Essay: Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine

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[. . .] We learn that at 15 Moore won an NRA marksman award and has been a lifelong hunter and rifle owner." (Kellner 142) Many viewers are practically persuaded to identify with Moore and to attempt to follow his lead by doing something with regard to the issue.

In the beginning of the film Moore visits a Michigan bank that provides customers with a rifle if they open an account following a series of terms. This demonstrates the ease with which individuals can come in possession of a gun in the U.S., as this respective bank treated the gun topic as if guns were no different than objects that people use on a daily basis. The director brings together ideas like hilarity and horror with the purpose of expressing his point-of-view. It is really intriguing to observe how bank operators shown in the film seem happy to be there and are unable to realize that they might incriminate themselves by being in this position. This actually proves that simple Americans such as the people working for the bank see nothing wrong with associating concepts like a bank account and a rifle, this proving that the gun culture pervaded every aspect of the American culture up to the point where public institutions give out deadly weapons to their customers as if they were kitchen appliances.

This scene generated much controversy however, with critics pointing out that Moore staged the moment when he was given the gun and that one would apparently have to meet certain requirements such as a thorough background check to see if the respective person was entitled to own a gun (Schultz 181). Regardless of whether the scene was staged or not, it is certainly horrifying to see how some people use guns with the purpose of attracting customers. This is obviously done with the intention of making audiences angry and thus to make them take action in order to remedy things.

The presence of unlikely role-models in the film further highlights the degree to which the social order has reached in terms of cultural values. While many are probable to blame Marilyn Manson for the violent messages he puts across through his songs, his interview actually proves that the problem is not with music just as it is not with bowling. Manson proves to have a humane personality and he too seems to be outraged with the fact that U.S. culture produces incidents like the Columbine High School Massacre. The rock star further underlines how the U.S. society is especially supportive with regard to fear and consumption and to how it even supports the connection between these two concepts. People are practically taught that it would be impossible for them to live in harmony as long as they fail to act in agreement with a strict set of principles. They thus come to do everything in their power in order to keep these respective principles alive and they seem to be happy with ignoring the numerous problems that such attitudes cause instead of addressing them directly.

Many aspects of the film are exaggerated in order to intensify the message it is meant to put across. "The charges against Bowling for Columbine are essentially the same as for Roger and Me: factual errors and inaccuracies, exacerbated by manipulative editing using cut and paste for satirical purposes, at the expense of serious exposition of content and substantial, fair, political argument." (Chapman 151) While Moore's purposes are admirable, it is nonetheless disturbing to acknowledge that many viewers are probable to get the wrong idea as a result of seeing the film. It would be perfectly normal to stand up and criticize the contemporary gun culture in the U.S., but this needs to be done using calculated strategies and simply accusing third-parties is unlikely to generate positive results.

People often find themselves having trouble understanding the difference between providing the masses with information and harming others in order to provide the masses with information. Moore's portrayal of Charles Heston as a racist is meant to contribute to having viewers perceive this person as someone who needs to be reprimanded for his actions in general. While Heston is a supporter of the U.S. gun lobby, his involvement in civil rights movements actually proves that he has nothing to do with racism. The film's director thus exaggerated Heston's culpability in order to get viewers to dislike him. In his attempt to influence people to want justice, Moore acted in disagreement with a person's right to be free of disgrace and indignity. "The question becomes an extremely important one as we train students in the techniques of documentary only to unleash them and their cameras on an unsuspecting public." (Pryluck 21) The director virtually wanted to bring to light information that was easily hidden from public view and this meant that he had to express little to no interest in Heston's well-being.

Films like Bowling for Columbine are meant to "provoke, challenge, offend, advocate, and, above all, tell the extraordinary stories of ordinary people searching for civil rights and social justice." (Sachleben & Yenerall 154) Moore is apparently determined to do everything in his power in order to raise public awareness regarding the dangers associated with the gun culture currently promoted throughout the U.S. His documentary provides viewers with a series of disturbing questions concerning themselves and their political past and present.

Moore experienced success in creating Bowling for Columbine because he managed to enter his film as a stand-in for viewers. He devised questions that most viewers are likely to ask and he developed an enquiring attitude in order to find the answer to these respective questions.

Works cited:

Beattie, Keith, "Up Close and Personal: Popular Factual Entertainment"

Chapman, Jane, "Issues in Contemporary Documentary," (Polity, 17 Aug 2009)

Geivett, R. Douglas, and Spiegel, James S., "Faith, Film and Philosophy: Big Ideas on the Big Screen," (InterVarsity Press, 20 Aug 2009)

Kellner, Douglas M., "Cinema Wars: Hollywood Film and Politics in the Bush-Cheney Era," (John Wiley & Sons, 13 Sep 2011)

Nichols, Bill, "Documentary and the voice of the orator"

Pryluck, Calvin, "Ultimately We Are All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filming," Journal of the University Film Association Vol. 28, No. 1 (Winter 1976), pp. 21-29

Rabiger, Michael, "Extract: Directing the Documentary"

Sachleben, Mark, and Yanerall, Kevan M., "Seeing the Bigger Picture: Understanding Politics Through Film & Television," (Peter Lang, 2004)

Schultz,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine.  (2013, September 29).  Retrieved August 25, 2019, from

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"Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine."  29 September 2013.  Web.  25 August 2019. <>.

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"Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine."  September 29, 2013.  Accessed August 25, 2019.