“You better run, better run, faster than my bullet” – Pumped up Kicks
Bowling for Columbine is a 2002 documentary film written and produced my Michael Moore that investigates possible reasons as to why gun violence continues to perpetuate in American society, and Moore accomplishes this by concentrating on the Columbine High School Massacre that occured in Littleton, Colorado. The film’s overall focus is to bring perspective into events that ultimately led to the murder of 12 students and 1 teacher on April 20th, 1999; a crime committed by two seemingly harmless teenage male students that attended the school. The documentary starts with Moore proceeding into the North Country Bank in Michigan to create an account, after seeing an ad in the newspaper that promoted a free gun for every bank account that you open. As marvellous as it sounds for seasoned hunters in Michigan State, Moore questions the obvious,
Don’t you think it’s a little dangerous handing out guns in the bank?
The film then begins to further explore the contextualization of guns in American society, which may or may not have been the reasons that influenced the killings of Columbine to occur in the first place. The following dramatic analysis of this piece will uncover the justifications for rule-breaking behaviours observed in the Columbine Massacre, examined in the light of the five elements of pentad, the motives for the act committed, and potential implications that can be brought forth.
To begin, the film can be examined using dramatic analysis by first exploring the five elements of pentad: act, agent, agency, scene and purpose. The key agents or the main characters that participated in the act of murder in the Columbine Massacre were identified to be two 18 year old boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. As testified by classmates, Eric and Dylan mainly kept to themselves and didn’t mingle well with the other students. However according to teachers, they still remained as good students and used to involve themselves with various activities in school. The agencies used for committing the murder were shot-guns and rifles that were purchased by older friends of the boys (because they were not of legal age to purchase guns yet). Pipe and propane bombs were also constructed by Eric and were intended to initially prompt the opening scene of the massacre by detonating in the cafeteria. When that plan backfired, Eric and Dylan commenced to shooting as many students as they could. Inevitably, the scene of the shootings took place in just under an hour starting from around 11:15 AM in the Columbine High cafeteria and library, where majority of the bystanders were shot to death simply because they needed to die, according to entries written in Eric’s journals as docummented Columbine. Despite all the evidence uncovered about the planning stages of the massacre (from Eric’s journals to home-made videos of the boys practicing with their guns), no one in Littleton could figure out why the boys at Columbine resorted to gun violence as a solution to their problems in the first place. Moore looks for a variety of symbols in the average neighbourhood that exemplify, in some way, the creation and use of ammunition as an accepted norm in the American society. For example, Lockheed Martin Corp, one of the world’s largest weapon makers, had over 2,000 employees in the small town of Littleton. Moore argues in the film that it is not possible for a child to not be influenced and immunized by the fact that weapons of destruction are being made in his own hometown, so ‘it must be okay’ for people to use them for whatever purpose. But in reality, who is to blame for Eric and Dylan to resort to gun-violence? Is it gun-violence exemplified in various entertainment mediums that promote and glamorize its use? Or is it because guns are so accessible in America, where rifles can be obtained from banks like the North County Bank and bullets can be purchased in bulk from K-mart? The purpose of the act can only be inferred, but not be considered fact because there is no concrete evidence to prove it. For example, it is known that Eric and Dylan enjoyed to play shooter games like Doom, but we cannot directly blame the games for why they chose to revert to gun-violence in the end (although it is certainly plausible). Therefore, the film can be analyzed from a dramatic perspective using the elements of the pentad to support and justify the causes of rule-breaking behaviour.
Second, the film can be examined using dramatic analysis by uncovering the motives for the act committed. As seen on Columbine, Eric had written in various articles of his journal that he was fed up with the bullies in his school who picked on him, and that they all need to be terminated under his hands. He called this process “Natural Selection” and that only selected people would survive. It was testified by one of the survivors of the massacre who was in the library during Eric and Dylan’s entry, that both boys cynically ridiculed, verbally harassed and racially discriminated the students that eventually became victims of their killing spree. From the evidence gathered, it can be suggested that a strong motive for the killings was revenge: revenge for being bullied and isolated because they did not fit in with societal norms. The lingering hate within Eric and Dylan for those who didn’t accept them gave them an avenue to use transcendence as a motive to kill. Therefore, the film can be analyzed from a dramatic perspective by examining the motives for the act committed.
Third, the film can be examined using dramatic analysis from the potential implications that can be brought forth from the text. In Bowling for Columbine, Moore interviews people who own guns and why they choose to have one, loaded up in their house in the first place even though there is no intention to use it except for protection purposes. The argument made with Moore is that America has always been “a country of violence”, perhaps more than other countries around the world. The culture of fear is perpetually created by the American media, and the politicians just instigate the fear even further. The students of Columbine who were killed as a result of gun-violence were not only the victims of Eric and Dylan, but also the victims of American laws that fail to properly protect its own citizens. Therefore, the film can be analyzed from a dramatic perspective from the potential implications in the text examined.
In conclusion, Bowling for Columbine sends a powerful and meaningful message that tackles the growing issue of gun-violence predominant in the American society. Ironically, it is considered rule-breaking behaviour to commit an act of murder in America, but you are permitted by law to carry a gun as long as you are of legal age. As long as such laws continue to govern the society as a whole with a culture of fear embedded into the minds of Americans, how can we take proper measures to prevent a massacre like this from reoccurring?
Moore, Michael, narr. Bowling for Columbine. 2002. DVD.
“Columbine.” Narr. Tom Kane. The Final Report. National Geographic. 3 April. 2007. Television.