Bowling for Columbine (2002)


We’re raised at early ages to fear in America, and we’re also bombarded with images of violence and sex, so much so it becomes numbing. As many of us have periodic moments of violence, many of the people in this tend to look at violence with a sort of comfort, almost as if they perceive violence to be apart of life, almost expected of us. Such is shown when a man accused of aiding the Uni-bomber sticks a gun to his head to demonstrate the accuracy of his gun. In another part of the world, a young boy in kindergarten shot another classmate; why he did what he did is never explained, or perhaps it can’t be explained. When asked why he did so, he replied with an uncertain answer; perhaps he was angry, or mentally disturbed, but that seems too easy. No one is really sure why he shot another student, but it seems the young boy simply shot her; almost as if it was an expected course of action, a first response.

I’m not going to take the easy way out and blame the media, I won’t blame rock, nor will I blame movies, but one thing is for sure: Adults are to blame, and this documentary doesn’t point that out. Adults should watch their children more, yet instead of parenting they have a replacement called television, let their children roam free around the channels and never monitor them, and when the child is bombarded with images of sex and violence, they’re quick to point fingers elsewhere. This film takes a profound and somewhat disturbing look into the horrifying massacre of Columbine High school in which two young boys raided their school going on a shooting spree. Everyone pointed fingers after the massacre: gun companies are to blame, media, entertainment, television, music, but no one ever said: “Where were the parents? What did they do to stop it?”  “Bowling for Columbine” despite having good points and making some interesting arguments is a frustrating film that asks more questions than answers.

The whole subject of Columbine feels like an excuse to preach his other views which inevitably made me wonder why I was even watching this in the first place and left me feeling conned and resentful. I, like many others wanted to find some sort of reasoning and logic behind the terrible events of Columbine but of course as the first segment is about Columbine the rest soon becomes fodder for preaching on Moore’s views. Moore tells us the media warps America’s youth with violent images yet we see violent images during the documentary of dead bodies and slaves and what not, he tells us we shouldn’t point the fingers and gives us a montage of people blaming others but we never see anyone blaming the parents, and he begins pointing fingers at everyone. The government, poverty, racism, the media, Dick Clark, Charlton Heston (in a cringe inducing and forced climax), and guns are all to blame, but not once in all the people’s finger pointing does he blame the parents. He tells us basically that he’s out to find the answers for the murders of Columbine but veers off into other topics including pollution, welfare, racism, poverty, the economy, and (always liberal bait) corporate government.

He tells us bombing in Kosovo went up during 9/11, he tells us gun ownership went up after 9/11, all basically miniscule and somewhat irrelevant facts but blatantly preachy. He sets out to discover why when so many of the states have similar violent histories as the U.S. they have basically a lower crime rate than us but he leaves the entire segment incomplete, an ultimately ridiculous segment because everyone seems to have no answer to his question, hell even Moore looks stumped, but what’s the point of including this segment into the film when there’s no answer? We watch as Moore badgers his interviewees mercilessly making his “noble” efforts into sheer hackneyed sophomoric dabbling of a film student. The only person that really makes sense during the documentary is shock rocker Marilyn Manson who spouts some truly profound words that no one in all the nearly ten years since the shooting has ever muttered.

In the end we’re left with these clearly redundant sequences, including one where Moore takes two victims from the Columbine massacre to the corporate offices of K-Mart where they buy out the stock of bullets to prevent anyone else from buying them (Shouldn’t they use that money for medical bills or therapy?), a lot of preaching that goes nowhere and veers way off the subject, and a cringe inducing blank climax that felt not only forced but clearly malicious on Moore’s part. America is a great country, but we have a habit of pointing fingers at others when we’re at fault, as do people in the film. This film is a disturbing look at guns, gun control and the people who support gun handling.

No one can ever muster a reasonable logic as to why the two boys massacred people at Columbine one morning; perhaps it’s the nature of the way they were raised, taught to handle guns, rely on guns, and take action with them to solve problems, maybe it was the fact they were taunted in high school, upset by the teasing, and maybe, just maybe, they felt like it. Michael Moore with his wry comments, quick one-liners and aggressive interview methods challenges the system in which we live in, how easy it is to get a hold of guns, use them, and learn them with the help of the nature we’re born into. There’s no definite answer as to why we react violently, maybe we, as humans are just violent in nature, but how can we explain the fact that Canada has little to no murders per year?

How do we differentiate ourselves from others? Sometimes it’s not that simple. Involving and very entertaining, this film challenges the audience to come up with their own logic with very disturbing skits including the history of guns and violent history in America, and how a lot of us are molded into people frightened by anything because of the news and many other facets of paranoia that instantly prompt us to reach for our guns. Though in all of it we never really know what good it has or will do in the long run. Moore goes upon the surface of the problem, veers off into other topics when the problem can’t be resolved, but never can get into the psychological aspect of what caused these crimes, no one wants to discover the background of these poor souls, and Moore doesn’t seem to care, he only wants to preach his own views in this mistitled documentary. There may be no answer to the shootings at Columbine nor will there ever be, but maybe watching this won’t help answer the questions, perhaps it’s just that simple: There’s no reason for violence.