Bowling for Columbine

Bowling for Columbine

bowling_for_columbine_p.jpgAre we a nation of gun nuts- or are we just plain nuts?” asks American Michael Moore as he embarks into his new feature-length documentary. The answer -which becomes apparent minutes into the film- is without a doubt ‘both’. Bowling for Columbine sees Moore seeking to find out the reasons behind America’s violent gun culture. Why, he asks, are gun-related crimes so prevalent in the USA? And more specifically, what led to the Columbine massacre? Bowling for Columbine tells the story of “America’s love affair with guns and violence”. The Columbine High School massacre, which occurred in 1999 was used by Moore as the central theme to his documentary. In his documentary Moore manages to speak to a variety of different people, including South Park creator Matt Stone, rock star Marilyn Manson. Columbine survivors and Charlton Heston (NRA).

Through watching Moore’s work viewers begin to realize to what extent the media has an influence on this gun-crazy society. Bowling for Columbine displays various TV news headlines that demonstrate to us the media’s obsession with disasters as well as gang warfare. The one thing that stood out for me was that according to the filmmaker, the real causes of crime are issues that are seldom deemed newsworthy. These include things like social inequality, cultural differences and even single mothers who work at minimum-wage jobs, forcing them to be separated from heir children.

The film presents shocking statistics, showing that America is a culture where 11, 000 people die annually as a result of gun violence. An example of this was the murder of a six-year old girl by a six-year-old boy. With this story, Moore attempted to blame the death of the six year-old girl on a work-for-welfare program. However, it is quite ironic that no mentions that the six-year-old boy’s uncle did not keep his gun locked away. Perhaps if he had, the boy would not have brought it to school and fired it. Perhaps, Perhaps not.

Bowling for Columbine, though a slightly disjointed affair (so much to say, so little time!), is a funny, moving, and above all educational portrait of American gun culture.
Moore’s talent lies in letting people dig themselves into their own hole, as he stands by. He never deliberately ridicules the people he meets, and has none of Louis Theroux’s candid malice. He treads carefully and treats the hardcore gun maniacs with a respect which, in many people’s view, they just don’t deserve. This makes for very funny viewing. One of the most triumphant moments of the film is when Charlton Heston (who chairs the National Rifle Association) walks away from Moore mid-interview, incapable of justifying himself any longer.

Moore proposes the root cause of America’s gun problem is that society’s fear is encouraged by the media’s obsession with death and violent crime. We see interviews where people speak of locking their doors at night and sleep with loaded guns under their pillows. Why? Because having a firearm provides them with a sense of security.

As humans, we usually resort to violence when we are scared. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism. We seem to pick up our abacus, climb a tree and return to a primal state. This is not made easier by the fact that everything we see in the media is of violence.

A method of documentary making which entices me is the idea of staging certain scenes. One such scene which grabs me out of this particular documentary is that of Moore going to houses and opening their doors. His method behind the madness- to see if Canadians lock their doors. This could easily have been staged but not many viewers will pick this up and therefore Moore walks away with a smile on his face.
Lastly it does not really matter whether one agrees with the filmmaker or not. It is apparent that he is merely trying to unmask a problem to the viewers and for them to recognize the severity of it. Whether they take it in or not is their own business.

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