When we first meet Max Fischer in Wes Anderson’s 1998 film "Rushmore," he appears charming, intelligent, and affable. Fast forward half an hour and he’s instigating a divorce between his best friend Herman Blume and his wife in an act of petty jealousy because Herman stole the affections of Max’s beloved Rosemary Cross. While, on first viewing, this spiteful act may have appeared to have come out of nowhere, the script gives subtle cues that build chronologically to indicate that Max’s entitled world view will lead him to act vindictively when he doesn’t get his way.
The movie first introduces Max via a dream sequence in which he uses his intelligence to win popular acclaim by solving a difficult math problem. Despite this being a dream sequence, it’s important as it introduces two of Max’s important character traits: his intelligence (as reinforced later when he convinces the board of trustees to keep Latin as a class), and his ability to ingratiate himself with others and drum up support (as reinforced when he convinces several students to sign the petition to save Latin).
Our first hint of Max’s entitled attitude is when Rushmore’s principal Dr. Nelson Guggenheim (Brian Cox) tells him he’s on academic suspension for having low grades. Max’s response is to placate the principal with halfhearted promises and guilt tripping him by referencing the fact that the principal believed in Max’s academic abilities enough to get him a scholarship. The reference to the scholarship reveals the foundation of Max’s entitled world view. Namely, the belief that he is more talented than his peers and that his talent allows him to flout certain rules and always get what he wants.
This belief is emboldened by people’s positive responses to his displays of talent (ie. Rosemary’s encouragement and the people’s positive reaction to his plays despite their actual quality). The overconfidence and cavalier disregard for consequences he displays when he casually suggests he’ll work his way through the faculty in the next scene is a natural result of the belief that his talent earns him special regard from the faculty, regardless of his grades.
Our next distinguishing example of Max’s entitled world view comes when he puts on a school play. One of the actors flubs a largely inconsequential, poorly written line, and, afterward, Max takes him to task for it and then patronizingly forgives him. The actor asks what the big deal is, Max then violently shoves him and says “Don’t fuck with my play!”. This is our first example of Max violently overreacting when someone he deems lesser disagrees with him or his talents.
Later, when Rosemary and Herman take Max out to a celebratory dinner and bring along Rosemary’s boyfriend Dr. Peter Flynn (Luke Wilson). Max immediately shows his displeasure, belittling Flynn’s job, calling him a nurse and brow-beating him for not being invited. In frustration, he screams a phrase that sums up his world view “I wrote a hit play, what did you ever do?" It could be argued that Max was drunk at the time and was not in control of his emotional faculties, but similar examples begin to pile up.
When the baseball coach frantically questions Max about the damage the groundbreaking of the aquarium might cause (the aquarium he took it upon himself to install in the insane hope to impress Rosemary and begin a relationship with her) Max casually dismisses him with arrogant nonchalance. This is, however, when consequences finally catch up with Max and his entitled actions cause him to be expelled from Rushmore.
It is once Max must go to public school that his entitlement increases exponentially. On Max’s first day of public school, he makes a speech while still wearing his Rushmore uniform. Despite his shyness and his sincere attempt to fit in with his new surroundings, he still patronizingly offers to “give” the school a fencing team, something he can neither realistically bring about (he can't expect the school to automatically allow him to make such decisions without proving his merit), nor say that the school wants a fencing team (the following scene illustrates their indifference to Max’s efforts to start a fencing team in gym class), this shows that even when he is attempting to ingratiate himself and be diplomatic there is still an element of condescension in his interactions with others.
When a student, Margaret Yang shows interest, he coldly brushes her off calling her “Chang” showing how little he’s paid attention to her. His entitled belief that the rules don’t apply to him is illustrated again when he repeatedly dismisses a teacher who he tells Max he needs a telephone pass. Max tries to make a phone call to Herman in order to obsessively check on Rosemary’s progress, retorting, “That’s just rude” when the teacher forcibly ends the call in frustration. Max does finally take an interest in Margaret but only in the capacity that she can help with his play as seen by the way he brusquely asks her to make sure she takes off her glasses.
When we do see the play Max puts on, it’s again patronizing, using appropriated urban slang and small words, unlike the play we saw earlier. Also unlike the play we saw earlier, Max seems content to just slap it together, uncaring of the quality of the line reads. Is there any wonder when he hears an unsubstantiated rumor of an illicit affair between Rosemary and Herman, and vague corroborating evidence of Herman leaving Rosemary’s house in the middle of the night, that he immediately strikes back by telling his wife that Herman has been unfaithful and causing a messy divorce? Max has clearly been shown to believe his talent means he deserves to get what he wants, he wants Rosemary’s love to an almost obsessive degree, and believes people who get in the way of what he wants are at best nuisances to be placated and ignored and at worst objects to be put down with physical (like the actor who flubbed his lines) or verbal (Dr. Peter Flynn) abuse. Therefore, it was a logical extreme of Max’s entitled world view to remove a threat to his desires with such vindictive jealousy.