Clash of the Titanic


Many of you have seen the film “Titanic,” which is about a great big boat that sank like a thousand years ago that for some reason everyone is just now getting worked up about. Some of you — I am speaking to the women here — have seen this movie several times. And I would like to know why. Have the principles of film-making not been adequately explained to you, so you think there’s a chance the movie will end differently if you see it again? Do you think this is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” movie? Because it’s not. No matter how many times you see it, the boat is going to sink, and the same people are going to die, including the guy who falls and whacks his noggin on the railing on the way down.

I think this movie is entirely too long. The actual sinking of the Titanic took only four hours; the movie is easily three times that long. (Note to reader: From the following choices, select the “this-movie-is-too-long” line you like best and go with it.) Savings bonds have matured in less time than it takes to watch this movie. Many marriages do not last as long as this movie. I had to shave twice during this movie. Three Eastern European nations (Izikikstan, Checher, and Zknkkmnzxxk) were formed while I was watching this movie.

As a public service, then, I am offering my much-shortened screenplay which some ambitious film-maker can feel free to use as the script for a shorter version of “Titanic.” All I want in return is a lot of money.

(Scene 1)

KATE WINSLET: Why, this is a fancy boat, isn’t it?
KATE’S WEASELLY FIANCE: Yes it certainly is. Here is the art you asked for. It is by an artist named “Picasso.” I am certain he will amount to nothing.
KATE: Ha ha ha. That is very funny to our ’90s audience, because of course Picasso later amounted to quite a bit, after this boat sank.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Hello, I’m Leonardo DiCaprio. Perhaps you have seen the many Internet sites dedicated to the worship of me. You are very pretty.
KATE: Thank you. So are you.
LEONARDO: I know. Prettier than you, in fact. I am going to put on my “brooding” face now, to ensure that women will keep coming back again and again to see this movie. Later, my white shirt will be soaking wet.
KATE: While you’re doing that, I will concentrate on standing here and looking pretty, to keep the men in the audience interested until the boat sinks and people start dying.
WEASELLY FIANCE: Excuse me. I do not like you, Leonardo, even though you saved my fiancee’s life. I am going to sneer at you and treat you like dirt because you’re poor, and then I’ll probably be physically abusive to my fiancee, and then, just to make sure the audience really hates me, and to make sure my character is entirely one-dimensional, perhaps I’ll throw an elderly person into the water.
AUDIENCE: Boo! We hate you! Even though all real people have at least a few admirable qualities, we have not been shown any of yours, and plus, you’re trying to come between Leonardo and Kate, and so therefore we hate you! Boo! (Even though technically it is Leonardo who is coming between you and Kate. But Leonardo is handsomer than you, even though he is only 13, so we are on his side. Boo!)

* * *

(Scene 2)

LEONARDO: I’m glad we snuck away like this so that you could cheat on your fiance.
KATE: So am I. Even though I am engaged to him and have made a commitment to marry him, that is no reason why you and I cannot climb into the backseat of a car and steam up the windows together. The fact that I am the heroine of the movie will no doubt help the cattle-like audience forgive me of this, though they would probably be VERY angry indeed if my fiance were to do the same thing to me.
AUDIENCE: Darn straight we would! Moo! We mean, Boo!
LEONARDO: I agree. First I would like to draw you, though, so of course you will have to take off all your clothes.
KATE: But can a movie with five minutes of continuous nudity be at all successful in, say, Provo, Utah, where the audiences might not stand for that sort of thing?
LEONARDO: I would be willing to bet that for the first three weeks the film is in release, every single showing at Wynnsong Theater in Provo will sell out.
NARRATOR: According to Wynnsong manager Matt Palmer, that is exactly what happened.
KATE: All right, then. (sound of clothes hitting the floor)

* * *

(Scene 3)

FIRST MATE: Captain, we’re about to hit an iceberg.
CAPTAIN: Great, I could use some ice for my drink. (sound of drinking)
ICEBERG: (hits boat)
FIRST MATE: That can’t be good.
CAPTAIN: Bottoms up!
AUDIENCE: (silence)
FIRST MATE: That was irony, you fools.
AUDIENCE: Baa! Moo! Where’s Leonardo?

* * *

(Scene 4)

LEONARDO: I have been informed that this boat is sinking.
KATE: That is terrible.
LEONARDO: Would you like to engage in some more immoral-but-justified behavior?
KATE: Certainly.
WEASELLY FIANCE: (aside) I’m getting the raw end of the deal here. (to Leonardo) Listen, Leonardo, to cement my morally-dubious-yet-somehow-less-annoying-than-you personality, I am going to handcuff you to this pipe, here in a room that will soon be filling with water, due to the fact that we are sinking, which I believe has been mentioned previously.
LEONARDO: Why don’t you just shoot me?
WEASELLY FIANCE: Because then you wouldn’t be able to escape and save Kate from me. Of course, you’re going to die anyway–
AUDIENCE: Don’t spoil it for us! Boo!
LEONARDO: He’s right, though. I am doomed.
AUDIENCE: Aww, look how cute he is when he’s doomed.
WEASELLY FIANCE: I hate you people.

* * *

(Scene 5)

150-YEAR-OLD KATE: And that’s when Leonardo rescued me from my evil fiance and helped me float on a board in the water. Of course, if it hadn’t been for having to rescue HIM, I could have gotten on an actual lifeboat, and not frozen my legs nearly off. Anyway, he’s pretty much dead now, and I’m well over a thousand years old, and who’s making my supper? I need a bath. Turn down that Enya music, it’s making my ears hurt. You kids today, with your loud music. Why, when I was — hey! Don’t you walk away from me, Mr. Snooty-Patootie! I’d turn you over my knee, if I had one. I’ll beat you in the head with this huge diamond! Come back here!

(Fade to black; roll credits; play annoying Celine Dion song.)

A couple housekeeping items, and then on to the big stuff. First, in scene 2, I had written “…that is no reason why you and I cannot have sex together.” It was suggested that I change it to “…that is no reason why you and I cannot climb into the backseat of a car and steam up the windows together.” I maintain that this change is actually dirtier than the first version; however, it’s also slightly less blunt, since the “S”-word is avoided. Since I didn’t feel strongly enough about it, I didn’t argue with the suggestion, and I made the change.
The word “Checher,” used as a new Russian republic, was borrowed from the great show “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” In one of the older episodes — with Joel, not Mike — Joel used that word as a euphemism for poop. I’ve been fond of the word ever since.
Now then. This column received more reaction, both positive and negative, than any other column I had written to this point. It also proved to be by far the most widely read thing I’d ever written (and even now, more than a decade later, it’s probably still up there). A couple weeks after publication, it came to my attention that this column was being forwarded via e-mail all around the country, as one of those funny anonymous e-mails you’re always getting from your friends. As the forwarded chains have come back to me, I’ve been able to conclude that literally thousands of people all over the world have seen it.
Unfortunately, my name was taken off it at some point, and almost all the versions I’ve seen have had the joke about Picasso inexplicably changed to: “That is very funny to our ’90s audience, because they know these priceless paintings will sink with the boat.” My joke was a lot funnier.
Still, it’s quite flattering that the “Titanic” column has been so popular all around the country, and not just at BYU. Especially considering I didn’t think it was that great when I wrote it. Some of the jokes are too weird, I think, and some of them are just lame. In fact, I was afraid people who hadn’t seen the movie wouldn’t find it funny at all (the e-mails I’ve gotten have proved otherwise), and that because of its unusual format — not a typical “Snide Remarks” — people just wouldn’t take to it. Obviously, I was wrong.
The first real problem with all the e-mail forwarding developed on March 10, 1998, when I received an e-mail from a co-worker. A friend had sent it to her, saying a writer friend of his parents had written it. “It” was my “Titanic” column, with several changes. Obviously, the friend of the parents of the guy my co-worker knows did NOT write it; I did. I never did get to the bottom of this. If you would like to read the plagiarized version — it is rather interesting to see the changes he made, and it was circulated somewhat widely — you can find it here.
More problems developed on March 24, when the inevitable finally happened: Someone forwarded me this column, it having been forwarded to her by someone who CLAIMED TO HAVE WRITTEN IT HIMSELF! This incident, which is called plagiarism and which is still illegal in this country, is still under investigation.
But it didn’t stop there. Following a tip given to me by an anonymous informant, I did an Internet search on the Alta Vista search engine. I discovered about 30 websites on which this column had been posted. All but two of the people had posted it without giving me credit; two or three of them even claimed to have written it themselves! Subsequent searchs over the next year or so uncovered literally hundreds of Web sites on which this column was posted.
(For the record, the following three people have each, at some point, claimed authorship of this column: Maren Connolly, D.C. Rouseau and Laura Varner. Kenneth R. Gilland’s name was put on it at some point, but after he was publicly accused of plagiarism, both on this Web site and in the first “Snide Remarks” book, he contacted me and informed me that he never claimed to have written it. He merely forwarded the e-mail to some friends, and someone along the way mistakenly attributed it to him. So he is exonerated.)
Thus began an e-mail campaign that continued for quite some time. I would find these sites, track down their creators, and set them straight as to who wrote the piece. I would then insist they either remove the article from their site, or else give me proper credit. Most gave me the credit; a few simply, lazily, removed the column from their site. A few more, even more lazily, ignored my e-mail.
When the first “Snide Remarks” book was nearing completion, I began e-mailing all the sites again, this time telling them they had to remove the piece — merely giving me attribution wouldn’t be enough. For copyright reasons, we couldn’t have the article floating around the Internet, attribution or no attribution.
All of this Internet policing caught the attention of Andy Riga, an Internet columnist for the Montreal Gazette. He interviewed me via e-mail and printed a very good column about the whole thing on July 29, 1998. It used to be online, but the Gazette apparently doesn’t keep things there forever, because it’s gone now. (2017 note: Almost 20 years later, he still writes for the Montreal Gazette! That’s quite impressive.)
As for people’s reaction to the column: Obviously, many, many people liked it, well enough to steal it. But of course, some people were bothered by it too. Some of them had exactly the reaction I thought I would get from certain females in the population. Here’s the first letter I got, exactly the way it was written, typos and all:

I thought “Titanic” was the best movie I’ve ever seen and even though you may not care what I think, your column kind of hurt. I’ve only seen it once, due to the immodest scenes (I wasn’t warned about them beforehand), but what is wrong with seeing a movie more than once if you really like it? How many times have you seen “So I Married An Axe Murderer” or “Billy Madison” or “Tommy Boy”? I’m sure more than once. [That’s true, except for “Billy Madison,” which I got half-way through before realizing it wasn’t funny.] Those are great movies and we see them more than once because they just seem funnier every time. “Titanic” may not be funnier every time people go see it but it just gets better because you understand it a lot more than the first time you saw it. Anyway, I’m not mad at you because you still tell the truth and you are still very funny, sometimes.

PD: No te preocupes, todavia me caes bien.

(The last bit is Spanish for “Don’t worry, I still like you,” more or less.)
If your feelings can get hurt just by being told that seeing a movie more than once is silly, then I think your feelings are too easily hurt. However, this girl must have gotten over it, because she bought a copy of my book — which contained her letter — and had me sign it when I did a book-signing at the BYU Bookstore in September 1998.
I then received this e-mail, written by two girls who did NOT come to the book-signing. I am reprinting this exactly as I got it. I have italicized the parts of the letter I like best:

Usually my roommate and I read your column and laugh, but this time, you went too far with your attack on Titanic. You for one, criticized girls for seeing movies over and over. They don’t just see Titanic, there’s a little known fact there that girls have feelings more than typical guys do, and they happen to enjoy movies that catch their attention. Some people have noticed Titanic more, it is a movie that not only shows a nice love story, which girls happen to love, if you haven’t noticed, it is also a history of a very important event in history. It is good for people to know this, and to see this history, to realize the mistakes that people make, in order that they are not made again. So maybe the love story isn’t true, with Rose and Jack, but it added to the dramatics of an actual story, and we feel that it is important that people see this. If you are offended by the sex scene in it, I can see how that could be, that is not the whole movie. Having Rose sketched naked isn’t the whole movie either, and people seem to only see that, and not realize the truth. Many more points are shown, the actual sinking, the amount of deaths, and the prized things that were associated with it. In your criticizing of Leonardo DiCapprio, it seems as though you are jealous of his looks, or of the fact that girls happen to enjoy seeing him act. This shows that possibly you are jealous of an actor, which would be quite natural of a guy who has been in tons of movies, and made more money than you will in your whole life. He also has more girls swarming over him than you could ever imagine. Sorry if you don’t like this movie, but we feel that maybe you shouldn’t be so critical of it when so many other people enjoy it.

This letter, which by the way was signed by two freshman girls — it took TWO people to write this letter — just irritated the heck out of me. Such immature arguments, such emotional knee-jerk reactions, such, such a lot of things. So I wrote this letter in reply:

I’m glad you guys normally enjoy my column.
“Having Rose sketched naked isn’t the whole movie either, and people seem to only see that, and not realize the truth.”

Which truth is this? The truth that the naked sketching part did NOTHING to further the love story between Jack and Rose, and was used only as an excuse to show someone naked? The truth that Mormons will go see ANY movie as long as it’s not rated R, regardless of what’s in it? The truth that many of these same Mormons would be highly offended if they saw the same exact nudity in a rated-R movie, but since it’s PG-13, that makes it OK? These are the points I was trying to make in the column.

“In your criticizing of Leonardo DiCapprio, it seems as though you are jealous of his looks, or of the fact that girls happen to enjoy seeing him act.”

Ah, see, you’ve hit on an interesting point. While I certainly wouldn’t mind looking like him (well, maybe a little older), what I don’t like is how so many girls — we’re talking about the high school girls, mostly — think he’s this great actor, when what they mean is, he’s really good-looking. They have NO IDEA whether he’s actually talented or not, all they care about is his looks. I’m tired of people in all areas of society being judged solely on looks, and having good qualities attributed to them simply because they are attractive. (“I think he’s cute, therefore he must be a great actor.”) Leonardo’s appearance has no bearing whatsoever on his acting talent, which is marginal.

“Sorry if you don’t like this movie, but we feel that maybe you shouldn’t be so critical of it when so many other people enjoy it.”

Sorry if you don’t like the column, but I feel that maybe you shouldn’t be so critical of it when so many other people enjoy it.

Are you saying I have no right to criticize a movie if a lot of other people like it? That I should adjust my opinion according to what the voice of the people says? I wasn’t trying to put forth the idea that EVERYBODY didn’t like it; just that I didn’t.

A lot of people liked the “Titanic” column. In fact, I’ve gotten more positive e-mail about it than I usually get about other columns.

As is often the case, you’ve let your emotions take over and dictate for you what’s funny and what’s not. If you had agreed with me, you’d have found the column funny. Since you disagree — and since you have such strong emotions about the movie — your emotions are refusing to let you find the column funny. I can make fun of anything else, and it’s all in fun. But as soon as I touch your precious Leonardo — now it’s not funny anymore! Now it’s unfair and mean! Now I’m just jealous! I’ve never been jealous of the other people I’ve made fun of, but now all of a sudden my motives for writing humor columns have changed. Now I’m in it to tear down the people who are better than me! You’ve discovered my secret! Aaaah!

Thanks for the great e-mail. I’ll post it to my website (without your names, don’t worry), so others — with a sense of humor — can see it.


Obviously, I wasn’t feeling very tactful or diplomatic when I wrote that, and I knew it would just upset them more. But I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without at least trying to set them straight in some of their logic. I didn’t want them to think I agreed with them, and I couldn’t find a nicer way of putting it. (Admittedly, I didn’t try very hard.)
Why on earth did they take my column so personally? The fact that they could even get so worked up over a column that makes fun of a MOVIE indicates that these gals were letting their emotions do their thinking for them.
Anyway, they both wrote back to me, separately this time. Here are the unretouched letters, with a lot more typos than before, suggesting that maybe they really DID need to write together instead of separately.

As for me I DO find your colemn humorous in some ways. But it’s not just Leondardo. The movie in general is a good movie. And Leonardo is a good actor. HE has been in many other movies other than Titanic and girls still see him. They don’t just drool over him in Titanic. He has a good acting style and his looks are just a bonus. Personally I don’t see how making fun of anyone or anything can be humorous to you. I guess I am just the type of person who doesn’t critisize. I am not critisizing your article, I am just commenting on it. [Ah, thanks for the clarfication.] Which may be what you are doing in your articles. I just hope you know that there is a boundary line, and that can hurt alot of people. You commenting on any mormons going to see a movie because it is PG13 and not caring what is in it, well that hurts me alot. I actually do take percaution in the movies that I watch. Maybe not everyone does, but alot of people do. I am hurt by your email, and I chose not to read your colemn any longer. Not that this will mean alot to you, but just know that somewhere in the world you have hurt an individual. That individual would be me. I am sorry if you think other wise, but that still doesn’t accout for your remarks made towards me. You are actually looking down upon me for seeing that movie, well I don’t feel that I need you to judge me. But thanks for the concern anyway. Good luck in the rest of your endeavors.

I’m not sure why she felt I was attacking HER for seeing the movie. For crying out loud, I saw it too. Maybe my thing about how Mormons will see movies just because they’re PG-13, regardless of their content, was too general for her. I really didn’t mean to say that ALL Mormons are like that; just some of them, and perhaps you could even say Mormons in general. At any rate, I certainly didn’t mean to single her out. Oh, well. The other girl seemed to take it the same way, I think, though she handled it in a far less mature manner:

I was very offended by your reply, and very hurt, because of the way you judge. Your comment of “The truth that Mormons will go see ANY movie as long as it’s not rated R, regardless of what’s in it” really wasn’t a truth. For your information, I grew up in a strong household, where my parents had to see any movie rated PG-13 before I or any of my siblings could. There are many movies that I haven’t seen just because of things that are in them. You are implying that Mormons go to any movie, just as long as its rated something lower than R. I must disagree with you there. How dare you just stereotype that idea.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a good actor, and I remember watching him act in TV shows since I was young. He is not on the screen just for looks, and obviously you would know this is if you had any knowledge of his past with acting. I don’t care for the looks. I care how he is able to show emotions, and to portray himself. You assume that all people just like him because of his looks, and you are extremely mistaken there. Your comment of “I think he’s cute, therefore he must be a great actor.”, show’s that you have no clue what is going on in girl’s heads.

And as for your comment that Leonardo’s acting talent being marginal, I see him in a whole lot more movies than I’ve ever seen, um, well, YOU in. So obviously he has a talent more than you do, hu? [Oh, yeah?! Well how many newspapers does Leonardo write for? Hu? Hu?]

How dare you say that I’ve “Let your emotions take over and dictate for you what’s funny and what’s not.” You have no idea what my emotions said about that movie, or about your column. The main reason we wrote you an email was for what you said about the MOVIE. Not about Leonardo DiCapprio. [Then why did you spend the last two paragraphs so vigorously defending him? And are you somehow less emotionally wacky for writing me angry mail about a movie than you would be if you were writing about an actor?] You ought to re-read things before you go and try and put someone down, which is exactly what you have done by stereotyping high school girls, and Mormons, and myself. You don’t even know me, how dare you try and assume you know what I think. For myself, I will no longer read your stero-typic column, for I feel no need to see you find pleasure in putting others down. Isn’t BYU a place we come to build people up? I guess it is in all ways except for Eric Snyder’s opinion column. [Or even in Eric Snider’s, for that matter.]

These three letters are some of most favorite letters of all time.
I mentioned earlier that this column was forwarded to people all around the country. One of those recipients sent me this e-mail message. I have not added anything to it; all parenthetical remarks were in the original:

I received this publication via email forward. I usually find the material emailed to me amusing, but not this time.

I’ve seen this movie 5 times, NOT to think the movie will end differently, and NOT to look at Leonardo DiCaprio OR his TERRIBLE acting. I find it to be a perfectly accurate portrayal of what actually happened, and who was on board [with the exception of Rose and Jack, of course]. But in your little “I hate Titanic” rant, you did make several large-scale errors. The movie is only 3 hours and 14 minutes long. This is not quite as long as “The Stand” or “Schindler’s List,” both of which are equally as interesting. Gloria Stewart [old Rose]’s character is only 100 [“101 next month”], and it ONLY took the actual ship 2 HOURS AND 40 MINUTES to sink from the collision point, not 4 hours[and according to your calculations, the movie is 3 times as long as 4 hours, or 12 hours? I THINK NOT]. It struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm and finally went under at 2:20. So you’re WRONG. Whether you meant this as a joke or not, please get the facts before you plan on insulting people who appreciate good cinematography, and maybe you can learn to appreciate the wreck and be respectable of the 1500 people who DIED in 1912. Show some RESPECT for crying out loud.
[oh and if you actually wish to LEARN something, you can check out for the RMS Titanic Inc website.

The letters just kept coming. This one is again reprinted exactly as it was e-mailed to me, including the 4,832 commas the writer used instead of other, more appropriate punctuation. I have italicized the parts I like best.

Actually it took 2hrs.and 40 minutes for Titanic to sink, so that leaves about 40 minutes for “extras”. I feel you are completely titled to your own opinion, Titanic is a big part of history, It is one of the event that made the world the way it is now, and you treat it, with such little respect, I am so amazed by how well this film captured Titanic, the losses, and the lifes of those aboard. I think Titanic was a wonderful movie, it’s not just because of Leonardo DiCaprio, I think he is a good actor, and Kate Winslet was amazing in it, It’s wonderful because it’s a true story, it’s romantic, funny, there’s action, and it almost all of it happened, so what if “Jack” and “Rose” were not real characters, it was a wonderful way of putting it all together, and who knows, the story might be real…Maybe there was a love triangle on the ship, if you only knew how close to home this movie has hit with people, you might think twice before putting it down so much, this movie is important to people, because it portrays real human emotions, and the fact that life is important, and that part where rose was painted in the nude I thought it was a beautiful scene, it was just a painting, art. I think people who are offended by this movie, those scenes, should just not see it.

And I think people who are offended by my column should just not read it. In reference to her “if you only knew how close to home this movie has hit with people,” that’s exactly the reason why I DID make fun of it: because the movie hits close to home. For many people — some of these letter-writers included — “Titanic” was the emotional pinnacle of their entire lives. If nobody cared about the movie, a parody would have been pointless. But you knew that.
Another letter, this one more in reference to my not-so-kind handling of the letter from those two freshman girls earlier:

I am writing you about your article “Clash of the Titanic.” I thought that your re-written script was very funny. However, it was very immature of you to make the assumptions that you made about people. I’m sure that it is very easy for you to bash a bunch of teenage girls that might not have the best writing skills, but in reading their letters and your article, I found that you are no different from them. [Okay, so maybe you can portray your feelings a bit more eloquently than they.] You ask why people – or, according to you, women – see movies (Titanic, in particular) more than once. Have you not ever read a book more than once? Have you not rented the same movie several times for the mere fact that you enjoy it? I have seen Titanic three times. Granted ten hours is a long time to devote to one movie, but I saw the movie three times because I liked it a great deal. I didn’t do it to see Leonardo DiCaprio (who, is handsome, but is nothing more than an underdeveloped boy). I didn’t do it because I’m a woman. In fact, I know many males that saw the movie more than once. I did it because it was an event. The movie is to me like many of the great classics. Of course I knew that the outcome would never change. I did not spend the $27 dollars for the suspense. I just loved the movie. True, it was not a comedy like Tommy Boy or Billy Madison, but it gave me the same pleasure that these movies do. I left the theater, eyes gushing, with a sense of happiness every time. I did enjoy the love story, but I also enjoyed the knowledge gained. I think about the poor people on the boat, and all of the chances the crew had to prevent this tragic accident. I think about the horrible way that the upper-class people turned away their fellow human beings because they had dirty hands. I realize that the movie did not completely follow the historical facts, but most movies never do.

You may not have enjoyed the movie yourself, but that is no reason to rudely (and immaturely) degrade those that did. I could easily make fun of you for seeing Tommy Boy more than once, but that would not be respecting your right to your own opinion. I loved the movie, but I also enjoyed your synopsis. I don’t feel that you were attempting to offend anyone with it, but some of your remarks were too much. Perhaps your only joy comes from cracking jokes about others, but I hope you see that that makes you no different from the teenagers you wrote about. Anyone could easily joke about your “lack of a life.” I mean, you sit around re-writing movies and getting into verbal arguments with young children. [Well, yeah, but I get paid for it.]However, I respect your opinion. I enjoyed your article. I just caution you to be more aware of what you write. Some of your statements could really offend people (Mormons, women, you know).

On March 12, I finally got an angry “Titanic” letter from a MAN! I was so excited. The subject line on the e-mail was “Titanic,” and the letter said only that I was an illegitimate child (well, he used a slightly harsher word), and that my private parts had some serious problems in regards to their location, and well, there’s really not a polite way of explaining what he said. I responded and thanked him for his concern about my private parts. That’s when he wrote back with this (it will help you to know that he is British):

The only reason you act so macho man when it comes down to Titanic is that you are afraid of showing your real emotions. Deep down feel for those 1000 odd people who froze to death in water, 4 degrees below but you think yourself too high and mighty to show any sort of recognition. You probably went to see the film with your bird (if you have one, which I highly doubt) who cried her eyes out. You thought to yourself, look at the weakness in here, but the fact is, YOU are week, as you can’t feel for those people who died and what a sad thought that is. And by the way Kate Winslet is one of finest actors I know. She based her character on how she felt when her boyfriend for four years died of bone cancer in 1995. She is a girl with determination and strength, where you some sort of SAD BASTARD who’s got so many ants in his pants, he cant sit through a three hour film. Arrrrr was it too long for, did you need to go for a pee pee stop in the middle, or did you [have an accident in] your pants and have to change your nappy. You sound like a spoilt brat and an unachiever. I will respect your criticism when you can achieve the smallest fraction of what Kate Winslet has managed to achieve. You’re a sad GIT who thought, “I will be different and slag off one of the best films of all time”. The fact is you stand-alone. So go ahead and act a fool cos that is what you are.

P.S. You are obviously not British!!

He is correct in saying that I am not British; this of course is evident in the fact that I brush my teeth regularly.
With his e-mail, he was kind enough to send this picture of Kate Winslet, whom I actually find very attractive and talented, and whom I have defaced merely out of immaturity.

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Kate Winslet
The next e-mail came from an anonymous student at Southwest Texas State University. The writer does not identify its gender, but I assume it’s a guy because of the way he writes. He addresses me as “Ed,” probably because my e-mail address began with “edsnider,” and he didn’t realize the “ed” represented my first two initials. It’s a common mistake, and I don’t think he’s stupid for making it, particularly not when he presented so many better reasons to think he’s stupid:

Dear Ed..after wasting a few minutes reading your watered down attempt at making a joke I decided that i should let you in on how mis-informed you are…..First of all the titanic was arguably one of the most tragic events that took place this century.and the people that died on that fateful day in 1912 would probably regard you as an ‘ass’ or mabey an ‘arse’ because you are indeed an ass. But that is beside the point..the thing you should realize is that you are not funny and you will probably never be funny it is perhaps in your best intrest to abandon all future attempts in writing any type of literature that is supposed to have any substance – leave the titanic jokes to Letterman or Norm should try to spend the rest of your weekend looking for a new occupation as a book keeper or insurance salesmen —-may god have mercy on your pathetic frustrated soul

On Sept. 8, 1998, The Daily Universe reprinted this column in honor of “Titanic” being released on video, and also in honor of the fact that the column was in my book, which we really wanted people to buy. Along with the column, we also ran a story about all the attention it received — being e-mailed around the world, plagiarized, etc. The reprint prompted only one angry letter this time, but it’s a great one. It was hand-delivered, not e-mailed, and typed on a typewriter. It was signed with a fake name and there was no return address of any kind. (You can always tell that a person has strong convictions when they don’t want you to know who they are.) Here’s the letter, exactly as it was typed:

Dear Mr. Snider:

I am not a de Caprio fan, but I have seen “Titanic.” If this means I am going to hell because I viewed the uncut, uncensored version, so be it. [There was, at this time, much media attention given to a video store in American Fork, Utah, that would, for $5, edit out the nude scene and the sex scene from your personal copy of “Titanic.” It would appear that the letter-writer is referring to that, and to the furor over whether a movie should ever be edited, blah blah blah.]

I have read your article about the “Titanic.” So? If what you wrote was an attempt at humor, it should have gone down with the Titanic as well. [Ha! Good one!] Humorous? No, it was more like stupid, contrived, dopey, or a waste of time and good newspaper space.

All your whining about getting credit for the “article” [um, funny or not, I don’t think there’s much question that it WAS an article, though her quotation marks around that word would imply otherwise] sounds more like an effort to bring attention to sell your lame [oh, so she’s read it, then] humor booklet.

Your so-called writings [again, like them or not, I think we can safely say that the things I’ve written ARE writings] during your time at B.Y.U. have been stupid. Your picture even looks stupid. [Ouch!] To think tithing money, etc., went to support the Daily Universe and garbage like yours. Ugh!

Just leave, and take your nonsense with you.

T.E. Richards
A Non-fan

Woo! Man alive! That was a scorcher, no? This person’s main complaint seems to be simply that the article wasn’t funny — but since when does something being unfunny prompt such passionate, hateful responses? This woman’s got deeper issues than just not thinking I’m funny. I don’t think I’m funny half the time, but I don’t hate me nearly as much as she does.
I should explain the “tithing” remark. BYU, being owned by the LDS Church, is largely subsidized by tithing funds from the church. (The LDS people are pretty good about making their donations. That’s why everyone thinks the church is rich.) This subsidizing helps keep tuition remarkably low, around $1,300 per semester at this time.
The truth is, though, that The Daily Universe is 80 percent self-sustaining (or at least it was at this time; I assume it’s about the same today). We paid BYU for our office space, we printed the paper off-campus, we paid almost all of our own bills. So if any “tithing money” went to publish this column, it wasn’t much. And even if was — so what?
In July 2003 — more than five years after the column was initially published — I received this angry e-mail from someone named Nikki:


My first thought was that this was a fake angry letter. I get those often — more often than real angry letters, in fact — from people who either are hoping I will mistake the fake letter for a real one and immortalize it on my site, or from people who just think it’s funny to write parodies of angry letters. I assumed this was one of those. So I wrote back and said, “Thanks for the funny e-mail.” I figured if Nikki was not for real, she would realize I’d caught on and drop it. But her response made me think she was probably for real after all:


So there you go. Further evidence that we have failed as a society in teaching people not to be idiots.
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You know, I’d like to say something else about “Titanic.” Along with all these angry letters, I also got many, MANY letters from people who said, “Right on! I hated ‘Titanic’ too!” I became the poster boy for anti-“Titanic” sentiments — quite literally, as evidenced by the photo illustration a reader named Mike Booth sent me, which I have since had enlarged to full poster size. But you know what? I never said I hated “Titanic.” I said it was too long — a belief which I will take with me to the grave — and I pointed out some problems I had with it. Beyond that, all I said, or even implied, was that the movie was not as good as everyone seemed to think it was. That doesn’t mean it’s bad — that just means it’s not a Classic, or a Masterpiece.
So that’s all I was saying. Not that “Titanic” was a terrible movie; just that it was a so-so movie. To some people, though, calling it “so-so” was an unforgivable crime. And I will be amused by those people until the day I die.
Post script: Eventually, I saw “Titanic” a second time. It was in the dollar theaters in mid-summer 1998, and I wanted to see if I really hated it as much as everyone thought I did. So I went with a friend, with the main intention of mocking it and jotting down the worst parts of the dialogue. We did both of those things, but I’ll be honest: I enjoyed the movie. It entertained me the first time, and it entertained me the second time. My stated opinions of it — morally dubious, poorly written, too long, not worth all the hype — still stand. But I will reaffirm here that I didn’t think it was terrible. Happy now?