Bowling For Columbine: A Study on the Fear within American Culture


Amin Shah, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Michael Moore is a questionable figure when it comes to politics. His manipulatory style of filmmaking, while not explicit, is certainly present when choosing what information to utilize in his films, what conclusions to come to, and how to make his opponents that much more disagreeable through editing tricks. ‘‘Bowling For Columbine’’ is a great example of such a film, as its left-leaning, pro-liberal stance on the state of guns in America through the backdrop of the Columbine Shooting provides Moore with the basis for America’s continuing descent into a spiraling cycle of fear that has been sown since the beginning of the country’s independence.

What is it about?
Moore tackles the issue of overabundance within the country. It begins with an overabundance of weaponry and firearms, as the documentary begins with Moore getting a firearm from a bank/firearm distributor simply by opening a bank account there and going through a brief background check. The film switches locations between Michigan, Colorado, Canada, California, and New York City to ask not only the press/companies that benefit from the manufacture and distribution of these arms but the public’s opinion on why other arms-producing countries don’t have the same issue (to such an extent). Moore’s issue of the overabundance of guns has transformed into the overabundance of fear that most Americans are given through the form of the news, media, and social interaction. There are a similar amount of arms in Canada (as they are a country with a large history in hunting), yet (at the time of the shooting of the movie) they didn’t even have a fourth of the casualties caused by gun violence that its southern neighbor did. In-depth interviews with Matt Stone, Marilyn Manson, Charlton Heston (who comes under fire frequently due to his sponsorship of the NRA after the Columbine Shooting and the killing of Kayla Rollad at Beecher Elementary), and others are all observed to see these differing perspectives on not only the state of America’s gun laws but the fear and panic that leads to the violence with them.

My Stance
After doing further research on Michael Moore as a filmmaker and political activist, his methods are, scummy to say the least. One can argue that the whole creation of this film is exploitative and takes advantage of the Columbine shooting and its victims (as he uses victims to successfully convince KMart to end their sale of ammunition, as the victims were shot with such in the Columbine shootings). His statistics about the rate of gun violence are taken without account of any of the intricacies and nuances that cause so many other social differences that may contribute to such an issue, but if one separates the gold from, well, the slight political indoctrination, you can find a wholeheartedly true meaning to Moore’s words. I gave this movie a 5/5 on the basis of its filmmaking and ability to get its message across, as it does so wonderfully. No matter what political stance you may take, Moore’s consideration of the hypocrisies of American leaders and the blatant steering away from that issue to scapegoat insignificant ‘‘problems’’ like violent video games or ‘‘South Park’’ (which was parodied without the consent of Matt Stone or Trey Parker, leading to misinformative information about their political stances) really display where the priorities of America lies. To have Marilyn Manson be one of the voices of reason in a documentary about fear (which is what he embodied) really embodies the state in which America was caught and still is affected. 

How does it stand 21 years later?
Over two decades later, the film is as relevant as ever. The terrors of 9/11 have still shaken the hostility between so many Americans, and as mentioned in the film, guns are raised before the questions are asked. Having only recently ‘‘ended’’ the War On Terror just for the Taliban to be in control of Afghanistan and for Ukraine to be in the midst of a war with Russia shows how some things will never change. Yet, we will look to give teachers guns in order to ‘‘curb’’ the number of school shootings (that only continue to increase) and ease the restrictions on owning firearms (and even allowing concealed carrying without a permit in Texas) because it is our right to do so. When do we reach the point where a right becomes a wrong? When do we begin to realize the laws and ways we are governed by have been set in stone by those who nearly slaughtered a race of people, enslaved a different race of people, and attempted to expand onto multiple other races of people? The assisting of uprisings only for dictators to take over, the training of terrorists (which still happen today) caused one of the worst terrorist attacks in the country, the bombings and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians outside of the country (which happened not too long ago in the 21st century under Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton). We just continue to feed into the fear that the media offers on a silver platter while we sit back and let the world run itself. 2023 has just begun and there are already about a little under 100 mass shootings that have occurred. No, let’s just go watch the next violent Hollywood blockbuster.