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.
The character is based on the real Moore, of course, but the films isolate only those aspects that the topic at hand can utilize, broad strokes in a selective self-portrait.
In Bowling for Columbine, it’s that he grew up a precocious marksman in a gun-loving state (“I couldn’t wait to go outside and shoot up the neighborhood,” he says about getting his first toy gun), and he uses footage of himself with firearms as both an admission entitling him to a critical angle on gun ownership and a sight gag.
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.
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.
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.