Angry Letter: ‘Touching Wild Horses’

I don’t often receive e-mails criticizing my movie reviews. Oh, there’s the occasional “how com you dint like that movie is it cuz ur a retard???,” but most of the feedback I get on film reviews is from people who think that because I watched a movie, that means I know the name of the song that plays when Kate Hudson gets out of the car, or that I know when the film will open in Tupelo.

But actual feedback is rare, and so my attention was grabbed when I received this e-mail regarding my review of “Touching Wild Horses”:

Dear Mr Snide(r) [Yes, even though I write a column called “Snide Remarks,” people still think they are being clever when they point out the similarity between my last name and the word “snide.”]

I checked in with your preview of the movie, “Touching Wild Horses” and was very disappointed in the language you used in your remarks and feelings about the movie. [I said that while “the film seems to have been made with good intentions,” you can “take your good intentions and put them in your bum.” I also described the lead character as “bitchy” and “a beeyotch,” which I believe is the medical term for her condition.] I don’t know anything about the movie, so your preview of it may well not be the best movie of the year, however, your language in describing your thoughts about it were deeply offensive. [I hate when my language were offensive.] I would have expected much more from a person in your position. [What position? Upright?] It seemed like you gave an R rated preview to a PG movie.

With deep disappointment. . . . The Neilsons

I do not know whether the Neilsons wrote this e-mail as a family, or whether it was one Neilson speaking for everyone. The e-mail address is, predictably, “neilsons@something,” which means they’re one of those families I don’t like where everyone has to share an e-mail account. These are the kinds of super-religious, fundamentalist families that tend to not have doors on their bedrooms, either, because they equate privacy with an assurance that illicit things will occur. (I know the Neilsons are religious not just because of the tone of their e-mails, but because they live in Southern Utah, as indicated by their e-mail provider, an ISP serving that region.)

Anyway, I do hate to disappoint people I don’t know, so I wrote back to the Neilsons:

Sorry you were offended. As for this being an “R rated preview to a PG movie,” I should point out that the expression I used, if it appeared in a movie, would not earn anything stricter than a PG.

Out of curiosity, what “position” is it that you think I’m in that causes you to expect more from me?

I received this prompt reply:

Dear Mr. Snide(r) [Even cleverer the second time]

Thank you very much for your reply. As far as the expression you used in regards to if had of been in a movie and what rating it would have gotten, this is how I feel about that. [“if it had of been” is definitely a Southern Utah-ism — well, it’s an undereducated-ism generally, but Southern Utah specifically]

If something isn’t right, its’ wrong. And, it isn’t possible to make a wrong thing come out right. Only a right thing will go right in the long run. [This paragraph was in a larger font. That and its familiar ring made me suspect it was a quote, but I can’t locate its source.]

It’s unfortunate that movie makers puts such crude and crass remarks in their productions. Just because they do, doesn’t make it right, or funny, and it does offend many viewers. Unfortunately, it seems like anymore, if a person goes to see even a PG rated movie, they always have some kind of crudeness in it. That certainly isn’t your fault. But, in our thoughts and talks and writings, we can decide who we want to be. We like to read a review to see if we want to go see the movie or not. Not the other way around. [I don’t know what that last part means, but I think I get the Neilsons’ general meaning.]

And, to your question. . . . . I guess I was thinking that someone who had a website for reviews or whatever; someone who millions of people can log on to read his opinion of a particular move, ( and I believe your opinion is worth as much or more than anyone else’s), would have enough integrity to give a review for the masses instead of to a select group of people who may think crudeness and crass is the height of sophistication. [Heavens, I never claimed I was being sophisticated when I called Jane Seymour’s character a “beeyotch.”] I know not everyone does. [So … the position I’m in that makes the Neilsons expect more of me is that I have a Web site? Yikes. Have they BEEN on the Internet?]

I guess, I believe you are a good person. Too good to use such language. I guess, I believe you have some special and magical talent in you that could be used in a more gracious manner. I guess, I believe there’s people out there who love you; whether it’s your parents or wife, siblings or friends; people you don’t want to disappoint. How easy it would be with your talent to make them proud if they heard your reviews read out loud and not be embarrassed or ashamed. [Because OBVIOUSLY, if the Neilsons are disappointed in my language, so will all those who love me be.]

Thank you for listening, The Neilsons

The Neilsons make a good point, however inelegantly they may express it. A review of a family-friendly, PG-rated movie ought not itself be un-family-friendly or un-PG-rated. Again, though, I point out that my language, though coarse, was not worse than that found in most PG-rated films — this one included. Still, I should take better care to let the reviews fit, where possible, the films being described. I do not wish to fall any further in the Neilson ratings.