Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" is a documentary that tackles many different social issues, and there is a wide range of commentary that the movie has to offer on society. Therefore, to comply with the given questions of this assignment, it is necessary to narrow down the scale of the movie's arguments and comments on various societal concerns to one underlying issue. Although the documentary offers commentary on issues from unemployment to the role of the media to racism in America, what is perhaps the central question of the movie involves the situation of gun violence in America. Moore constantly asks why America has over ten thousand gun murders per year, while other countries like Canada and Japan, who have similar media, cultural, and societal outlooks, have so fewer gun murders. The other social issues raised by the movie, by and large, reflect on this essential question, which Moore poses to the viewer and is essentially unable to answer.
It is difficult to say when this situation really began, because it is so mixed-up with the history of America. The historical background of this issue goes all the way
back to the drafting of the constitution, which in its Second Amendment gave Americans the right to bear arms. This was the action of a country that had just been under the oppressive control of a colonial power. As the years passed since this point, many Americans have defended their right to bear arms in various ways despite gun-control initiatives, and they have been largely successful. The NRA was formed in the late nineteenth century. And in the present, as Moore notes, in some areas Americans can walk into a bank to get a new account and walk out with a free rifle or shotgun, or go
Current feelings and opinions
The interests served by the situation of a nation that is able to massively arm itself are those of corporate interests, the defense industry, and the NRA. Moore presents these
interests in the ways that they relate to one another in the movie. For example, LockheedMartin is shown to be an agent of governmental TANF reforms. The main politicalinterests involved in this are conservative and wealthy. The people who have theirinterests harmed by this situation are grieving parents whose children have been shot and gun control advocates.
People involved in this situation react in a variety of ways. There are really too many individuals to give a general answer to this question. In one part of the movie, a father whose son was shot at Columbine protests an NRA meeting. He is very angry and feels that there is something deeply wrong with society. In another part of the movie,Charlton Heston celebrates gun ownership by holding a rifle and saying, "from my cold dead hands."
There are many issues involved in the situation, as mentioned, and many structures holding the situation up. The NRA, the media in its use of fear and authority,the religious right, corporations, and militia groups are seen to be structures holding the situation up. Issues involved in the situation include the question of America's gun violence statistics, the racism of many American policies, the formation of city suburbslike Littleton, and the way that teenagers feel. The policies governing the situation range from pro-gun-control initiatives to conservative policies, but the basic policy issue surrounds the Second Amendment.
The variables in this situation are many, but do not focus on gender and class as much as they do on race, economics, and politics. Social and political systems are at the forefront of this issue, with religious systems taking third place. The religious right is shown to be often involved in protests that take the focus off of the ease of gunownership and blame other things in society such as rock music. Other institutions that are relevant to the situation are the government, organizations such as the NRA, and the educational system.
The analysis is done in the movie from the perspective of the world community,and I think that this is when the analysis is most effective and least sarcastic and cynical.
Moore really seems to be interested in answering the question of why countries like
England, Canada, Japan, and Germany don't have as much gun violence as the U.S., even though they often have similarly violent histories and consume a lot of the same violentculture.
Moore has done other documentaries before and after "Bowling for Columbine."
One of the first critically acclaimed movies he did was "Roger and Me," about the dire situation of the working-class in Flint, Michigan because of the closing of GM plants there. More recently, Moore directed the controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11," which critically explores issues associated with the war in Iraq and the actions of George W.Bush.
Reviews of "Bowling for Columbine" tend to be polarized around the reviewer's political stance. Some of the more critical reviews call attention to what may have been staged shots in the movie. "So, when Moore ambushes Charlton Heston during an interview, there's no guarantee that this wasn't set up beforehand (although I don't think it was). Also, when Moore starts barging into houses in Toronto to determine whether Canadians keep their doors locked, this could easily have been arranged before the cameras rolled" (Berardinelli). Critics, whether they like the film or not, tend to agree that it does have a powerful message and is a well-crafted documentary on the technical side. Those that pan the film in reviews tend to go more for personal attacks on Moore than well-thought-out and responsibly proven and justified critical comments about the movie itself.
Anyone interested in documentary filmmaking, current events, the NRA, politics,or the problem of gun-control would be interested in this subject. The reader is likely to be knowledgeable and have their own opinion, which may differ from mine. This is because different people have different values.
Berardinelli, J. "Bowling for Columbine." Retrieved on November 6, 2004 from http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/movies/b/bowling_columbine.html.