Bowling for Columbine
Occasionally, cinema is used as a tool for probing a social malady.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Michael Moore’s Bowling For
Columbine. Strictly a documentary, Moore combines both pathos and humor,
applying it to the issue of gun control.
Like other wedge issues in America, gun control is a deeply pitched
battle between two vocal and active opponents. NRA activists and
anti-gun advocates both have compelling arguments and it was the tragic
loss of life at Columbine that brought forth the shattering clash of the
Columbine High School was forever changed on April 20, 1999 when two
senior students, embarked on a killing spree, murdering 12 students and
one teacher. 21 other students were injured on site and another three as
they tried to flee. The two students then committed suicide and
Columbine became the deadliest massacre on an American high school
Michael Moore doesn’t try to condemn gun ownership in his film, just the
senseless and needless loss of life. While the mass media debated gun
control laws, bullying and violence amongst youth, subcultures and high
school cliques, Michael Moore brought his populist rabble-rousing,
homespun radicalism and an unflinching eye to the epidemic of violence
in America. Moore is no stranger to guns, as a former firearms
instructor and NRA member. However, it is important to realize that it
is not the gun ownership but the horrific killing statistics of America
that he decries.
He does this seamlessly in Bowling for Columbine, mining the grotesque
and the absurd for answers. Interviewing the local teen who grouses
about being number two on a terrorist list, chatting with employees in
the bank that gives free guns to people opening new accounts, and in a
poignant scenario, returning bullets to K-Mart with teenagers injured at
Columbine and requesting a refund for the 17 cent purchase price.
Living in a nation of million of handguns, the question is "Why do we in
America keep shooting each other?" Canada, which has a ratio of guns to
people the same as in America, has only 10 percent of the shooting
deaths. The movie probes the cavity of violence through media coverage
and notes that even though the murder rate is down 20 percent in
America, the media outlet reports are up 600 percent. Not only does this
lead to an increase in the average American's fear factor, it makes a
trigger response more likely.
There is no single villain in the piece and Moore treads softly on the
massacre at Columbine where two seemingly American kids went bowling and
then off to murder their schoolmates. He trounces all over the need to
hoard guns and shoot people, not out of strength but out of fear.
Bowling for Columbine is both an indictment and tribute to the culture
feed that exists in the late 20th and 21 century, fixing a bull-eye’s
directly on guns, violence and wedge issues used as hype in political
arenas. The question is not “Why do we have guns?” but rather “Why do we
kill each other with guns?”