Bowling For Columbine Facts: Read This Before You Watch | Kidadl


Bowling For Columbine Facts: Read This Before You Watch

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'Bowling For Columbine' is a documentary that was released in 2002, and it takes a hard look at an issue that is relevant even today: the alarming rates of gun violence in the country.

The answer to this problem isn’t a simple one, it’s fraught with political tensions, lobbying, centuries of history, and conflicting facts and figures. This film is one attempt of many to untangle this complex network to reach a plausible conclusion for why gun violence is so prevalent and what can be done about it.

It is written and directed by Michael Moore and is set against the backdrop of the tragic Columbine High School massacre that took place in Colorado in 1999, which led to 13 deaths and many more injuries. He takes the viewers through a journey of what it’s like to own a gun in the USA, starting from the buying to the actual ownership of it. In addition to this, he even carries out a comparative analysis on why these statistics are so high for the USA when compared to other developed countries. This film also talks about America's obsession with guns. The success of this documentary film led to an era of documentary film-making. Read on to find out more about this one-of-a-kind film that shook American society!

Awards And Reception

The film performed remarkably well in front of critics. It was ground-breaking in the way it combined dark humor along with the documentary style of film-making. Some of the awards it received were the Cèsar Awards for Best Foreign Film, VPRO IDFA Audience Award at the Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, Most Popular International Film at the Vancouver Film Festival, the Best Documentary of all time by the International Documentary Association, and an Academy Award.

In terms of reviews, the film was positively received by most audiences, praised for its thought-provoking commentary and the kinds of questions it raised. It combines humor with spine-chilling glimpses into the gun violence landscape of the country, interspersing it with facts and figures that give a grim view of the scenario.

One of the main criticisms that it received was that it operated on the principles of confirmation bias, wherein Michael Moore only investigated and included evidence that supported his opinion. The documentary film style was a persuasive technique in showing the ‘facts and figures’ behind gun violence, which further set the stage for Moore’s final argument that the over-abundance of guns is one of the two main issues that need to be tackled.

Cultural Impact

The film has had a great cultural impact because of the issue it tackles. Gun culture and its inherent violence is something that exists in everyday American reality. It was an important issue when the film came out in 2002, and it remains so in 2022 when school shootings are still a grim occurrence. Unfortunately, the discourse on weapon ownership has boiled down to the left vs. right without any meaningful positive strides. The history of weapons is a long one in the country, going back to the time of America’s inception, and it is embedded in the constitution as a right. Any discussion around them, therefore, needs to account for this distinction. One of the ways Michael Moore differs from so many others is how he boiled down the issue, not to guns, but the culture in which they exist. Many other countries have guns, but America is the only one with such high rates of violence. This is due to the terror that is fostered among Americans against ‘others’, which demands a weapon they can use to ‘protect’ themselves. This ‘other’ can be more imaginary than real, but that doesn’t matter because fear is a very persuasive technique, and that’s what Moore shows in his documentary.

The film also includes interviews with various important figures, one of them being Marilyn Manson, a supremely controversial rock star. Many people argue that violence is encouraged through entertainment, and Marilyn Manson was at the forefront of damaging media that negatively effects young people. Another interview was with Charlton Heston, a former head of NRA, where Moore interrogated him on his feelings toward this issue and if he felt any personal responsibility in contributing towards this violent gun culture that permeates the country.

Through these interviews and insights, Moore argues that many other countries also have firearms and damaging media, so it stands to reason that those cannot be the sole factors behind the rise in gun violence. To tackle the issue, it is important to isolate the variable that makes the USA different. His proposition is that it is a combination of fear (which leads to a need for avenues of self-defense) and firearms being embedded in the historical and legal constitution of the country. Any discourse around this issue, thus, becomes framed as ‘an attack against citizens’ rights’. It is necessary to move away from this viewpoint and focus on the very real harm that continuing violence causes to people and communities. Therefore, more effective and comprehensive legislation is required that would lead to a sustainable decrease in gun violence.

Gun Laws

Gun control laws in America exist on two levels: federal and state. There are restrictions on which types of guns can be bought and who can buy them. States can further add to the federal restrictions, making it tougher for people to buy arms. Due to the increasing gun violence in the country, there are increasing demands for more stringent regulation on the sale of weapons, along with an overhaul of the system. People argue that other countries with such laws, like Canada, Australia, England, are doing much better on the gun violence front because they’ve limited gun ownership, which would automatically lead to less violence. The opposition to this argues that banning guns or severely limiting them would solve nothing except infringing on federal rights because criminals would gain access to weapons regardless of legislation. However, only law-abiding citizens would be affected by such laws, which would impact their ability to keep themselves safe.

Another aspect that gun control laws do not take into account is responsible usage. As mentioned below, many instances of gun violence are carried out by children (whether knowingly or unknowingly). In this case, the parents (who would’ve passed all necessary checks) are at fault. How the state can legislate on this issue is a question that must be asked because of the prevalence of school shootings across the country.

Gun-related deaths in the USA are 25 times higher than 22 other high-income nations.

A Parent’s Perspective

Parents are one of the most fundamental stakeholders in this discourse, not least because the conversation (and the film!) starts with a school shooting. So many children lose their lives in these events every year, which is why a huge block of gun legislation activists are just parents who want both justice and for this to not happen to others ever again. There is also the question of parents in terms of gun ownership. Most of the children in these shootings, and in cases where young kids accidentally fire a weapon, do not own their own gun but rather steal or take their parents’. This adds another dimension to this discourse where not just ownership, but also responsible usage, must be talked about. Is irresponsibility something that legislation can account for? How can it be punishable? It’s a very gray area, one that requires more public debate and research.

The picture that Michael Moore presents is one of fear. That what separates America from the rest of the world is how it exists in a constant state of fear and how this mindset is encouraged by politicians, news channels, and journalists. The NRA (National Rifle Association) lobby has its own agenda with regards to gun ownership, and its influence has seeped into all levels of societal and political hierarchy in America. It is therefore important to constantly analyze what’s going on with a clear, unbiased picture because, ultimately, violence is something that affects everyone, regardless of social factors. The immediate popularity (and that it still exists in contemporary consciousness) of the film is a testament to how relevant it is and that its purpose has still not been fulfilled. Despite Moore’s vision, America’s gun violence hasn’t seen any meaningful decrease in the two decades since its release, and it is high time that the people in power, and the masses, do something about it. 


Is 'Bowling For Columbine' staged?

While 'Bowling For Columbine' does use real footage, there are also arguments that various scenes portrayed in the film (like the act of purchasing a rifle) were over-exaggerated to push a certain political agenda.

What is the point of 'Bowling For Columbine'?

It is a documentary filmed with the express purpose of examining the Columbine school shootings in an attempt to get to the root of the high rates of gun violence in the United States of America. Through various montages and interviews, Michael Moore seeks to drive home the point that there is a very serious problem in America that must be tackled at the earliest opportunity so that similar tragedies do not get a chance to occur in the future.

Is 'Bowling For Columbine' factual?

Yes, it is a documentary based on a real-life event, the Columbine massacre, where two high school students killed 13 people in a school shooting. It further goes on to analyze the circumstances surrounding it. There are other various clips, particularly in the ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ montage sequence, that is taken from real-life events.

What is Micheal Moore’s message in 'Bowling For Columbine'?

Michael Moore sets out to show that the gun-related violence in America is not normal in its intensity and must be dealt with before it becomes even worse. He does so through comparative analyses, statistics, and interviews. His message is that this is a very severe issue that is taking over the country, and his wish is for his film to ensure that no other such tragedies occur.

How many shooters are in 'Bowling For Columbine'?

The movie depicts the actions of two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who were high school students at Columbine High School. Other than this, there are also various snippets of other gun-related violence that have taken place across the country.

What is the social connection in 'Bowling For Columbine'?

'Bowling For Columbine' shows that the two school shooters in the Columbine massacre were ‘outcasts’, which means they didn’t have any social connections to their peers. This lack of meaningful bonds made it easier for them to commit such a crime.

What biases are present in 'Bowling For Columbine'?

The largest bias comes from the director Michael Moore himself. He is a liberal who’s long been an advocate for left-wing policies, which include more stringent gun control. Therefore, it is important to keep this in mind when watching 'Bowling For Columbine', which ultimately argues for a gun-less future.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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