In which our intrepid hero critiques the purported writings of Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-hui.

Within a couple of days of the Blacksburg massacre, a copy of what appears to be one of Cho Seung-Hui‘s plays has appeared on The Smoking Gun. I’m not sure if it’s a hoax or not, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless, if only because it may provide a rare insight into the creative mind of a mass murderer.

It’s been widely reported as a play about a 13-year-old boy, violently murdered by his paedophilic stepfather. This is clearly untrue, should you take the time to read the text.

The stepfather—the eponymous McBeef—is unfairly accused of murder and paedophilia by his vindictive stepson, John; through a comedy of errors, McBeef’s wife (his stepson’s mother, Sue) takes her son’s side. And whilst McBeef does indeed “swing a deadly blow at the thirteen-year-old boy” (inside a car, no less), he does so as an act of excessive self-defence—as John tries to choke him with a cereal bar.

The exposition and dialogue are pretty juvenile—the kind of structure that I would have used, writing as a 10- or 11-year-old—it lacks a definite ending and leaps logic with the grace of a paraplegic elephant, but Richard McBeef reads like a tale of Death of a Salesman‘s Willy Loman being involuntarily recast as Hamlet‘s Claudius.

Cho, whilst emphasising the violence, does not linger on it slavishly; the relationship between Sue and McBeef, on the other hand, is particularly bizarre.

In all, it reads as much as farce as it does tragedy. Whilst the concept is intriguing, it is ruined by incompleteness and poor execution; to draw an analogy, Leonardo da Vinci did not paint the Mona Lisa with his fists.

Another of Cho’s plays, Mr Brownstone, is also available online. Although Cho’s reported obsession with faeces is much more noticable in this case, it’s probably not that much greater than Matt Stone’s or Trey Parker’s; although described as disturbing, Mr Brownstone is little more troubling than some episodes of South Park.

The difference is, again, in the quality of execution.

The play opens with three teenagers sitting (illegally) in a casino, playing slot machines and complaining about their teacher. At some point—not entirely made clear—the teacher (the eponymous Mr Brownstone) appears. The trio sing a rendition of a Guns ‘n’ Roses song (again, titled Mr Brownstone) and shortly thereafter win the jackpot. Brownstone takes their winnings by tricking a casino guard and having the teens removed, claiming the winning ticket as his own.

There is little narrative structure in Mr Brownstone, even less than is in Richard McBeef—the teens evince their hatred for their teacher and have that hatred confirmed. End of story.

For what it’s worth, the dialogue—whilst amateurishly expository—is not that unrealistic in its scatology. I’ve heard 17-year-olds speaking in those terms; it’s not as overdone as, for instance, the message that Jay sends to in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back:

All you motherfuckers are gonna pay. You are the ones who are the ball-lickers. We’re gonna fuck your mothers while you watch and cry like little bitches. Once we get to Hollywood and find those Miramax fucks who are making that movie, we’re gonna make ’em eat our shit, then shit out our shit, then eat their shit which is made up of our shit that we made ’em eat. Then you’re all you motherfucks are next. Love, Jay and Silent Bob.

Taken together, Brownstone and McBeef reveal a common theme—the abuse of power—and this provides the greatest insight into Cho’s mind. Cho firmly places himself centre-stage as the victim of his own Sturm und Drang tale. His mass murder, no doubt, grew from a desperation at his own perceived powerlessness in a world he felt inimical.

Cho would have cast his atrocity as the final act in a tragic bildungsroman, wherein the hero sacrificed himself to force those around him into an undeniable—and to his mind, only too fair—acknowledgement of his existence.

News reports tell us that his classmates feared him, and that he had been judged a danger to those around him. Perhaps if something had been done earlier, Cho’s tale might have had a happier ending.