Film Theory: The Science of Seinfeld’s Deadly Envelopes

Film Theory: The Science of Seinfeld’s Deadly Envelopes


You remember that dress that swept the internet a couple months ago? I mean, what’s the deal with that? It’s like: was it black? Was it gold? Pick a color and stick with it! Am I right? *laughter* and uh-uhm What about that 90’s show Seinfeld? That started every episode with a stand-up bit. It’s like: hello, we know you’re a comedian but, this is a sitcom so get to the episode already! am I right?! *Film Theory Introduction* Hello internet! Welcome to Film Theory Where sometimes we do episodes that aren’t about “Game of Thrones”! *Cheering* So, maybe now you’re breathing a sigh of relief because you’re like “Finally Film Theory will will be covering a show I’ve actually seen. Something that I can relate to!” Well hate to break it to you, you youth of the nation because today we’re talking about Seinfeld. No this episode wasn’t pulled from BuzzFeed’s latest 90’s nostalgia list. 27 Struggles that were all too real to 90’s kids. We’re talking about the series that’s widely considered to be the best sitcom of all time. I know that top pat of 1995 loved it. And now the series just had a recent resurgence over one specific episode that I just had to talk about. A couple weeks ago one of the show’s stars Jason Alexander appeared on the Howard Stern show to talk about his character George Costanza I would say that he’s the unlovable one of the cast but basically the whole show revolved around four people who just did awful, awful things all the time. Hilarious things, but legitimately awful things And yet you still like them. It was pretty incredible, anyway at the top of season 7 George gets engaged to a woman named Susan. It’s a recurring plot throughout the season, but Jason Alexander revealed in the Howard Stern interview that “Her sense of comedy was never able to mash with any of the show’s regular cast members” So as a way to fix the problem they killed her off. In one of the most bizarre and memorable episodes of the series. Susan dies in the season 7 finale. But it’s not her death that’s so bizarre. It’s the way in which she dies. It’s not murder, it’s not suicide, it’s not even cancer it’s envelopes. Yes Susan dies by licking her own wedding invitation envelopes. “Apparently the.. uh glue in the wedding invitations was uh toxic.” *sighs* and the internet being the internet, this issue of course spawned countless medical web-forum debates about whether stamp and envelope licking could actually kill you. And for us it’s a question too fun to pass up. So in this episode of Film Theory my mouth is watering in anticipation of finding out whether a person can die from licking too much envelope adhesive. Get it, watering, it’s a, it’s a joke because it’s about licking envelopes. It’s a stretch, let’s move on. To examine whether this plot has any sticking power – Huh, I’m on fire today – we need to take a closer look at the circumstances around Susan and the envelopes. We don’t ever get a close up of the envelope itself, or the adhesive that kills her. But the show leaves us a couple clues that help us tear open this sticky situation. – Don’t worry, I’ll stop, I’ll behave myself – Let’s start with buying the invitations. George and Susan go to pick them up from a stationary store in Manhattan where the sales clerk shows them their options. George immediately flips to the back where the cheapest invitations are kept because, you know, guys just don’t understand all the hoopla around a card that people are just gonna throw out anyway. Google Calendar invite maybe, customize the color or something, Whatever. Anyway as we learn from the store clerk, the cheapest invitations, the one George happens to choose, have been discontinued for quite some time. “They haven’t manufactured that one for a number of years.” “Why don’t they make them anymore?” “Well, for one thing, the glue isn’t very adhesive” So this scene actually tells us a lot. One, the envelopes are old. This episode was produced in season 7 of Seinfeld which aired in 1995. The store clerk says that the envelopes haven’t been printed in several years. Which leaves us a pretty open window as far as the envelope time-frame. Two, The envelopes are cheap, and three. they’re not very adhesive. So let’s start with the first piece of evidence, the old envelopes. Believe it or not, the wide world of envelope adhesive sciences well a thing that actually exists but
even more than that is an area where there have actually been some interesting advances over the
course of the last century oh man, century. VR better watch out for
that emerging envelope tech. Oh-o boy anyway modern envelope adhesives have
their roots in world war two packaging and shipping where the US government
needed adhesives that would resist jolting and unsticking in bad weather
and trips across the ocean the majority of adhesives up to that
point and still today actually are solvent adhesives a solvent adhesive is
usually made out of some kind of starch like potato starch or flour the idea is that when you get wet it
gets sticky and as the water evaporates around it it hardens well in World War two they need
something stronger more resilient their answer was a synthetic resin called
polyvinyl acetate or P.V.A.C, PVAC which is actually derived from petroleum but unlike the petroleum we used to make
gasoline or vicks vapo-rub PVAC is a glue. In World War two
feedback adhesives were used because they were super waterproof and could be
used on almost anything after the war PVA adhesive was rolled out commercially
and started to be used in pretty much everything from sealants to sticky
labels on tin cans to envelope glue in the late nineteen fifties manufacturers
started to change the formulation of polyvinyl acetate to remove its
waterproofness but that seems weird right having watertight seals on envelopes and
boxes seems like a really good idea doesn’t it? Well the primary reason for this
change was that the waterproof version was difficult to seal I mean think about it if your adhesive
is waterproof it also makes it resists well, your tongue in other words to get past the
waterproof envelope glue you would have to apply more spit to
activate the adhesive and once you had it sealed it would take a longer time to
dry going back to our evidence from the
episode. “It takes a lot of moisture to make them stick.” Doesn’t stick well and
needs a lot of moisture, seems like we’re getting our answer signed, sealed, and
delivered. -I’m sorry I just had to fit one more in-
so now we have evidence for the existence of old envelopes that are
difficult to seal and required more licks to stick but that doesn’t mean
they’re poisonous right, /right/. Well, polyvinyl acetate contains trace elements
that you wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon slurping up specifically heavy metals
and one in particular arsenic. Sound familiar? Arsenic is known
as the king of poisons. /The/ most famous and one of the most deadly poisons in
the world. Inorganic arsenic was the choice poison for royal assassination
since before the Middle Ages it’s been implicated in Napoleon’s death
and was used in some of the first war gases in world war two and one of its
more recent victims? Susan from Seinfeld. In the scene leading
up to Susan’s death we see her getting tired of licking envelopes then we see her appearing to get
lightheaded kinda woozy and then she collapses it’s not much to go on but it does align
to the symptoms of arsenic poisoning if say the poison were cyanide Susan
would have started to feel an abrupt shortness of breath because the poison
directly targets respiratory function for biological weapons like anthrax the
poisoning isn’t immediate and can take days or even weeks to kill with arsenic
though the first symptoms would be quick and neurological dizziness, weakness, and
delirium as we see Susan become more and more sick over the course of the
afternoon we notice her becoming visibly more sluggish weaker, more tired until
she just keels over the exact way arsenic would kill a bride-to-be. Whoa-ho wait wait wyominggirl2215 don’t run to
throw away all your envelopes and stamps just yet PVACs today are considered
non toxic which is good since it’s in school glues so you keep eating your
paste weird preschooler in the corner you do you, you do you so does that mean we’ve debunked the
show? Heck no remember we’re talking about PVACs put
on envelopes from the nineteen fifties you see /today/ the Food and Drug
Administration or FDA is responsible for regulating the amount of dangerous or
nasty stuff that makes its way into products we ingest and that includes
adhesives that stick envelopes shut But, back in the nineteen fifties the FDA
didn’t regulate non traditional food items like stamps or envelopes why would they they’re the food and drug
administration not the Food Drug and adhesive administration F.D.A.A doesn’t have the same ring to it I
guess in fact the first regulations on these
sorts of glues were, based on my research either in 1968 or 1973 nearly 20 years
later. The invitations we see Susan licking would have been unregulated
untested envelopes made at a time when no limitations around arsenic levels
existed in other words as she licked she would slowly be ingesting decades-old
arsenic until eventually dying Sound unbelievable? well it’s not in the late eighteen
nineties people were getting poisoned by their wallpaper as hangers mixed arsenic
into the wallpaper paste that tacky floral print in the bedroom was
literally killing them so stuff like this isn’t unheard of
which means we have one final question to answer was there enough arsenic in the
envelopes to actually kill Susan well in the season 7 opener George
estimates that Susan is 5 foot 3 inches and about a hundred pounds that small
stature mean she’s going to be a lot more susceptible to poisoning. I did the
calculations and based on her height and weight Susan would need to consume about
300 milligrams of arsenic to kill her and so how many envelopes does she lick well we hear repeatedly through the
episode that they’re looking at around 200 guests for the wedding so let’s assume worst case and say that
each individual is getting their own invitation that’s 300 milligrams of
arsenic spread across two hundred invites or 1.5 milligrams of arsenic per
envelope sound reasonable well it’s not quite frankly it’s too
much way too much even with untested glues on the
envelopes for every envelope the weight of the adhesive strip applied to the
flap is about 500 milligrams at one point five milligrams that would
mean arsenic would constitute about pulling three percent of the glue seems like a small enough number right
well FDA safety standards are defined in units of parts per million which in
simplest terms means that for every million pieces of glue there can only be a certain number of
pieces of arsenic right now the acceptable amount of arsenic and
lickable adhesives is set to three parts per million and a typical formula only
requires about 2 to work. For Susan to have died of arsenic
poisoning from licking 200 envelopes that level would have to be three
thousand parts per million 1,000 times more than where it is today and quite frankly that’s too much. Let’s
just look at the anecdotal evidence history has zero reported cases of this
sort of thing happening if the levels were ever truly that high
brides-to-be would have been dropping dead left and right back in the nifty
fifties in fact even if we double the acceptable amount of arsenic in today’s
envelopes she would still have to lick a
staggering three million envelopes in a single afternoon even if she were somehow able to fully
lick an envelope every second three million seconds is the equivalent of 34
days of straight envelope licking which would no longer put her in the range of
acute poisoning but would kill her from dehydration in a fraction of that time “These pretzels are making me thirsty” and okay
I know what you’re thinking what about cutting her tongue I thought
it too well that certainly does reduce the number that you would need to lick
but only down to a third leaving a measly 1,000,000 envelopes to get
through and honestly George Costanza just doesn’t have that many friends so long story short for as brilliant as
the seinfeld series was and as many panicked webmd posts as this episode has
inspired it simply isn’t possible to be poisoned by licking conventional
envelopes new old even with all the tongue paper
cuts you want so sorry Larry David it was a good try
and it might have taken us 20 years to get there but Film Theory has sealed
this one up yada yada yada no soup for you. But hey
that’s just a theory. /A Film Theory/ /And/… Cut What’s the deal with subscribing I mean sometimes my subs see the episode
sometimes they don’t I mean why can’t the YouTube algorithm
just show my videos to everyone who wants to see them am i right well you should subscribe
anyway that said welcome back to the super amazing end card tournament where
we have a lot to catch you up on since the channel launched don’t worry I’ll
make it quick in our recent Fifty Shades of Grey theory i was able to convince an
overwhelming ninety-seven percent of you that Christian Grey’s tactics were
indeed the same as cult indoctrination strategies then in Doctor Who part 1 your favorite
villain winning by forty six percent of the vote was the weeping angels in our
first game of Thrones episode looking at the secrets behind Jon Snow Tyrion was the overall winner of your
favorite character with fifty-seven percent with Aria and Danny in a distant
second and third each with about 20 and speaking of Game of Thrones with our
second theory on the subject I was almost able to convince most of you that
my Jorah theory was correct but with forty four percent the majority of you
still think that Jon Snow will be the one to slaughter the ice zombies we’ll see how that goes for you
and finally the last two in our future movies episode two thirds of you said
that you were excited about watching movies in 4d with one-third of you
preferring the old-school lean back pop corn munching experience and finally in
our how to win a Best Actor Academy Award episode eighty percent of you showed the love to
Leonardo DiCaprio giving him an honorary nod for Best Actor. Got all that? Good no new one this week cause that was a
lot but in case you missed any of those previous episodes here they are if you ask me the fifty shades of grey
one might be my favorite theory we’ve done in a while plus it’s got cinemasins so extra win
there now if you excuse me this end slate has gotten too long and I’ve got a date
with some dwarves so i’ll see you next time

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I guess some women just canโ€™t hold their arsenic. She had it coming, she had it coming, she only had herself to blame! (Nobody will get this musical theatre reference)

  2. But the FDA is "big government" and libertarians want to get rid of them and the Republicans are happy to pull the funding so in the future we can have more poison!

    Or we can get political and fight back people!

    Envelopes might not be a poisonous but lead in the water certainly is!

  3. I find the parts per million assumption based on current standards to be false. Just because that was the level it was limited to after the regulations were put in place does not mean that exceedingly high levels may not have been present before that point. It is also important to note that another element to regulatory standards, is that prior to implementation quality control also means less. It is actually plausible on those two notes that a mistake could have been made in manufacturing to drive the arsenic value up over 3000 ppm.
    Also it is important to note that population has only been condensing with time, and weddings with 200 guests get less common place the further you go back. in fact in the 50s- 70s having 200 close relationships was a heck of a lot harder to achieve than by the 90's, and indefinitely harder than currently in the age of mass communication. It would have been difficult in the era that the envelopes were supposedly from to have a guest list that large without a higher societal standing, so it is also less likely that a guest list that large would have been envelope sealed by a singular person. If you were wealthy enough to afford such a large affair it would likely mean you could afford to delegate the task to a larger group of people. Susan was just 1 person after all, and she died licking all those envelopes alone.

  4. What about some sort of containment on the envelopes due to being in storage for so long (possibly improperly)?

  5. As soon as matpat said that they are made out of a starch LIKE MY DELICIOUS POTATOES I knew that they could kill you because depending on where they had gotten the potatoes from they could have a disease that turns them black and mushy. Mh I HEAR YOU ASKING HOW I KNOW THIS AND TO SATISFY YOUR CURIOSITY I WILL ANSWER IT! I know it because that is how my grandma died and I now worship the potatoes because I fear they will kill me but donโ€™t tell them that. They are always listening. ๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿคซ๐Ÿคซ๐Ÿคซ๐Ÿคซ๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

  6. FDA didn't exist in that time. Let's follow FDA guidelines for envelopes which we agreed where unregulated

  7. It is kind of depressing that I learn more about math and science in one episode than a month of school

  8. Arsenic is bioaccumulative. Couldn't she have had a prior arsenic exposure? Arsenic in drinking water isn't unheard of. The envelopes could have just finished her off.

  9. Man, I just started watching Game/Film theory this year, and I've NEVER seen Seinfeld. Im so late to everything.

  10. @The Film Theorists ,You said the FDA didn't monitor envelopes at the time they were made(1950), and then you used current FDA regulations, you said it would require 1000 X current levels, but what if we didn't use current levels? Just something I noticed going back over the video

  11. Film theory: welcome to the game of thrones theory channel where we cover other topics about 5%of the time
    Game theory: itโ€™s only about the 4 Mario video this month and… ANOTHER POKร‰MON THEORY!!!

  12. I cant believe matt made a video theorizing seinfeld
    This is too ironic its almost turning into something that shouldnt exist
    But its still genius

  13. MatPat: … had their routes in World War Two packaging the us needed a way… (shows a T-34)
    Everyone who watches the history channel: you are the enemy of the people

  14. Wow matpat great stand up next stop the apollo

    Ps nope friends, scrubs and the original office are the best sitcom

  15. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  16. I honestly don't know why Americans use envelopes that you have to lick…. What about having envelopes with no glue and applying the glue itself? Here in Brazil we have glue in the post offices so you can use it for free if you don't have any glue on your house. No risk of any health issue if you don't put anything in your mouth to seal your envelopes ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. "Best sitcom of all time"!?! NOT by a long SHOT!!!!! ( that honor goes to M.A.S.H. ) More like longest running dumpster fire of all time.

  18. What if she cut her tongue more than once? I mean, I'm sure they're more people that clumsy out there.

    I did some quick math and people are welcome to correct me on this, but if she managed to cut her tongue about eight or seven times it would be enough to kill her.

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