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“Bowling for Columbine“ by Michael Moore

Bowling for Columbine is a 2002 documentary that tells about the infamous Columbine massacre in 1999 and the problem of violence in the United States in general. In addition to the fact that the second amendment to the US Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to possess and carry weapons, the National Rifle Association also has a significant influence in the United States. In his documentary, Michael Moore exposes the shortcomings of the current American social system and demonstrates them through many different people’s lives.

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Michael Moore is a director who has his civic position, so he is more inclined to blame the state regime for the various murders taking place across the country than computer games and rock musicians. However, clear answers to the questions “Who is to blame?”, “What to do?” and “What is the root cause?” the director does not give and does not set himself such task. He presents the viewer with facts and the opportunity to try to answer all this themselves. It is also noteworthy that Bowling for Columbine won an Oscar for Best Documentary of the Year and a special prize in Cannes in honor of the 55th anniversary of the film festival.

Bowling for Columbine is, without doubt, Michael Moore’s best and the most fact-packed documentary. With an almost complete absence of didactics, he explores the American mentality’s features in a very impartial form for it In his characteristic, caustic satirical style, Michael Moore reveals to the viewer the causes and consequences of the free sale of arms in the United States, for the first time in his film career drawing unpleasant parallels for the United States with European countries and Canada.

For two hours of screen time, a convincing story of the United States unfolds before the audience as a nation of phobias, a mentality built on fear of neighbors, surrounding countries, international terrorism. Accordingly, large corporate companies continually profit from these fears, capitalizing on human tragedy. Unlike his other films, Moore takes not an isolated incident from life and turns it from a private into a pretext for parable-like generalizations (Martin, 2018).

He uses cases that form a whimsical mosaic of obsession with violence: from the explosion in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh to the murders by schoolchildren at Columbine School before the military hysteria in Iraq.

Moore’s picture is filled with politically incorrect anti-Americanism, which, most surprisingly, was awarded an Oscar in 2003, what indicates a high level of self-criticism among American intellectuals in those years (that is not an issue, for example, now). This anti-Americanism reaches its apotheosis in an animated insert, satirically telling the United States’ history as an evolution of fear, primarily of the African American community.

Moore brilliantly avoids the topic of speculation around the alleged obsolescence of a racist problem. Like Spike Lee, arguing that racism is a reality today because African American children are socially vulnerable economic disorder victims (they cannot even attend college, let alone universities). As a result, this becomes material for youth criminal gangs.

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In this picture, Moore looks at the root of the problem more precisely than ever. He discovers a tight knot that ties together economic disorder, social fear, escalation of violence, and the general depressive-psychotic tone of the media, speculating on the growth of social tension (45:00). As one English political scientist says in his later film “Health Burial,” it is easier to govern a disoriented and neurotic nation.

Moore also gives an excellent example of how easy it is to control the American community, whose fundamental principles were once freedom and independence. In the documentary, he shows the authorities directing the public’s anger towards Marilyn Manson and things like video games through media such as TV (44:10). No one needs politically conscious citizens who know their rights. The authorities are afraid of such people because they represent a real force.

To enhance the effect of the impact, Moore decided to resort to a simple comparison, for which he went to neighboring Canada and began to cite the bare facts (117:30). It turns out that the number of weapons in private hands of Canadians is roughly proportional to the level of their distribution in the United States, but crimes committed with their use are much less common there: in a year, Canadians have 165 murders, and Americans have more than eleven thousand! Perhaps best of all, these statistics show that the possession of firearms in America for some time now has become a “monstrous norm.”

The episodes of Moore checking unlocked doors and asking people about universal public health in Canada perfectly show how stressful the neuroticized American community is. The filmmaker tries to convey to viewers through comparison that not only every American is at their limit, but also the entire US community is on the edge of a somewhat of a chasm, which is a social catastrophe and chaos.

The drama of the events prepared by Moore reaches its peak when he talks about the murder of a first-grader by a peer (132:15). Returning on this mournful occasion to his hometown Flint, he narrates various experiences since his first film, “Roger and I.” The film shows, using the example of a city alone, that mass unemployment, which has become the norm of the market economy. Furthermore, it displays the bourgeois way of life, leads to social fear, escalation of social tension, an increase in crime, the strengthening of the predatory interests of large corporations, the impotence of the state.

From the time the film was released in 2002 to the present day, it is difficult to unequivocally state the American society’s unambiguous progress on the formation of the mentality of the US public. The nationwide problems of information pressure, increasing economic inequality, and the trend towards a decrease in interethnic tolerance remain relevant in modern America. Reinforcing the influence of digital technologies and the increasing role of information were resolved and worsened. In his work, Moore demonstrates the systematic nature of the designated range of problems, for the solution of which an integrated approach is required.


Martin, G. (2018). Crime, media and culture. Routledge.

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