The Hate Mail File

January 18, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

I promised a while ago to share some of the hate mail I have gotten. I often save these missives, although most of the recent ones haven't been as creative as some of the older classics. Generally, I don't respond to hate mail, since a response is what the mailer/baiter is looking for. (I'm convinced most of them are teenage boys.) So, without further ado, here are excerpts from some of the nasty e-mails I have gotten in recent months. The names have been deleted to protect the not-so-innocent.

E-mail #1:

"Hi, I would just like you to know that I hate movie critics because they don't represent the nation. Usually they don't find movies that most Americans like, good and they trash them, such as you James Berardinelli. I was looking at your reviews and it seems like you have no personality. Maybe that is because you look like a pathetic man who's hurting inside, but I could be wrong. Look man, if you are feeling bad, maybe you should go work out those muscles or something and stop taking it out on movies; not everyone is as humorless or stiff as you. Please quit reviewing movies and take some steroids, or eat a sandwich or two. Anorexia kills."

This guy will be pleased to know I have gained about ten pounds during the past year. Nice to know he was concerned about my health.

E-mail #2:

"You know what Mr. Berardinelli, you must be a racist of some sort and mad that a homeless black mad overcame odds that most Caucasians cannot even begin to overcome. Instead they write a note on a cardboard box telling people that they are homeless and need a handout, or become alcoholics, or drug addicts or blame the world for not being a success. You must be stuck on stupid and insensitive. If this were the story of a white guy overcoming the odds of being homeless and then becoming a multi-millionaire, you'd give the movie 4 stars - now wouldn't you. Please!!!!!! Anything to keep us down, but you won't succeed. You must be upset that he makes more money than you and you haven't had anything stand in your way of being successful. I think you need to go find a kite to fly!!!!"

College professors should use this reasoning for their logic classes. At least he spelled my name right.

E-mail #3:

"James, you remind me of this guy Roeper... You, along with Roeper & Ebert may be the Joseph Goebbels of film criticism. Shameless propagandist who know nothing about the history of film or film analysis who present their simpleminded opinion as fact. I am just appalled at how bad a critic you are. Read this piece about Roeper. It is basically how I feel about you."

Despite being insulting, this guy is obviously intelligent (he has thus far sent me a half-dozen e-mails and replies to responses) and is a good writer, so he's in a different category than the usual sender of hate mail. In the attached "piece," he goes on to complain that his main problem with Roeper is that the guy gives an opinion but never a reason for an opinion. Few would agree that's my problem since my thesis for every review is: tell the reader what you think of the movie and why you think that way. I agree with him: an opinion without a reason doesn't make for worthwhile reading, but I'm not sure why he's pinning this tail on my donkey. At any rate, I have never met Richard Roeper nor have I watched him opposite Ebert, so I can't comment about him. I wouldn't mind getting his salary, however. The Goebbels parallel is interesting; I wonder how Roger would feel about that. Next thing you know, someone will be comparing me to Hitler.

E-mail #4:

"I am a Oxford University English Literature student, and i have been reading your so-called Fantasy Novels online. I have to say that they are among some of the most awfully written peices of work i have ever read. They are incredibly cheesy and corny and your form of writing is pathetic. How you can criticise others when your work is that of a childs is beyond me. You're of no use to the human race what so ever. Instead you form as a figure of hilarity in this already mundane century. You're a joke. Your Novels are literally pathetically written and you have no talent what so ever... Your characters have no substance or depth, instead there weak and poorly written to the smallest detail. You don't seem to understand fine tuning of a script, and you have no right to criticise others when you obviously can't seem to do it yourself. You're a hack writer. You're an idiot who thinks sub-shakespearean pretentious pompous drivel for dialogue is profound and poetic. It literally offends me everytime i read another novel. i shan't be reading anything of yours again. You're a waste of time."

For an Oxford University English Literature student, this person has a shockingly limited grasp of things like spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. My guess is that his only time spent at Oxford was on a tour. It's also curious that the e-mail refers to a script (which I have never written) and barely makes mention of my reviews. It's gratifying to know that one of my novels has had such a profound impact on someone - he apparently suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of reading it. Nothing else could possibly explain such a rambling e-mail.

Wasn't that fun?

Strange as it sounds, I enjoy getting hate mail. Most stuff like this is so bitter and incoherent that it's amusing to read, and there's no responsibility to respond to it. It is, however, disappointing that much of this mail has lost its edge. I can recall getting hate mail that was brilliantly written and had me laughing out loud. Oh well. I'll be back with another chapter in The Hate Mail Files once I have collected a few more worthy missives. That probably means tomorrow.