Bowling for Columbine – Analysis


In 2002 Michael Moore created a mockumentary, Bowling for Columbine, which was about the correlation  between America’s gun obsession and its alarmingly high violence and death rates. Moore presents heartbreaking statistics and paints a harsh reality which is unfortunately still relevant to this day. With the overarching question of ‘why does America have such a high rate of gun related deaths per year?’, he explores several potential causes of America’s high violence rate including it’s violent history, media sensualisation, political influence and gun lobbies. Moore employs several film and satirical devices including irony, sarcasm, humour, visuals and editing techniques to get his point across.

Moore’s documentary style and techniques such as sequencing, visual irony and editing are strategically used to persuade and influence the viewer. It is emphasised that people often used America’s violent past as a scapegoat to excuse it’s violent present. However Moore easily contradicts this argument by displaying the violent pasts of several other countries including Germany. He then provides statistics to show how these countries are in completely different positions today. He presents the astonishing statistics of the death rates in countries such as Australia which seem minuscule in comparison to America’s shocking 11 000 a year! Moore mocks America’s past of fear and violence through an animation called ‘A brief history of USA’ in which he uses techniques such as exaggeration, repetition, irony and juxtaposition. The playful animation style, exaggeratedly enthusiastic voice over and lively music are contrasted with the themes of brutality and violence. Moore highlights the irony of the American belief that owning guns makes people safer and protected when in fact the reality is the exact opposite. Through repetition he emphasises the unnecessary climate of fear generated through history and juxtaposition between the ‘savages’ who are smiling and waving with the terrified Americans who run around, pointlessly shooting people. Towards the end of the clip, the narrator, which is ironically a happy bullet, proclaims “and the all lived happily ever after,” whilst a startled father shoots the paper boy for simply delivering the mail.

A ‘climate of fear’ which is generated by politicians, corporations and media sensationalism causes chaos and adds fuel to the violence in America. Moore exposes a nation living in terror which is highlighted after the tragic Columbine High shootings. Through comparison and visuals the audience is exposed to the irony that after the shootings the media decided to place the blame on shock rocker, Marilyn Manson but failed to recognise that on the same day the President ordered a massive arsenal of bombs to be deployed in Syria.  Moore compares Marylyn Manson’s sensitive and intellectual way of speaking with the right wing protesters who  are rowdy and crazed. Moore talks about the cycle of fear and consumption and how it created and maintained in America when he states “keep everyone afraid and they will consume.”

Moore employs visual and satirical techniques to amuse and persuade his audience. The overarching conclusion in his film is that America’s gun laws are simply not strong enough and must be drastically altered if America’s issues of violence and death are to be addressed.




Exaggeration Exaggerates the craziness of the people interviewed by asking specific questions and manipulating them
Juxtaposition Juxtaposes Canada with USA – levels of safety, trust and happiness
Verbal irony Claims we need to limit the amount of bomb control because ‘there are wackos out there’ – man who sleep with a gun under his pillow.
Situational irony An organic tofu farmer who lives in a remote area feels the need to keep guns for ‘protection’ – usually associate ‘organic’ and ‘tofu’ with peace
Facial expression and body language The mood Moore sets adds to the satire and absurdity of the situations
Real life footage and statistics Creates an element of trust for the audience and verifies the points being made

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