Rotten Beef

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The Smoking Gun has a copy of Cho Seung Hui's play "Richard McBeef." Surprise! It sucks. An oddly verbose 13-year old hurls insults at his unlikeable stepfather, his shrill mother howling in the background. Eventually the 13-year old tries to choke the stepfather and the adult responds with a "deadly blow."

Here's the violent act at the climax of the 10-page epic:

Other choice quotes from the play: "Are you a bisexual psycho racist murderer! Please stop following me." And "I wonder why its so sunny out! Today is one fruity day!" It's incredibly stupid and the violence is cartoonish. Something to consider if the discussion evolves into "why didn't authorities see the threats in his own writing and lock him up?"

Also: His favorite song was "Shine" by Collective Soul. Puzzle over that one.

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  1. “His favorite song was ‘Shine’ by Collective Soul.”

    Another reason to get tough with illegal downloads?

  2. Today is one fruity day

    I believe that may have been a typo. He might have meant “Today is one froody day”. As you know, Zaphod’s use of the term elevates it to permahellahip status. It’s so hip in fact that it’s doubtful Cho ever encountered it. So he probably did mean fruity after all.

    We could use a little context here. It’s not clear if he meant gay or cobbler.

  3. If I went out and killed a bunch of people, do you think TSG would publish my screenplays?

    Logline: “Aspiring screenwriter goes on a murderous rampage in hopes of selling his movie scripts.” (Think “Natural Born Killers” meets “Adaptation.”)

    Talk about high concept! Producers, please contact me at your earliest convenience.

  4. “Are you a bisexual psycho racist murderer!”

    No. But I play one on TV.

  5. God, that’s an awful play.

  6. I hope all this emphasis on the killer’s pathetic script doesn’t reflect badly on my high school buddy and his pathetic screenplay. I swear, he wouldn’t hurt a flea.

  7. There is another play by the world’s shootingest playwrite available, entitled “Mr. Brownstone,” apparently a riff on a song I never heard. I found it somewhat more amusing than this pedophiliac/murderous stepfather one.

  8. But Egon think of your words!

    Print is dead

  9. I read both “plays” at cnn and found them to be quite a bit tamer than the media buildup had suggested. I was expecting something along the lines of a dramatized Diary of Jack the Ripper. Instead, the plays consist mostly of a lot of yelling and swearing about being molested by older men.

    And they really do stink. Aside from the weird content, they seem like something a kid would write at 3:00 am on the day they’re due.

  10. Or maybe he was really majoring in Engrish, but got confused and ended up in the wrong classes.

  11. Dammit, that was me.

  12. OH CHRIST! I just read that crap. David’s excerpts don’t begin to uncover the full horror of it. The detention class from my Jr High wrote better stuff (course that was the 70’s).

    If VA Tech allows that level of incompetence to matriculate as an English Major, they shouldn’t bother with the program. Stick to Engineering VAT!

    At first I thought this was what happened when English majors attempt engineering classes, but not it turns out this is the (entirely predictable and foreseeable) consequences of an engineering school attempting an English program.

    Woe unto us all.

  13. It certainly lacks that Barton Fink feeling.

  14. Warren, it’s just that his manner and girth frighten you.

    Don’t cower and run into the kitchen.

  15. Does anyone know anything about this kid’s parents? Did he have a stepfather? After reading the “plays” and reading others’ descriptions of him, he strikes me as having a great deal of repressed anger and hostility. And he sounds as though he was wound tighter than a cheap watch.

  16. There is, however, an English major’s joke in this vile play about the murderous conflict between a young hero and his new stepfather who murdered his real father — the situation is lifted from another, somewhat better play called “Hamlet.”

  17. Are these plays really any worse than Woody Allen will be another 10 years from now?

  18. It’s incredibly stupid and the violence is cartoonish

    Isn’t that the very same disclaimer on every new video game?

  19. I want the past 5 minutes of my life back.

  20. {There is, however, an English major’s joke in this vile play about the murderous conflict between a young hero and his new stepfather who murdered his real father — the situation is lifted from another, somewhat better play called “Hamlet.” }

    Ah! So it was a parody of Shakespear – a comedy, if you will! Poor, misunderstood genius. If only he had grinned once in awhile, someone might have guessed.

  21. I just wonder about the symbolism of the cereal bar? Why would it have to be banana? and how would anyone watching the play know it was banana?

  22. Somnetimes a cereal bar is just a cereal bar.

  23. Isn’t that the very same disclaimer on every new video game?

    Yeah, which leads into my point:

    Maybe it’s the stalking, not the writing or his preference for his own company, that was the real warning sign. I’m sure there’s quite a lot of crap like that written by quite a number of wannabe-fry-cook English majors. But most of them as yet have not gone on killing sprees.

    But when he started taking his fantasies into real life, he crossed a pretty obvious line. If we’re going to take anything more seriously, it’s escalating inappropriate contact with others.

  24. I liked it.


  25. Isn’t that the very same disclaimer on every new video game?”

    Yeah, it’s the rating that the ESRB uses for all the Grand Theft Auto games.

  26. [i]There is, however, an English major’s joke in this vile play about the murderous conflict between a young hero and his new stepfather who murdered his real father — the situation is lifted from another, somewhat better play called “Hamlet.”[/i]

    The overall plot definitely, but there’s at least a little [i]Lolita[/i] too.

  27. From what I understand about events so far, the stalking and the two hour gap are where the university and police really fell down on the job.

  28. Now, say that you are the dean of some college and decide to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy where any student who writes something like that screenplay is dealt with very seriously. Perhaps, suspended and required to undergo intense psychological analysis before the suspension is lifted.

    Would they be able to draw a line between this guy and a future Quentin Tarantino?

  29. His plays suck major balls. Ironically (correct use?) if he had written on paper what he executed in real life, it probably would have turned out to be an interesting story and insight into the mind of a madman.

  30. As a physicist, I hope that none of my students ever write a paper with speculative proposals for a doomsday device or self-replicating nanobot. I’d have to turn the student in, and totally put the kibbosh on any chance of seeing a cool senior project happen!

  31. Maybe if he had written in Korean it would have been different. It’s just a cultural thing that a lot of people whose only exposure has been to the American scene can’t grasp. I’m certain that to Baghdadians it is quite a comedy.

  32. Certainly not as bad as that kill-the-stripper email by the Duke student that the cops leaked.

    Even if they were going to start taking people’s guns away for disturbing writing, this would not seem to qualify.

  33. Dr T:

    admit it! you put the kibbosh on Dr. Evil’s Alan Parsons Project!

  34. Damnit, I wrote far darker and better written stuff than that in college, and no one ever sent me in for counseling. I want my tuition money back!

  35. As a physicist, I hope that none of my students ever write a paper with speculative proposals for a doomsday device or self-replicating nanobot. I’d have to turn the student in, and totally put the kibbosh on any chance of seeing a cool senior project happen!

    Nothing will ever beat a giant tray of JiffyPop cooked from space anyways.

  36. Jesus Tapdancing Christ on a cracker that shit was awful. I really don’t understand what everyone in the media is getting all wound up about.Other than the poor quality of writing, these plays don’t strike me as anything warranting any real suspicion. Christ, I wrote a lot more twisted stuff than that in creative writing classes. The only strongconnection I can really see between these plays and his actions relates to his suicide. I mean, if I were an english major and that was the best I could do…

  37. you put the kibbosh on Dr. Evil’s Alan Parsons Project!

    Which I believe was some kind of hovercraft.

  38. Peachy – so they rocked the kibbosh?

    “Jesus Tapdancing Christ on a cracker that shit was awful”

    hilarious sentence, old bean!

  39. His plays suck.

    But what really concerns me is all these idiots who think students should be profiled and incarcerated for some shitty writings from a Creative WRITING class.

    IMHO, these kids should be able to write whatever the fuck they want, no matter how weird/violent/terrible without the fear of being snitched on by teachers. If it sucks, give him an F, but to involve authorities for fantasy writing in a fucking creative writing class..where the fuck do these people come from.

  40. Man, I’m glad you guys realize how weak they are, both in terms of writing quality and violent content.

    I felt like a freak at the other blogs I post on–the folks other places are whining all kinds of bullshit about how “creepy” and “disturbing” and “deranged” Cho’s writing was. I thought it was lame, immature, and unimaginative.

    By themselves, the two plays give no indication of somebody about to go postal. They’re typical angry-young-man-without-a-clue-what-he’s-angry-about
    pablum.

    Dude’s daily behavior’s another story.

    For graphic, unrepentant violence (on the page, that is), I’ll take Ken Bruen over Seung Cho any day of the week.

  41. Maybe the “banana” in the cereal bar was a metaphor for cramming something else down his step-dad’s throat?

  42. A (UCF) film professor I have told our class about teaching at Full Sail, a program for film and music studio punks who barely made it out of high school.

    She said that 90% of the scripts she received had at least one violent death, with about 30% having beheadings or de-limbings.

  43. Let me hear you say this shit is bananas
    B-A-N-A-N-A-S
    This shit is bananas

  44. As always, the overreaction to tragic events will become the greater tragedy.

    ISD
    Outstanding use of the word ‘Tapdancing’. Makes me want to try harder with my comments.

  45. Crane – is that you, Gwen?

    BakedP: those films would be better if they substituted beheadings/de-limbings with yiffing.

  46. How did he get to be a senior writing stuff like that?

    You’d think that by his sophomore year, one of his teachers would have quietly taken him aside, and pointed out that maybe he should consider getting a degree in basket weaving or something.

  47. Gotta say, liking Collective Soul in general, and ‘Shine’ in particular, may be the warning sign that everyone missed. It’s clearly not healthy.

  48. VM – Given my sign on name here, I couldn’t argue with you even if I disagreed with you.

  49. Apropos of nothing, Dolly Parton’s cover of “Shine” is really outstanding.

  50. A (UCF) film professor I have told our class about teaching at Full Sail, a program for film and music studio punks who barely made it out of high school.

    She said that 90% of the scripts she received had at least one violent death, with about 30% having beheadings or de-limbings
    You’re in the UCF film program? So am I!

    As a guy who worked on a school literary magazine, I experienced the same thing. We;d run across stories about 7-year-olds killing themselves, 500 corny and “dark” noir stories, and downer poetry everyday. These kids weren’t dark souls; they where just trying to make people think they where.

  51. I guess I’m the only one who liked the play.

    “Richard McBeef” could have been the start of a promising career for a Hollywood pulp writer. Seriously, is it be any worse than things like “Saw 3”?

    It’s got all the features of mainline American cinema: gratuitous violence, rampant homophobia, cardboard characters and few ambiguities. Kid had talent.

  52. mediageek,
    You brought your digit in direct contact with the olfactory sensor. I do believe that this was the true failing of the system that led to the tragic events. This toad should never have been accepted as a freshman, awarding him passing grades in English is just unforgivable. I imagine he could not help but know how inadequate he was to the station in life he had attained. Goes a long way towards explaining his resentment of his “rich kids” peers.

    Of course his trouble with “debauchery” probably came from somewhere else, and may very well have had a greater influence.

    As for the “deceitful charlatans”, I’d say it was the self loathing talking.

  53. Penguin – ohshit! didn’t think of that!

    I guess this woodland creature couldn’t argue, either!

  54. This is really just a testament to how shitty colleges have become. Why on earth was he still attending school and writing such shit for classes in HIS MAJOR?! He was such a whackjob that no amount of anti-gun bitching will take much of a hold. Had he just been busted once for stalking, he most likely wouldn’t have passed any background check anyway.

    Did anyone see the interview with his two smiling former roommates? They fucked this one up big time as they knew all about his stalking. Since they weren’t exactly friend of his they should have had no problem busting his ass.

  55. ‘Tis I, scandohoovian ungulate.

    I didn’t really get how a wanna-be Travis Bickle fixates on “Shine On.” But then I looked at the lyrics and I can kind of see how it could resonate with a maladjusted, badly wired, aliented type desperately wanting that thing he either wasn’t born with or that got burned out of him by something in his past.

    Sandy, btw, had the best insight I’ve seen so far with this comment:

    But when he started taking his fantasies into real life, he crossed a pretty obvious line. If we’re going to take anything more seriously, it’s escalating inappropriate contact with others.

  56. He obviously didn’t listen during the class on how to defend yourself from someone wielding a banana.

  57. Dolly Parton’s cover of “Shine” is really outstanding.

    Hmm, somebody keep an eye on SeeingI, wouldja?

  58. ooh. whoops. sorry. can’t keep up with the clever humor here! woo hoo! [indoor voice:]hmmm. maybe start a list[/iv]

    THERE IS ONLY ONE SONG WITH THE TITLE “SHINE”. hier

  59. Jonathan – small world! If you see a guy pushing 40 with baggy eyes and short blond hair in the Com building, that’s probably me. I’m going to apply for an MFA program, either here or at NYU.

    In my distant past, I knew a lot of death metal types and goths, so I too have more than a passing acquaintence with crappy dark fiction.

    As far as “McBeef” goes, someone should have told him that if you write more than one draft, the results will be better. (Although no amount of changes would make it good.) If the pedophilia theme is autobiographical, however, that could go a long way to explaining his personality and actions.

  60. Gadzooks, this Shakespeare whelp sure writes some violent and dark prose. I’d better notify the Sheriff of Warwickshire post haste!

  61. Um, Fox News reported that in Hui’s play the weapon brandished by John against his father was a Rice Krispies treat, not a banana cereal bar. Did they get that wrong, or does Hui have another play in which someone attacks his dad with a Rice Krispies treat? This guy was out there.

    Writing about a son attacking his father with anything banana-related is…..

    Maybe the “banana” in the cereal bar was a metaphor for cramming something else down his step-dad’s throat?

    The next 2 lines of the play make it clear that you might be on to something.

  62. Thanks for the tip, MP. Wonder why the background check didn’t pick that up when he bought the guns last month?

  63. He ripped off The Lion King.

  64. Richard McBeef sounds like some character that Adam Sandler is up for the role of.

  65. Edit that:

    “Richard McBeef” sounds like the titular character of a movie starring Adam Sandler.

  66. Jonathan – small world! If you see a guy pushing 40 with baggy eyes and short blond hair in the Com building, that’s probably me. I’m going to apply for an MFA program, either here or at NYU.

    Do you sometimes bring your kid to the comm building? Because I think I know who you are.

  67. Jeez. Ain’t it obvious the guy was a closeted gay?

  68. Wow, I couldn’t read past page two. What a piece of shit.

  69. What’s a gay? I know gay people… 😉

  70. Jonathan – no, I think that guy has black hair. I’ve only been there on Mondays this semester, and all my classes were in 145.

  71. kid can’t write.
    kid could not even plagarize.
    richard mcbeef?
    this is a riff on macbeth, but he steals the plot from hamlet–in which a slightly better playwright also stole the plot.
    no he did not have a stepfather.
    he had a mother and father who are now in a hospital from the shock–2 more lives destroyed by this loser.

  72. I agree that his writing, on its own, wouldn’t have lead me to believe he was a threat. But if I’d read the writing and had face-to-face contact with the guy, there would’ve been more of a context for making that judgment. There are potentially many behaviors that might’ve tipped off his classmates or professor.

    It seems pretty obvious that the people with the best information that he was a threat really blew it, however.

  73. Maybe it’s the stalking, not the writing or his preference for his own company, that was the real warning sign. I’m sure there’s quite a lot of crap like that written by quite a number of wannabe-fry-cook English majors. But most of them as yet have not gone on killing sprees.

    But when he started taking his fantasies into real life, he crossed a pretty obvious line. If we’re going to take anything more seriously, it’s escalating inappropriate contact with others.

    According to MP’s link, that’s precisely why he was in fact flagged as dangerous by the court.

    >:(

  74. Also: His favorite song was “Shine” by Collective Soul. Puzzle over that one.

    Hey! I like Collective Soul’s “Shine,” buy “Needs” is my favorite song from that group.

  75. Edit:… “Shine,” but “Needs”…

  76. So what kind of a grade did he get for this POS? (Since it wasn’t in math or hard sciences, there’s no possibility he got an F, as long as he formatted the paper correctly and it wasn’t full of misspellings and grammatical errors. But please tell me he got no better than a C-.)

  77. Nope. This one’s too good.

  78. I heard on the radio he got an A because the teacher was “intimidated” and just wanted to pass him along.

    That’s what I heard.

  79. Oh so he liked grunge-lite…that explains so much.

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