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For LAPD Sgt. John Spartan, the future is a perplexing setting, full of new rules, social etiquette and technology to adjust to. That includes the mystery of the three seashells, which have somehow replaced toilet paper in the futuristic setting of the 1993 film Demolition Man. How exactly do the three seashells work? The film never explains, but screenwriter Daniel Waters has finally shed some light on the topic. And by "some," I mean he's still not willing to explain how a person can clean up with three seashells, but he did explain the origins of the concept. As it happens, it's rather random.
We have redditor "uncleluke2" to thank for making sure this treasured nugget of information has made its way to the masses. The subject of the three seashells came up during a Q&A featuring Daniel Waters at the 25th Anniversary screening of Adventures of Ford Fairlane. The Redditor paraphrased Dan's answer as follows:
"I won't tell you the actual secret, but I'll tell you where it came from. There's a scene where Stallone has to use a restroom. I'm trying to come up with futuristic things you'd find in there. I was having trouble, so I called my buddy, another screenwriter across town, asked him if he had any ideas. Ironically enough that guy was taking a dump when he answered the phone, looked around his bathroom and said 'I have a bag of seashells on my toilet as a decoration?' I said 'Ok, I'll make something out of that.'"
So, someone's decorative bag of seashells led the way to 2032's means of bathroom hygiene. John Spartan might appreciate that explanation, but as you may recall, Sylvester Stallone's character did resourcefully manage to find himself some good, old-fashioned toilet paper...
Some may find it weird that fans of the film continue to ponder the functionality of the three seashells, but the boggle is one that comes up from time to time. In fact, Sandra Bullock was asked about it on the red carpet for Gravity, and her explanation involved a comparison to a bidet, as well as a musical instrument...
Beyond that animated description for how the three seashells might work, we're left in the dark about whatever Daniel Waters had in mind for how they function. But at least now we know where the idea originated.