Bowling for Columbine
Michael Moore is a self-righteous American liberal dick. He's a new-rich pedant who makes fun of easy targets in order to make other self-righteous American liberal dicks feel better about themselves. In his latest documentary, Bowling for Columbine, the millionaire working-class hero hits the target about one-third of the time. If we could remove him from his work, that ratio would increase significantly.
Moore's politics are, for the most part, correct. He's on the right side, especially when it comes to corporate accountability. His famous badgering of General Motors in his film debut, Roger & Me, dovetailed nicely with such culture-jam godheads as Adbusters and the McLibel defendants in the early 90s.
Just don't mistake Moore for an altruistic hero of the world's underdogs. He's as much a tragedy-monger as his supposed enemies on the conservative end of the political spectrum. He's no less a grandstanding ghoul than the National Rifle Association's most famous spokesperson, Charlton Heston, who serves as the ad hoc bogeyman for this film.
Bowling for Columbine could have easily been called Charlton & Me, and may have been stronger had it been so focused. Instead, it veers into all lanes. It attempts to tackle too many issues, and goes for cheap laughs along the way. The first thirty minutes is an easy mocking of American gun culture, as embodied by "stupid white men," to borrow from the title of Moore's most recent book. It would seem that the working-class champion learned a painful lesson in the last decade: America's working class doesn't agree with him. They want jobs, yes. They want a living wage, yes. But they also want their guns, their cars and their Nikes produced by slanty types in whatever country can produce the cheapest sneakers.
The privileged white liberal class pays to see Moore lecture at NYU. They watch the Bravo cable network. They head to the revival house when Roger & Me plays. And so he's decided to shit on the working class, especially the white working class. Hey smart America, let's make fun of those other Americans, the ones too ig'nant to know what's good for them!
Credit where it's due, though: The middle of this film is fantastic. After taking potshots at gun-slinging white trash, he turns his attention to the fear culture that fuels the paranoia in modern America. Moore posits that he and his fellow countrymen are kept in fear of not just strangers, but also their neighbors and, now, even their children. Americans are told to fear everything from killer bees to killer snakes to killer razor blades in Halloween candy. These panics are eventually proven baseless--or they lose their ratings appeal--and so the nightly news must invent yet another bogeyman. For almost one hour, you'll see Moore at his best, reminiscent of his TV Nation television series.
Moore at his worst, however, comes soon enough. In the last third, he returns to form: a posturing, self-congratulatory demagogue. He fails to look deeply at suburban bankruptcy, fails to consider the disintegration of American community. Instead, he drags two crippled kids to Kmart for a publicity stunt and, later, solemnly deposits a photograph of a gun-slain girl in Charleton Heston's yard.
Moore's efforts would be more useful if perhaps he'd spent a little more time on genuine examination and less time making fun of people. In the way that Harmony Korine was affectionate to the subjects of his fictionalized Gummo, Moore was once affectionate toward the working white class. Remember the rabbit lady in Roger & Me? The woman who advertised bunnies "for pets or meat"? Moore got laughs from that segment, but not entirely at her expense. Roger & Me had a heart large enough to pump blood even through Moore's hulking mass. Too often, Bowling for Columbine goes for laughs without the affection. He panders.
He also begs:
"If [Bowling for Columbine] doesn't have a big opening weekend, you can kiss the film good-bye. Therefore, this weekend, this film must be seen by millions of Americans. Can you help me make that happen?"
The above comes from an appeal that Moore sent to everyone on his email list. He wants his legion of fans to believe that if they don't see this movie--which he modestly claims may be "one of the best films of the year"--that they've let him down and, by extension, have let The Cause down. He wants them to believe that Bowling for Columbine--distributed by United Artists and Alliance Atlantis, two major industry names--is at risk of failure due to limited distribution due to a lack of audience support.
Truth is, there's no chance that this film will fail. Unlike a major Hollywood blockbuster, it doesn't need a $100 million domestic gross at the box office to be deemed successful. Show it every night for a month at a major university campus, and the investors get their money back. It's more a question of how successful the writer-director wants to be.
Elsewhere in his email appeal, Moore condemns the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution by describing the Beltway Sniper as "exercising his constitutional right to own a high-powered rifle." Such a simplistic and provocative statement from the self-righteous Left undermines the long-view determination of the righteous Left. A murderer with a rifle is not exercising any right other than his right to break the law, in reaction to which the population will exercise its right to deal with the criminal.
Does Moore not see the slippery slope before him? When the freedom of speech (as protected in the First Amendment) is eaten away to such a point that a filmmaker will no longer be allowed to make a film, Moore will scream bloody murder and bombard the world's inboxes with more digital appeals. Yet he'll fail to see the connection between that giant-step loss of liberty and the first baby-step of calling for the Second Amendment to be strip-mined. One must on occasion defend the guilty, if only to protect the innocent at all times.
As the sawed-off shotgun of the American Left, Michael Moore hits some of the targets some of the time. Few will deny that the media thrives on tragedy and seems to disproportionately feature minorities as dangerous bogeymen. But he also fires wildly, striking those who don't deserve it. Moore should've spent more time examining the Fear Culture and less time making fun of white trash and holding up pictures of dead children.