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The Columbine High School massacre, committed in 1999 by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, saw the deaths of fifteen people — twelve students, one teacher, and the killers themselves — and the injury of another twenty-four people. After it happened, everybody ran around like a headless chicken trying to explain it. Here's our attempt.
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With so many claims about them coming from every direction, what is known about the killers and their motivations deserves to be discussed. This is a far easier task than with most spree killers, as Harris and Klebold left behind a treasure trove of home videos, diaries, and more detailing their thought processes, attitudes, and plans for the massacre. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this mountain of information is also largely responsible for the mystique that has built up around the two and their crimes, especially in comparison to massacres with higher body counts; psychologists, cultural critics, and the killers' Misaimed Fandom have spent years examining and picking apart Harris and Klebold's personal artifacts.
First of all, the two boys were juvenile delinquents who had a history of trouble with the law. The year before the shooting, the two had been arrested for breaking into and stealing tools from a locked van. They made such a good impression on the police that, in exchange for having their criminal records expunged, they would go through a program that included community service, psychiatric treatment and, for Harris, anger management classes. Again, they made such a good impression that they were discharged from the program a few months early. In the memoirs they taped before the shootings, they bragged about how well they had fooled the police into thinking they had reformed. Later, the two would make a video for a school project called Hitmen for Hire, in which they played two Bully Hunters, and Harris would write a violent DoomFan Fic for a creative writing project. In addition, Harris had been caught the year before making threats on his website to various students and teachers, and Klebold had a long history of cursing at teachers and getting into fights with his boss at the pizza place he worked at.
Harris and Klebold were victims of bullying, including homophobic remarks, but as it turns out, they gave as good as they got — they often wrote in their diaries about how they themselves had bullied underclassmen and "fags." In early reports, they were said to be members of the "Trenchcoat Mafia," a clique of gamers and self-styled outcasts who all wore trenchcoats. In reality, they were only friends with one member of the group, and most of them had graduated by the time of the massacre. The killers weren't the loners that early reports described them as — they had a number of friends, and three days before the massacre, Klebold had taken his female friend Robyn Anderson to the prom. They were avid gamers, particularly of Doom (which Harris had even made mods for), and used the names "Reb" and "VoDKa" (the former was Harris, the latter was Klebold) as both their online handles and their nicknames.
The general consensus among investigators regarding their motivations is that they (particularly Harris) were diehard nihilists who wanted to leave their mark on the world. A personality profile of Harris stated that he was an anti-social, paranoid, narcissisticsociopath with unrestrained aggression, while his journal reveals an Übermensch mindset, with frequent references to "natural selection" (the shirt he wore during the massacre even had that slogan on the front). One entry in Harris' journal contains a discussion on how he wanted to put everyone into a super-Doom game and see to it that only the strong survive.
Klebold's diaries likewise talk about how he and Harris were more highly evolved than the rest of humanity, though overall his entries reveal that he was self-loathing and suicidal, with a tendency to obsess over female classmates he was barely acquainted with. Gifted intellectually but with a tendency to "snap" when confronted, it seems that Klebold desperately sought affirmation from his friend, and was equally influenced by Harris's sociopathy and personal vengeance against "the world". The planning the shootings required was an act of cold calculation rather than rage, and attempting to tie the events to a singular incident oversimplifies the killers' psyches.
Both diaries make frequent reference to the Oklahoma City bombing, the Waco Siege, and other disasters, noting how they wished to "outdo" these events. Their codename for the massacre was "NBK," taken from a film that both of them were huge fans of, in which the main characters go on a killing spree and become celebrities in the process.
The chosen location and timing of their massacre was no coincidence, and emphasizes the lack of specific targets. If jocks and the school's social elite were the targets, presumably the killers would have attacked a school sporting event or the prom just three days earlier. Eric's journal specifically mentions wanting a media-friendly killing that would shock all of America in their everyday routine, not something tied to a specific event, and what experience could be more universal than a normal day at school?
Harris and Klebold had begun planning their attack a year in advance. Their plan was to build large bombs that they would plant in the cafeteria and then detonate at lunch time, destroying the cafeteria and the library above it and killing hundreds of students in what would have been the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in American history (the reason why they thought they would "top" Oklahoma City). After that, they would pick off the survivors outside as they fled the burning school. Notes in their journals also contain thoughts about heading to Denver International Airport, hijacking a plane and crashing it into a building in New York City, as well as fleeing to Mexico. The date of the massacre, April 20, coincides with Adolf Hitler's birthday, leading some to speculate that the killers were neo-Nazis. However, there is more evidence to suggest that they had originally planned to attack the school on April 19, the anniversary of both the Oklahoma City bombing they hoped to top and the end of the Waco Siege, but were forced to push it back a day, due to a cache of ammo only being delivered on that evening. Others have speculated that they chose April 20 because it was the day that many of the school's stoners, whom they had never had much of a problem with, would be cutting class to get high ("4/20" and all).
The killers arrived at the school at 11:10 AM and went to the cafeteria with the large duffel bags containing their bombs, each wired to detonate at 11:17 shortly after the start of lunch. They headed back to their cars to wait for the bombs to go off... which they didn't, thanks to their lack of finesse at the finer points of bomb-making. Indeed, the only bomb to detonate was a decoy one they had placed in a nearby field earlier that morning. Set to explode at 11:14, it caused a small fire, but, since its detonation occurred so close to the time the shooting began, it did nothing more than vaguely alert the authorities that something was going on.
Realizing that their bombs were duds, the two broke out their guns (a 9mm carbine and sawed-off pump shotgun for Harris, and a TEC-9 and sawed-off double-barrel shotgun for Klebold) and headed to the school's west entrance. Here, they took off their trenchcoats, killed two students and a teacher, and wounded nine others as they went through the halls. At 11:29, they headed to the library, where the main body of the massacre took place. When they walked in, Harris told everybody wearing a white baseball cap (a tradition among all school athletes) to stand up. Ten people were killed in the library, and twelve were injured.
These would prove to be the last victims of the Columbine massacre, as the killers left the library at 11:42 and spent the next twenty minutes wandering the now-empty halls and cafeteria, shooting and throwing pipe bombs seemingly at random. They went back into the library (which had since emptied out) at 12:02 and briefly exchanged fire with the policemen who now surrounded the school. The two then committed suicide; Harris fired his shotgun in his mouth, and Klebold shot himself with the handgun in his left temple.
There was early speculation that there had been a third man involved in the shootings, based on reports that a strange man had been seen on the roof on the school (later shown to be a repairman who locked himself up there after he heard gunshots), and claims that the two killers couldn't have hauled all of the bombs into the cafeteria by themselves. While all evidence points to Harris and Klebold being the only culprits behind the massacre, this hasn't stopped countless conspiracy theorists from speculating otherwise.
Although school shootings are a relatively, some would say distressingly, common occurrence in the US (there had been one almost every year since 1966)note Although, in a grim irony, the worst-ever US school massacre remains the bombing of an elementary school in Bath Township, Michigan, which happened in 1927., this one quickly entered the halls of infamy for its then-unprecedented scale. Future school shootings, even those with far greater body counts (such as the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary shootings), would find themselves in Columbine's shadow. The irony of all this media attention is that this is exactly what Harris and Klebold wanted to happen — they desired to see their names burned into the history books. Almost immediately, a whole number of apocryphal events began finding their way into the Popular History version of the shooting, Moral Guardians of all stripes used Columbine as an excuse to rant about whatever it was they felt was evil (or whatever would get them the best book deals), everybody was searching for answers, and American high schools came under the thrall of a number of Columbine-related concepts, some of which had never happened. The word "columbine," once the name of the state flower of Colorado, entered the vernacular as a euphemism for a school shooting, and many future school shooting plots made reference to "pulling a columbine" and a desire to "top" Harris and Klebold. Police forces, having witnessed firsthand how ineffective traditional police tactics were against spree killers who weren't interested in taking hostages, saw themselves developing new ways to respond to such threats.
The image of the Badass Longcoat spree killer took off, not helped by the fact that The Matrix had been released just three weeks earlier. In reality, the killers had taken their trenchcoats off as soon as the shooting began, and wore ball caps, T-shirts, and jeans, leading many to believe that the coats were more about projecting a scary, iconic image to the victims and the media than anything. (It seemed to have worked.) The change of clothes also succeeded in confusing early reports as to how many shooters took part in the killing.
Thanks to the media's early rush to judgment, students who were socially isolated or outcasts suddenly became viewed as potential mass murderers in waiting, even though Harris and Klebold weren't outcasts or a particular target of bullying. Muddying the waters was the fact that there had been a pair of heavily-publicized school shootings in the two years prior (one near Paducah, Kentucky and one in Springfield, Oregon) in which the killers did fit the profile of the "lonely outcast," so the media automatically assumed that the Columbine killers were loners as well before all the facts were known. In addition, despite early reports of the spree being a vengeance killing with a particular targeting of jocks, Christians, and minorities, all facts point to a random killing spree with no specific category of victim. (In fact, of the aforementioned shootings, the only one in which a specific category of victim was targeted was the Kentucky shooting, in which the perpetrator fired upon a Christian prayer group.)
In particular, the goth subculture suffered a huge backlash as a result of the shooting, with their outcast status and "dark" persona earning them the suspicion of many. There was no indication that either Klebold or Harris embraced the goth subculture, preferring a more militaristic vibe in their personal style. (Also, goths as a rule tend to be passive and pacifistic, the old stereotype being that they are violent towards themselves rather than others.) Still, schools modified their dress codes to ban trenchcoats and restrict the amount of black clothing a student can wear.
More insidiously, many schools started to assume that all school shooters fall under a certain list of stereotypes and can therefore be identified before they kill (similar to a terrorist watchlist). In a Congress-mandated study, the FBI found that not only is this idea not true, but it is also a dangerous line of thought — while schools focus on trying to find students who fit a predetermined list of traits, real potential shooters go unnoticed. Even so, if a school shooter is portrayed in the media, he (and it's usually a "he") will always be a shy, bullied student who keeps to himself, and it's almost entirely because of this misconception.
Violent video games were one of the most popular scapegoats for the massacre, with much hay being made out of the fact that the killers were fans of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Armchair psychologists were claiming that the killers had become desensitized to and obsessed with violence as a result of playing video games. The infamous Florida attorney Jack Thompson first emerged as an anti-video-game figure as a result of the massacre, setting himself on the trajectory that would ultimately lead to his dismissal from the legal profession. Once it came out that Harris had made various levels for the game, the media was almost immediately claiming that they had been based on Columbine High School, with the demons replaced with students and teachers. As it turned out, they weren't. The most elaborate of the so-called "Harris levels," titled UAC Labs, can be read about and downloaded here, third down the list, with commentary on the massacre and its effect on the gaming community.
Certain popular movies also came under fire. Among the targets were: The Matrix, with its stylized action scenes, its story about our reality being a lie, its proliferation of Badass Longcoat heroes, and the fact that it had been released just three weeks prior to the killings and was still a box office hit; The Basketball Diaries, which contained a fantasy sequence in which Leonardo DiCaprio's character shoots up his school while wearing a trenchcoat; and Natural Born Killers, which both of the killers were huge fans of, and whose plot eerily mirrored the aftermath of the shooting. Less associated with the massacre, but a strong influence, particularly for Klebold, was the David Lynch film Lost Highway.
The debate on gun control was reignited by the massacre, with each side repeating its talking points. Gun control advocates claimed that the tragedy could have been averted had there been more restrictions on the purchase of firearms, noting that Harris and Klebold had acquired their weapons through mostly legal means, specifically counting on the lack of background checks at gun shows.note It is important to note here that, by "legal", we mean in the sense that they didn't steal their guns or go through the black market to get them — instead, they had Klebold's friend, Robyn Anderson, purchase the guns for them (a straw purchase), which is a felony offense in the US. (Ever see one of those "Don't Lie for the Other Guy" posters at gun stores? This is why.) On the other side, gun rights advocates claimed that gun control, particularly the "gun-free" zones around schools, had left the students and teachers defenseless, making the situation worse than it had to be. In any case, while Colorado would soon close the "gun show loophole" in-state, no significant federal gun control legislation was passed as a result of the shooting, and the federal Assault Weapons Ban would expire without being renewed just five years later.
Schools, meanwhile, took security into their own hands, installing metal detectors at school entrances, hiring security guards, mandating see-through backpacks, running "intruder drills" (similar to fire drills) in order to practice what to do if someone were to attack the school, and instituting "zero-tolerance" policies regarding violence or the threat of it. Such policies quickly became highly controversial, with many people, particularly students and social scientists, feeling that they got out of control and infringed upon the rights of the students. A report by the Secret Service stated that schools were taking false hope in such security measures, and that they wouldn't do anything to deter another massacre — in fact, they concluded that zero-tolerance policies getting an unstable student suspended or expelled for a minor infraction may very well push him or her over the edge. In addition, minority students were almost always disproportionately targeted by such policies. However, many schools still have zero tolerance policies in place, since the criticism received for punishing the relatively innocent is infinitely easier to deal with than the perceived culpability for letting a violent situation escalate.
Various conservative Christian groups proclaimed the massacre to be the result of the secularization of society, the teaching of evolution and sex education, and the lack of religion in public schools. Many within such circles are more inclined to accept initial accounts claiming that two of the victims, Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, had been killed because of their Christian faith, having been asked if they believed in God — and answering "yes" — before they were shot. Most authoritative investigations of the massacre have concluded that these stories of how the two died are apocryphal, and based on the experience of Valeen Schnurr, a girl who was asked by the killers if she believed in God, but survived the massacre. However, many continue to consider the two to be martyrs and symbols of faith in the face of death, and a number of Columbine-inspired works have portrayed their killers as specifically targeting Christians.
One of the most popular targets of social backlash was shock rock, metal and other "Satanic," "unhealthy" or "violent" music, with Marilyn Manson acting as a main lightning rod. In reality, Harris and Klebold viewed Manson as a sellout and a poser, but this didn't stop people from claiming that their music had somehow influenced the two to shoot up their school. Ultimately, this became a case of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity for Manson, as the massacre greatly increased their pop culture profile; their front man's interview with Michael Moore about the shooting (quoted above) may have been his Moment Of Awesome.
Some alleged that the killers were either neo-Nazis, or had a fascination with Adolf Hitler and his regime. Supporters of this theory point to the fact that the attack had taken place on April 20, Hitler's birthday, and the fact that the killers were fans of Rammstein and KMFDM, two bands often hit with accusations of being Music to Invade Poland to. Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold's, denies that the killers were Nazis, although she claims that there was a lot that she didn't know about them. It is worth noting here that Dylan Klebold's mother was Jewish (although he was raised Lutheran), and that, as noted above, it is likely that the attack had been planned for April 19. Most likely, the killers found the Nazi regime's social Darwinism and policy of genocide and extermination philosophically appealing, but viewed their enemy as all of humanity rather than any specific ethnic group. Eric Harris, in particular, had a distinct tendency for Putting on the Reich with Nazi salutes and quotations, if apparently mainly for shock value.
The fact that Eric Harris had been taking the anti-depressants Luvox and, before that, Zoloft was a point of note for many people critical of the perceived over-prescription of psychiatric medication in today's society, particularly among teenagers. It would later be discovered that Harris had been rejected for military service due to his use of these medications, and it was speculated that this is what drove him over the edge, or else going off his medication in an attempt to be accepted. (This was later shown to be untrue — Harris had not received news of his rejection by the time of the massacre, and, in any case, had begun his planning long before the recruiter had cold-called him.)
There were also allegations of neglectful parenting thrown at the killers' parents, as people claimed that, had they been paying any attention to their kids, they could have stepped in and stopped it. In the so-called "Basement Tapes" recorded before the killing, Harris and Klebold absolved their parents of responsibility, and joked at how adept they were at fooling them. At the very least, they wanted their deed to be perceived as all their own.
Finally, one of the most popular culprits for the shootings was society in general. For the first time, there was genuine examination and criticism of the social hierarchy of high school, particularly the high status that athletes enjoy in it. Schools began to crack down on bullying within their halls, and most people who were of school age soon after Columbine will most likely recall all of the assemblies calling for tolerance and respect for fellow classmates. The fact that we still have the Popularity Food Chain shows that such efforts ultimately proved futile, as 1999 became ancient history for a new generation of high school students who were only in elementary school when the shooting took place — it took another cycle of bullying-related suicides a decade later before people started asking these questions again. (Ironically, though bullying has been a factor in other school shootings, Harris and Klebold had not particularly been victims of bullying, as noted above.)
And before anybody asks, yes, there are Conspiracy Theories claiming that Harris and Klebold had been brainwashed by The Illuminati, serving as patsies to advance draconian new gun control laws. (As noted above, very little serious gun legislation passed in the wake of the shooting.)
One of the most disturbing trends to happen after the shooting was the Draco in Leather Pants aura that developed around Harris and Klebold, with many students on the bottom of the high school food chain calling them heroes and martyrs who stood up to the privileged jocks and bullies that ruled high schools across the nation. Trenchcoats became a popular fashion accessory among such students, with schools responding by banning them under their dress codes. A series of copycat shootings took place, carried out mostly by people who wanted to get revenge on their classmates and, like Harris and Klebold, leave their mark on the world. Even a decade and a half later, a quick search will find a surprisingly large number of tribute sites and videos for "Reb and VoDKa". However, the vast majority of these sites condemn the shooting but express the sentiment that Klebold and to a lesser extent Harris were kind, intelligent boys before suffering mental illness and, in Klebold's case, falling in with perhaps the worst influence there could be, and that people should see this side of them as well.
Perhaps the most important effect of the massacre was the way that it would shape American popular culture for years to come. The most noticeable and immediate change was a trend of stiffer censorship against violence in movies and TV shows that lasted into the early Turn of the Millennium. The teen horror genre, popularized by the likes of Scream (1996), began to die out as depictions of young people being brutally murdered suddenly became very unsettling. After a period of Too Soon, school shootings became popular subject matter for Ripped from the Headlines programs, the canonical example being the Law & Order episode "School Daze" (one of the first to be advertised with such a slogan). It can be argued that the Columbine massacre marked the beginning of the end for the viewpoints and culture of The Nineties (much like how the Altamont disaster is said to have killed The Sixties), and that the time between April 20, 1999 and September 11, 2001 was a time of transition between The Nineties and the Turn of the Millennium.
Media that is about, references or was affected by the event:
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The unpublished September 1999 issue of Hellblazer, entitled "Shoot", depicted a study of a series of fictional school shootings. Seeing as how it was set to come out just five months after Columbine, it's not that hard to speculate why DC withheld it from publication.
The fact that the plot was basically the idea that modern life is so banal and empty that many school shooting victims WANT to die, the title of the story being one of them giving an instruction to the killer might also had something to do with it.
The cover of Preacher #52 was originally supposed to depict an 8 year-old Tulip O'Hare getting a handgun as a Christmas present. After Columbine, it was changed to a standard facial shot of an adult Tulip.
Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine examines America's obsession with guns and violence, and suggests that it had played a role in the shooting, pointing out that the NRA has done little to restrict the purchase of guns and ammunition for less-than-wholesome purposes. However, he does go out of his way to state that guns themselves are not the problem, showcasing how Canada has a comparatively low rate of gun violence despite gun ownership rates being almost as high as in the U.S. (As the saying goes, guns don't kill people, people kill people.note This is not to say, however, that someone with a gun, or even a knife, won't kill another living thing much more efficiently than someone who has no such thing.) The film's general theme is that there are no easy answers for the massacre — after all, both Harris and Klebold were bowlers, so could that not have driven them to kill?
Home Room, which focused more on the aftermath of the shooting.
April Showers, which was directed by a man who was a senior at Columbine when the massacre took place.
The Black ComedyExploitation FilmDuck! The Carbine High Massacre. Released exactly one year after Columbine, Duck! was the first film to be made about the killings, and without a doubt the mosttasteless. The makers of the film were arrested and briefly imprisoned for bringing guns onto school grounds to shoot their movie — something that they proudly boasted about on the film's cover. What else would you expect from a film made by two guys from Jersey calling themselves William Hellfire and Joey Smack?
The Made-for-TV MovieAtomic Train wasn't shown in Denver out of apparent sympathy for the Columbine massacre. The movie had absolutely nothing to do with schools, shootings, or anything like it, being about, y'know, a nuclear train, albeit one wherein the inevitable wrong-going happens near Denver.
Officially, the reason that it took Toei Company so long to give Battle Royalea proper release in the United States is because of their demands that it get a national theatrical release and a marketing campaign on par with the average Summer Blockbuster. However, many fans of the film can't help but feel that lingering squeamishness regarding the film's subject matter (high school kids being forced to kill each other) also played a role in the 13(!)-year delay.
This is also probably the number one reason why the American remake is stuck in Development Hell. Nobody wants the controversy that would accompany a film like this. In fact, when the remake was announced, one major Battle Royale fansite had the headline "HELL FREEZES OVER".
Then there's the fact that the first thing you see is the exterior of a house, with the sound of bullets echoing through the air and flashes of light through the windows; you don't realize it's a video game until you're inside. The caption saying "Denver, Colorado" doesn't help.
The Boondock Saints wound up seeing its American theatrical release limited to just five theaters partly as a result of the Columbine massacrenote The chief reason, however, was because of Prima Donna Director Troy Duffy's gigantic ego, which led him to burn all his bridges with Miramax, his distributor., causing it to become a Direct-to-Video film for all intents and purposes.
Being released just ten days after the massacre is often cited as the reason why the horror-comedyIdle Hands flopped at the box office. Its plot involves a boy's hand being possessed by a demon, causing him to kill his parents and his best friends, and the climax involves the hand going on a bloodthirsty rampage at the High School Dance.
The film Dawn Anna, starring Debra Winger in the title role, was about the mother of one of the victims of the shooting, detailing her struggles with brain cancer not long after meeting her future husband. After being cured of the disease, her daughter, Lauren Townsend (played by a youngTatianaMaslany), is killed in the Columbine massacre. Yes, it's a Lifetime movie — what, are you surprised?
The Life Before Her Eyes, starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood, is about a woman who survived a Columbine-style massacre fifteen years prior and whose present-day life is falling apart due to her Survivor Guilt.
The original poster for The Final was clearly designed to invoke the massacre. It's no surprise why it wasn't used on the DVD release.
Ginger Snaps was hit with Columbine-related controversy north of the border. News that Telefilm Canada was funding a "teen slasher flick" (and one with a gothprotagonist, at that) right after both Columbine and a copycat shooting in Alberta caused a media frenzy, forcing Telefilm Canada to publicly defend their decision. In the end, all this may have helped a small, independent horror film gain wider recognition — it wound up becoming the fifth highest-grossing Canadian film that year.
Scream 3 had to be heavily rewritten in the wake of Columbine in order to tone down the violence. According to this interview and other sources, the original script revolved around Sidney's return to Woodsboro with Stu from the first film returning as the main killer.
The effect of the massacre is also discussed within the film itself. One of the producers of the Film Within a FilmStab 3 notes how violence in cinema has become a touchy subject recently, Columbine being the unstated-yet-obvious reason why.
The director and writer of The Dirties were largely influenced and haunted by Columbine.
Parallels are drawn between Columbine and the school massacre that Freddy is responsible for in Dreamspawn. The massacre was blamed on the (now insane) protagonist and her dead friends, because they were outcasts. Its handled reallyAnviliciously.
Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes is the story of a boy who shoots up his high school after being bullied and his crush abandons him to join the in-crowd responsible. At his trial, a psychiatrist cites Harris and Klebold as an example of school shooters.
Douglas Coupland's 2003 novel "Hey Nostradamus!", in which four characters describe the effects a Columbine-like shooting had on them, was written out of the author's concern that not enough attention had been given to the victims of Columbine. His narrative pointedly avoids exploring the motivations of the novel's two shooters.
Cheryl, who narrates the first vignette during or soon after her death at the hands of the two shooters, debunks an apocryphal explanation that Christians had been specifically targeted. This appears to allude to the same myths that encircled the Columbine shooting.
Andrew Solomon's non-fiction book "Far from the tree: parents, children, and the search for identity" profiles Dylan Klebold's parents and how they dealt with the aftermath of their son murdering thirteen people and then killing himself.
Flashpoint: "Perfect Storm"note Ultimately a subversion, as the "shooter" never intended to kill anyone, just terrorize them the way they'd terrorized him. His "victims" are surprised to be alive, but ultimately speak out for him when the police show up.
Boston Public: Surprisingly enough, despite being a series primarily set in a school, this show has had only one episode involving a school massacre plot. In one episode, a student's notes describing a plan to bomb the school were found, but nothing actually happens nor does this get mentioned again.
One episode, "Earshot", which was set to air just four days after the shooting took place, was quickly pulled, due to the fact that a) the story was an Axes at School plot about Buffy gaining telepathy and overhearing somebody thinking about killing students, and b) it featured a student climbing up into the school's bell tower with a sniper rifle (he was actually trying to kill himself, not the other students, but was stopped by Buffy). The second was the Season Finale, "Graduation Day, Part 2", which had Buffy, with help from the entire senior class, blowing up Sunnydale High School in order to kill the Mayor after he turned into a giant snake monster. Fans would have to wait until July and September of 1999 to see both episodes air.
"Earshot" also featured Xander musing "who hasn't idly dreamed of gunning down their fellow students," and Oz remarking how school shootings were "bordering on trendy," which would have almost certainly evoked the wrongreaction had it been shown on the original airdate.
An irony at the time was that, when "Earshot" was pulled from airing, The WB aired a rerun of the episode "Bad Girls" in it's place. The fact that said episode featured Faith murdering a guy by accident, then nonchalantly telling Buffy that she didn't feel any guilt or remorse, made some people wonder what kind of message the WB was trying to send kids.
An episode of The Closer featured a group of just-out-of-high-school boys who talked about doing what the Columbine boys tried to do. While most people assumed they were planning a school shooting/bombing, Fritz figures out that they were planning to set off bombs in a building and pick off the survivors as they fled. Unfortunately, they only figure out what the target is (a shopping mall) while inside it, when they spot the planted bombs. Notably, the focus isn't on high school dynamics, but on mass-murdering terrorists, and the high school is only important as that was how the boys knew each other.
The NCIS episode Bait, starts off with a boy bringing a bomb into his classroom and holding the other kids hostage. He's also a hostage. The bomb's controlled by members of organized crime.
Silent Witness did one of these too, but in the university where the pathology lab is situated. The two gunmen are clearly based on the Columbine shooters, but in a twist, the Klebold-expy didn't know that the Harris-expy was serious, and ended up shooting him to put a stop to the massacre. There was also a third guy who tried to back out, and the Harris-expy murdered him prior to the massacre. As with Columbine, after a certain point the halls are cleared and everyone is hiding in locked rooms, cutting the massacre short. And while Columbine was supposed to start off with a massive explosion, the university shooting was supposed to climax with a chemical weapons attack, but this time it was caught and stopped.
The Criminal Minds episode "Painless" revolves around the anniversary of a school shooting, with the Unsub targeting the survivors. Their motivation turns out to be that they were a fellow survivor that got ignored by the media in favor of more 'photogenic' students, one of which stole his story of standing up to the gunman. The other 'top ten' survivors were aware of this (in a sense- they couldn't remember who did stand up to the gunman, but knew their story was fake), but refused to clear up the truth. The original gunman thought he was God and was killing people For the Evulz before blowing himself up and the second killer's other grievance is that said-explosion cost him his ability to feel pain (hence the title)- he suffered more than the other survivors and was braver than them, but they stole all the credit and attention.
Earlier episodes featured a disgruntled and bullied student going on a killing spree, though in this case throughout his small town rather than at his school. A first season ends with a guy setting his school on fire, and another featured an action climax as a cult broke into an elementary school to try and massacre all the kids inside, but found the Feds waiting for them instead.
American Horror Story: Murder House features a Columbine-esque shooting as Tate's backstory. Driven to kill by the spirits inside the "Murder House", he shot up his school while wearing a trench coat and skull-like face paint, killing fifteen people before he got killed by the police. The episode where this is revealed has Tate's ghost confronted by the spirits of five of the victims, having built up years of rage, grilling him on why he did it. One girl, a former cheerleader, recounts a tale similar to the "do you believe in God?" incident often associated with Cassie Bernall; she answered "yes", only to find out, upon becoming a ghost rather than entering heaven, that she was wrong.
My Chemical Romance's "Teenagers" mocks both the tendency to demonize school violence and "outcast" groups in the wake of school shootings, and teenagers themselves who take umbrage at being treated like vicious little monsters when they continue being casually cruel to one another.
After being Mis-blamed for the massacre, Marilyn Manson proceeded to write the album Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). Most of the lyrics and subject matter were direct responses to Columbine, with Manson calling it "a declaration of war" on the Moral Guardians.
On The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem defended Manson and himself from the public backlash that erupted from Columbine with the single "The Way I Am". He claimed that middle-class suburbanites were hypocritical for only caring about violence once it started happening in their kids' schools rather than the "ghetto" schools. Other lyrics more specifically mentioning the incident were censored in the song "I'm Back", even on the explicit version.
"When a dude's getting bullied and shoots up his school
middle America, now it's a tragedy, now it's so sad to see
an upper-class city having this happening.'
The Nightwish song "The Kinslayer" is about the massacre. The lyrics even quote real dialogue between the killers and their victims. The fifteen candles mentioned near the end refer to those who died on that day — four pink ones for the female victims, nine blue ones for the male victims, and two black ones for the killers themselves.
Five Iron Frenzy was from Denver, and one of the band members lived three blocks from the school, and his sister was one of the students present on that day. So the incident hit home for them. They wrote the song "A New Hope" in response.
Not directly about the massacre, but "America's Suitehearts," a Fall Out Boy song about people getting famous for unsavory things, was written partially in response to the cult of celebrity around the killers that emerged on MySpace in the early 2000s.
The song "Youth of the Nation" by POD was inspired by Columbine and the Santana High shooting in California.
Five For Fighting's "Easy Tonight" was a response to the incident.
Christian Rock band Flyleaf's song "Cassie" is an ode to Columbine victim Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, which perpetuates the skewed narrative by describing Cassie as being shot for believing in God, even though Valeen Schnurr was the one who had that conversation and survived.
Pearl Jam's "Rival" is guitarist Stone Gossard's reflection on Columbine.
Christian Rock musician Michael W. Smith wrote the song "This Is Your Time" as a reference to the (apocryphal) story of Cassie Bernall's martyrdom.
Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks," while not about Columbine specificallynote It's not about any specific incident; instead, it relays a fictional scenario centered around a character who's driven to kill by being socially outcast and parentally neglected and/or abused, none of which fit the profile of the Columbine killers, was at least in part inspired by the event. The issue was close to them as a whole; the bassist's first cousin was in the library at the time of the shooting.
In his "Bigger and Blacker" stand-up show, Chris Rockmocked the gunmen's Informed Loner statusnote "The Trenchcoat Mafia! They're like 'no one would play with us! We had no friends, the Trenchcoat Mafia...' Hey, I saw the yearbook picture, it was six of them! I ain't had six friends in high school. I don't got six friends now! Shit, that's three-on-three with a half court.", the Moral Guardians trying to make hay from the situationnote "Who gives a fuck what they was watching? Whatever happened to crazy?", and the people who treat violence in rich suburban (i.e. white) schools as anomalies while ignoring the same violence in inner city schoolsnote You're gonna have little white kids sayin', 'I wanna go to a black school where it's safe!'".
The one-act stage play Bang Bang You're Dead, about an imprisoned high school killer who is confronted by the ghosts of his victims, was actually written before Columbine (although based on other school shootings) to raise awareness about school violence. However, the timeliness of its subject matter caused it to become incredibly popular, being performed 15,000 times in the three years after Columbine. The play was later adapted into a film by the Showtime network.
Columbinus, a 2-Act play, focuses on Harris and Klebold, and some other students at the school. The first act has generic names for the characters: Poser, Goth, Loner, Freak, etc. The second act has the characters named and follow the actual shooting. The Play is based on information from friends, family, and documents.
According to interviews with the creator, Danny Ledonne, the game was made to explore hyperreality and the treatment of death in video games, and allow people to explore the massacre and the killers' mindsets in a way that only a game can do. The game is set up like an old-school, turn-based RPG, denying the players the visceral thrill of watching teenagers (who are all represented by crude 8-bit sprites) getting brutally gunned down. The consequences of the killers' violence are shown — the first half ends with photos of their dead bodies, and the entire second half has them, literally, in Hell for their sins (though it's slightly undercut by what they wind updoing in Hell).
To this day, Pico remains the mascot of Newgrounds. Scroll halfway down on any Flash video on the site, and you'll see an option to rate the video. There he is! He has a whole holiday on the site devoted to him, "Pico Day", and even a spinoff series with an evil twin known as "Piconjo" (an extremly pale Pico with a BFS and a dong the size of a tree, resulting in 99% of his apparitions culminating in a penis joke or something related), described by Newgrounds itself as the Wario to Pico's Mario. Pico, Piconjo, and Pico's best friends Darnell (a black Pyro Maniac and Mad Bomber kid) and Nene (a suicidal Chinese girl with quite an addiction to blades and a comical tendency to catch herpes due to her loose morals, who is often portrayed as Pico's Love Interest) are only the main characters of the whole Picoverse, which includes gems such as the Uberkids (cloned "genetically perfect" kids who duel Pico and friends in a rock-paper-scissors Russian Roulette tournament in their first apparition), the goth kids (which includes a neo-nazi one-eyed punk, a Ninja who loves fighting in the dark and aiming for the crotch, a medium/telekinesist and the alien mentionned before. Now THAT'S Refuge in Audacity.
You can't even use official Sega lightguns on the American Dreamcast because the console was released a few months after Columbine and gun support was region locked out. You had to use the scant few shitty third-party guns that were quietly eked out to Funcoland in order to make games like The House of the Dead 2 playable.
Persona 2 was released as two games in Japan. The first game involved students armed with semiautomatics and Uzis fighting against a resurrected Adolf Hitler, as well as being given the option to kill their school's principal. The second game was cleared for release in America only because two of the characters got a Plot-Relevant Age-Up and everyone else was ignored.
The Emogame series makes a number of references to the shooting. In the first game, the Hot Topic store sells Trenchcoat Mafia fashion accessories (including a Columbine High T-shirt), and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold appear in the second game.
Perfect Dark faced this problem in terms of there being plans to take photos with the Game Boy camera and use them in game. After the massacre the idea of shooting students and teachers came up and Rare had to pull this feature.
The Static Shock episode "Jimmy" had a bullied student shooting at a group of football players. It was one of several very special episodes on the show, and ended with a public service announcement about gun safety.
In one of the South Park DVD commentaries, Trey Parker and Matt Stone say that, although they'd paved the way for many things to be acceptable on television today that were not in the '90s (such as certain swear words, AIDS, and homosexual characters), due to the Columbine shooting it was no longer acceptable for them to depict the boys with guns, as the subject was no longer considered funny (especially given that the two of them come from Colorado).
Though not a direct reference to the incident, "The Cissy" cleverly uses the idea of a school massacre without making light of them to set up the main joke of the episode.
The theatrical poster for Titan A.E. had Cale Tucker running around shooting a laser gun, followed by love interest Akima. Unfortunately, this was released on film during the fallout of the Columbine High School massacre and movie companies were coming under heavy criticism for violence in films; as a result, the writers had Cale make the same running pose, but this time showing Akima the map with his hand outstretched toward it in place of the gun for the VHS and DVD box art.
The Family Guy episode "Brian and Stewie" has Stewie asking Brian why he has a gun in his safe deposit box despite his anti-gun beliefs, noting that he cried after Columbine. When Brian retorts that it was because Columbine was a national tragedy, Stewie says he feels it was "more of a regional tragedy".
The card game Chrononauts has Columbine as one of the events on its timeline. The expansion has an identity where one of the goals is making sure the shooting happens, and the base game have several that require stopping it.