touch me, I will gut you and grind you into pig slop." Lovely.
After the screening, audience members shuffled out to see a few remaining protesters holding a silent candlelight vigil on the lawn. "They need a hobby," muttered a moviegoer on a smoke break who would only identify herself as Candy.
Shannon Johnson, director of the NCSU Women's Center, was downright mournful about the screening.
"We're here to raise awareness of our concerns about a culture that allows books to be known that objectify and humiliate women under the disguise of humor," she said. "It's not acceptable."
After a break, Max retook the stage to take questions from the audience, along with the film's co-writer, Nils Parker, and Kari Lynn Pratt, who acts in the film. One audience member asked about the rape allegations. Max slipped into legalese.
"The discussion about consent needs to be had, but this is not the place to do it," he said. Another asked what his parents think about his career choice.
"They think I'm a rapist," he said, to scattered laughter. He paused. "If you put that in the fucking paper, I'll beat your ass."