Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Michael Moore (director), Bowling for Columbine (2002)

The documentary Bowling for Columbine (2002), written, produced, directed and narrated by the Marxist filmmaker Michael Moore argues that the Columbine massacre is a symptom of something rotten in the culture of the United States.  On 20 April 1999, at Columbine High School, two heavily armed high school students arrived at the school and massacred twelve students and a teacher before they committed suicide.  Many more people would have been killed if the boys’ home-made bombs had detonated as planned. 

Taking an orthodox Marxist line, Moore implies that capitalism, or rather large corporations, are at the root of the problems with American society, including gun violence.  Moore points out the presence of the arms industry in various towns that helps to set the tone of violence that characterises American communities.  The US government is presented as the instrument of the corporations and it wages an aggressive foreign policy, tending to resort to violence too often and frequently unjustly.  It sets a bad example for Americans to follow.  Moore also makes connections that link the gun culture to the presence of right-wing extremists in militia organisations and to the influence of the lobby group the National Rifle Association (NRA), which vigorously campaigns to defend the Constitutional right of Americans to bear arms and was, at that time, led by the retired Hollywood actor Charlton Heston.  The availability of guns in a socio-economic system characterised by inequality and poverty also creates scenarios for gun violence and accidental shootings.  Meanwhile, the American media creates a climate of fear that stereotypes African-Americans as potential criminals and scares many Americans into arming themselves.  Gun use is also fetishized and made to look cool or sexy.   

Moore’s documentary also celebrates the kind of political activism, favoured by the Left, which seeks to embarrass and humiliate corporations, like the Walmart that sold the ammunition to the teenage killers, for profiting from the sale of deadly products.  Due to political activism, the Walmart executives were pressured to cease selling ammunition.  It was a small but significant victory and it is meant to serve as an inspiration for political activists, and potential political activists, who view the film.  

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Bowling for Columbine meaning, Bowling for Columbine themes, Bowling for Columbine analysis, Bowling for Columbine notes