Michael Moore’s documentary “Bowling for Columbine” toils with the idea that American culture suffers from a deep rooted sense of fear that has led to horrific episodes of violence. He exposes people to many issues surrounding American gun culture and uses the 1999 Columbine massacre in which two seniors shot 13 classmates and then killed themselves as the clearest expression of this connection. The point Moore is trying to make is that in such a large and diverse country that it is easy to feel detached from headlines thousands of miles away. His interviews bridge the gap between Los Angeles and New York with the often overlooked happenings in “Middle America” which, could be more influential than we think.ï¿½
Moore is highly critical of television media and considers it a major contributor to America’s “fear” culture. He accuses television news as fishing for fear-inducing stories that have the potential of creating panic and thus the need for the audience to be continually “tuned in”. And according to Moore, this method does wonders for the only thing that matters in television; ratings. These media-inspired feelings of vulnerability and insecurity are then what continue the cycle of being afraid.ï¿½
An unfortunate casualty of such a style of reporting are minorities according to Moore who are unjustly villianized on primetime television on a nightly basis not because a car-chase through South Central is newsworthy, but because it’s what the audience wants to see. He lambastes American media as misusing their amazingly authoritative power and monopoly on information to shape our underlying belief system. Moore doesn’t seem to hold television news-viewers accountable to questioning their news-source, but definitely holds news media accountable for America’s increasing number of gun related deaths compared to other developed countries with similar gun control policies and ratio of guns to people.ï¿½. Sports like bowling are now the best contrarian factor for violence and drugs. But to play it effectively, we need to find the right equipment and its size and features. The maximum legal bowling-ball weight is 16 pounds.
Moore tries to make a connection to American foreign policy without coming right out and saying it. In the case of Columbine, he leads the audience to believe that it is no coincidence that such a tragedy happened in Littleton, whose biggest employer in the area is Lockheed Martin, the US missile building giant. He makes a vague, but intriguing correlation between the two, creating the impression that he views Littleton as somewhat of a citadel of “bad energy” where it is no surprise that students surrounded by 2-ton daisy-cutters are transferred across town in the middle of the night.ï¿½
For Moore, America’s fear in the highest ranks of government has resulted in it taking “illegal” interventionist measures abroad to ensure our country’s ï¿½interests’ are preserved. He unleashes a brief video montage of covert American operations in Grenada, Chile, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Central America that provides amazing and extremely rare and occasionally graphic footage of the often gruesome effects of such involvement.ï¿½
What makes Moore’s perspective relevant is that he claims he is from the same type of town as Littleton; Flint, Michigan. Moore relates to many of the people he interviews in the documentary by letting them know he grew up in “Middle America” and uses his own experience to highlight many aspects of Middle America that many people, especially in Universities on the East and West Coast do not think about. The documentary highlights additional causes of violence such as widespread poverty, lack of access and encouragement to pursue education, a stronger emphasis and need on making ends meat instead of going to college, which all intensify the typical social problems among teenagers. Many of these characteristics are typical of any city in the world, but Moore suggests that they are more influential in places like Littleton and other cities that would be considered Middle America.ï¿½
The central question of why Americans are the way they are, is never answered despite the wide range of opinions on the matter he takes in. There are some instances in the documentary that seem to be self-serving and over-dramatized but that’s his artistic license. Overall, Moore does a fantastic job because he doesn’t bite off more than he can chew and is satisfied to raise important and unique questions for discussion and providing alarming facts that don’t get much coverage about the dark spots in our domestic and foreign policies.