Bowling For Columbine Essay Analysis

He dropped out of college to pursue independent journalism, starting a Michigan alt-weekly before serving a short, controversial stint as editor of the lefty investigative magazine Mother Jones.Moore’s on-camera persona not only reflected these bona fides, it also functioned as something of a rebuke to TV-newsmagazine-style dispatches, offering his own sneakers-and-street-smarts profile in place of a suit-and-tie 60 Minutes correspondent. At the time of this writing, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are mourning the deaths of fourteen of their classmates and three faculty members, all of whom a nineteen-year-old is accused of shooting on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, with a legally acquired semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.

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It also allows for the free-for-all sequencing that follows, progressing from Moore’s voice-over biographical sketch to his name-dropping of his fellow Michigander Heston, complete with a cut from the rifle-firing thespian to the rifle-firing filmmaker—savagely foreshadowing the film’s final sequence—before alighting on an official’s unintentionally hilarious account of a gun-toting dog, on the way to in-the-field interviews with members of the Michigan Militia and wild-eyed James Nichols, the brother of convicted domestic terrorist Terry Nichols. In both a formal and tonal sense, Moore is establishing a culture in which anything goes, any texture or method belongs.

And we haven’t even gotten to the caustic American historical montages scored to the aforementioned “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” the foulmouthed animated section conflating American racism with gun ownership, or the Roger & Me–like petitioning-the-king scene at Kmart’s corporate offices starring two Columbine survivors.

His antagonists are the same ones being called out by the Stoneman Douglas students today: the NRA, complicit government officials, and our collective cultural tolerance for living in, and subjecting our children to, pervasive fear.

That a topical documentary film can remain relevant and instructive sixteen years after its release speaks to Moore’s prescience as well as to the depths of America’s moral decay.

They’re baldly calling for stricter gun regulations, and they’re specifically calling out the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country and a generous benefactor to legislators who’ve opposed strengthening regulation.

Made in the aftermath of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, where twelve students and one teacher were killed by classmates Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the film takes an expansive look at America’s obsession with guns and its impotency when it comes to dealing with gun-related violence.“Do you think it’s a little dangerous handing out guns in a bank?” We’re less than three minutes into the film, and its brazen balancing act between farce and rage, sincerity and mockery, has already been established.Moore’s appeal is rooted in his being a pugilistic everyman who’s fiendishly funny despite starring in documentaries. (It’s instructive that his lone foray into narrative filmmaking, the scarcely seen 1995 movie Canadian Bacon, was a John Candy comedy.) As a work of argument, Bowling for Columbine is often galvanizing, and as entertainment, it’s uniquely, enduringly dynamic.Moore is an ace at writing for his own voice, and from front to back, he delivers both rueful couplets on ruined American dreams and witheringly sardonic summations of American hypocrisy and greed.Whereas the massacre at Columbine captured the attention of the world to such an extent that a film released three years later still felt raw and vital, these kinds of shootings have since become horrifically commonplace.In a conservative estimate, the Washington Post recently determined that, beginning with the Columbine massacre, nearly two hundred thousand students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus.As modeled from the outset of that first film, he wasn’t just a defender of the working stiff—he was the working stiff.That wasn’t merely effective shtick, as Moore grew up working-class in Flint, Michigan, the son of a secretary and an autoworker.(It is wretchedly likely that this number will have increased by the time this essay goes to press.) In the United States, guns are fired at or near children attending school nine times per year.Revisiting Moore’s film in light of this appalling legacy, it’s remarkable how spot-on he was in his thesis.

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