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Film / Bowling for Columbine

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"Is America a nation of gun nuts? Or just nuts?"

Bowling for Columbine is a 2002 award-winning documentary film by Michael Moore, which examines the effects of gun violence in the United States, and attempts to give a reason for the motivation of the killers involved in the Columbine massacre.

The film explores what Moore suggests are the causes for the Columbine High School massacre and other acts of violence with guns. He focuses on the background and environment in which the massacre took place, and some common public opinions and assumptions about related issues. The film also looks into the nature of violence in the United States.

Moore talks to many people — including South Park co-creator Matt Stone, the National Rifle Association's then-president Charlton Heston, and musician Marilyn Manson — as he seeks to explain why the Columbine massacre occurred, and why the United States has a high violent crime rate (especially crimes involving guns).


As with Moore's other films, its accuracy is often disputed (and let's say no more about that), but the film is nevertheless worth checking out for its acerbic and thought-provoking statements on American society.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bank Toaster: Moore opens a bank account and receives a free rifle.
  • Canada, Eh?: Subverted; Canada is portrayed in the film as a very sensible (and very laid-back) society, where all the kids go to movie theatres, Windsor is a great place to live, and no one locks his door. Some of the people interviewed do have slightly noticable accents, though.
  • Could This Happen to You?: Spoken by several reporters during a montage of news broadcast clips. Lampshaded by Moore, who accuses the news media of using this trope to frighten its audience and help to create a culture of fear and xenophobia in America.
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  • Extended Disarming: At one point a clip from a video made to sell school administrators on uniforms (and/or metal detectors) is shown with a teenager pulling about half a dozen pistols out of the pockets and waistband of his baggy jeans, what looks like a MAC-11 submachine gun and its separate mag, and finally a shotgun that was in his pants.
  • Film the Hand: Several times, most notably by Dick Clark and Charlton Heston, who leaves his interview with Moore and walks away, slamming a door behind him.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: The point of the title. Moore points out that media watchdogs and social commentary pundits were alarmingly quick to point towards all sorts of societal influences that supposedly caused Harris and Klebold's rampage, including video games, bullying, violent movies, and the like. He notes that all of the things listed are enormously popular in other countries that have violent crime rates far below that of the United States, then questions if they might as well blame the sport of bowling for what happened, as both killers were attending school classes in bowling and even played a game the morning before the shooting.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: A student demonstrates how someone could walk into a school with a weapon unnoticed by removing more than a dozen guns and rifles from his pants. This is shown to demonstrate the culture of fear that news channels were coming up with.
  • Manipulative Editing: The film has been accused of this by some. And that is all we will say on the subject.
  • Montage
  • Moral Guardians: They are shown in a montage sequence and Moore investigates all the things the media claimed were the inspiration behind the murders.
  • The New Rock & Roll: Mocked heavily by Moore during the film. He also subverts this by actually interviewing two people who frightened Moral Guardians, Marilyn Manson and Matt Stone (co-creator of South Park), and showing that they are actually normal, intelligent people of whom you shouldn't be afraid at all.
  • Only Sane Man: Bizarrely, Marilyn Manson comes across as this. This isn't even the first time it has happened in relation to Columbine. Not so bizarre if you actually know enough about the man. Beyond his rock persona, he's a surprisingly thoughtful and well-spoken person.
  • Pillow Pistol: Moore interviews James Nichols, the brother of Oklahoma City bombing perpetrator Terry Nichols, who keeps a gun tucked under his pillow every night.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Thanks to this film Marilyn Manson's public image changed from a grotesque Satanic antichrist feared by Moral Guardians to somebody whom many were surprised to learn is actually a very intelligent and articulate normal human being.
  • Quote Mine: The movie was accused of this with Charlton Heston, which is all we will say on the subject.
  • Scary Black Man: Lampshaded heavily during a segment on the American news media.
  • Shout-Out: At one point, Moore has a montage showing that other countries have the same interests and problems in America, such as broken families, genocidal history, violent movies and video games, and bowling, while saying that they have far lower gun violence rates. This is accompanied by Beethoven's 9th Symphony, similar to the brainwashing scene in A Clockwork Orange.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In one of the film's most famous scenes, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" plays over footage of the atrocities of various US-backed regimes, concluding with the jarring juxtaposition of the song's blissful ending and the horrified screams of people witnessing a plane crash into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The same song also plays over the end credits, but in a cover of Joey Ramone from his solo album Don't Worry About Me.
  • Title Drop: Moore's penultimate line of narration.
  • Verbing Nouny
  • Walking Armory: A clip from a metal detector manufacturer is shown arguing for the institution of a dress code in schools. To demonstrate how casual dress is dangerous, the sequence shows an adolescent boy pulling about half a dozen pistols out of his pockets and waistband, what looks like a MAC-11 submachine gun and its separate mag, and finally a shotgun that was in his pants.
  • You Can Panic Now: Seen in a news segments montage during the film. Although he is not quite as scathing towards them as the NRA or gun manufacturers, Moore criticizes the news media for stoking non-stop fear to boost ratings, and sees this as a major contributing factor to the number of gun deaths in the United States.
  • Your Door Was Open: In Canada. All the time.


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