Film Summary: Bowling for Columbine
Dir. Michael Moore, 2002
1. MORNING IN AMERICA
image is from a film promoting the National Rifle Association. A man dressed in an Army uniform—full
dress—says, “The National Rifle Association has produced a film which you are
sure to find of great interest. Let’s
look at it. Then Michael Moore voice-over, against images of people at work in America. It sounds like a typical “morning in America” spiel, but one of the images shows
bombed out buildings as Michael Moore says, “and the President ordered the
bombing of another country we couldn’t pronounce,” and then he refers to “the
little town in Colorado
two boys went bowling at six in the morning.”
Cut to the bowling and then to a cute “chick” in a bikini—as she holds
up an M-16. Dissolve to the Statue of Liberty. Moore’s
voice-over: It was a typical day in the United States of America.
2. NORTH COUNTRY BANK
hear the last strains of ”The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as we see Michael
Moore open an account at a bank in Michigan so that he get a free firearm—a
shotgun. There he is, dressed in his
“outfit,” loose-fitting clothes and baseball cap and three days’ growth of
beard. His voice-over explains the
context of getting the free gun. One
teller tells him the bank has 500 guns in the vault. Note the gun rack on the side of the
wall—with three guns in the rack.” Then
he sits across from the teller and is told “which we are a licensed firearms
dealer.” He acts dumb, asks how to spell
Caucasian, and gets the woman to say, “I don’t think that’s the part they’re
going to be worried about.” Then a
discussion of being “adjudicated mentally defective.” “So if I’m just normally mentally defective
but not criminal—“ Now he has his
shotgun, and the man next to him makes
some typical manly statements about how sweet the gun is. “I have one question. Don’t you think it’s a
little dangerous to be handing out weapons in a bank?” Cut to a quick shot of him pointing the gun
at the camera—music up—and then an image of him leaving the bank and holding
the gun over his head!
3: MIKE’S FIRST GUN
3. Music up and the title sequence. Wide shots of archival footage of people all
bowling—all from the 50s, black and white, showing regimentation and good clean
fun. Abruptly cuts to a television
commercial pushing realistic-looking toy guns sold by the Marx Company. The commercial shows two dumb cops mistaking
the sounds of the toy guns for the sounds of real guns. Then a smooth transition to old 8-mm home
movies of Michael Moore at the age of 6—there he is with “my first gun!” Moore’s voice-over: I couldn’t wait to get out
and shoot up the neighborhood. More
home movies. A photograph of the
teenaged Michael Moore holding up his marksman award trophy from the National
Rifle Association. Moore’s voice-over: I grew up in Michigan, a gun lover’s
paradise—and so did this man—Charlton Heston. Then we cut to a black and white film clip of
Heston—and then a movie clip—and then a clip from an NRA promotional video of
their President—and then a quick shot of Michael Moore, dressed in blaze
orange, firing his shotgun, and then a reaction shot of Heston—tough guy!
4. Close shot of a beagle with a rifle
slung over its shoulder on a special harness.
Cut to a stiff-on-camera shot of a Michigan State Trooper telling the
story of the hunters who dressed up the dog with the rifle sling. One of them got shot by the gun that was
attached to the dog. Believe it or
not. Of course, the subject tells the
story in a dry, unemotional tone of voice.
“Was the dog held at any period of time by the police,” Michael Moore
asks off-camera. “Is it possible that
the dog knew what it was doing?” Of
course, the officer doesn’t bat an eye: “That I don’t know.” But he does think “the dog was cute dressed
up like a hunter. It was kind of
neat.” Michael Moore in a barber shop. There he is in the chair—loading up his rifle
with live ammo while he gets his hair cut.
“Don’t worry—it didn’t discharge,” the barber says.
4: CHRIS ROCK
5. Abrupt cut to the comedian Chris Rock,
walking back and forth on stage from one of his performances. He does his gun control routine. “We need some bullet control. I think all bullets should cost $5,000. If a bullet cost $5,000, there would be no
innocent bystanders. People would think
before they killed someone if bullets cost $5,000.” He pretends to be a “killer”: “Man—I would
blow your fuckin’ head off—if I could afford it.”
6. Target practice time for the Michigan
Militia. Michael Moore’s voice-over
explains the context for this scene. In
April, 1995, two guys who lived in Michigan,
and who had participated in the Michigan Militia training, blew up the Federal Building
in Oklahoma City
and killed 168 people. As he gives this
information, of course we see two quick photographs of McVeigh and Nichols. “If
you’re not armed, you're not responsible,” one of the weekend warriors says, as
he struggles to buckle his ammo belt.
Another guy says, “We’re all normal people.” Moore
stands around in the background—looking a bit cold and uncomfortable. The four men tell him what sorts of guns they
have in their homes. Then the men talk
about the 2002 edition of the Militia Babes calendar—cheesecake with
M-16s. Of course, the men defend the use
of the calendar as a fund-raising tool.
Then we see a woman, dressed in fatigues, talking about using guns most
of her life. Next to her is a little
girl of three, wearing only diapers. She
notes that most people think first about calling the police when they are in
danger. “Hey! Cut out the middleman! Take care of your own family yourself,” is
her response. The four men walk down a
country road into the darkness, and Michael Moore walks behind them, his hands
in his pocket.
6: JAMES NICHOLS
7. Michael Moore stands next to a
bald-headed man with a beard and talks organic farming. Who is this guy? Turns out it’s James Nichols, brother of
Terry Nichols—who with Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. We see inserts of photographs of the
suspects. Then a shot of the Federal
Building—after it was
blown up, and a quick shot of TV footage of an injured child. Michael Moore’s voice-over. “But the Feds didn’t have the goods on James,
so the charges were dropped.” Back t to
the farm scene. “Did Timothy McVeigh
stay here?” Nichols admits that he
stayed there for three months. “He was a
nice guy.” He admits he had all sorts of
explosives-related material on the farm—but stuff that any farmer would have
around. “That is in no way connected to
the bombing.” Moore stands next to him and looks around, as
if wondering about all of this. Cut to
an interior scene. Nichols at his
kitchen table. “Those people—law
enforcment, if you want to call them that, were here and were shaking in their
shoes—scared to death—because they thought this was going to another
Waco.” He rants on and on, accusing his
ex-wife at one point of plotting against him.
Quick reaction shot of Michael Moore—he looks scared. Back to Nichols,
who continues his rant about people “being enslaved by the government.” He declares that the people may “revolt with
ANGER” (he growls out that word). “There’ll
be blood running in the streets.” More and more about the duty of the citizen
to overthrow a tyrannical government. Moore mentions
Gandhi. Why not do it his way. He didn’t use guns. Reaction shot of
Nichols. He shrugs his shoulders. “I’m
not familiar with that.”
7: OSCODA BOYS
8. “Oscoda has a bad habit of raising
psychos,” a young man says. He wears a
blue bandana, and he has a scruffy beard and big brown eyes.” He is in a bar in a small Michigan town. Michael Moore’s voice-over
introduces the young man, and another young man—his buddy. Michael Moore explains that one of the
Columbine killers, Eric Harris, spent part of his youth living on the Air Force
base outside of town. His father was a
pilot and bombed Iraq
in the first Gulf War. Michael Moore
asks the first guy if he knew Eric Harris.
“He left before I got here.” One
of his friends knew Eric. The other guy, overweight, with a whisp of a
mustache, and wearing his baseball cap backwards, says, “I went to school with
him, and it shocked me to hear it on the news.”
The first guy explains he was kicked out of high school—for fighting and
pulling a weapon on another kid. “I
could’ve made a mess of that situation.”
The second guy said he thought of moving to Colorado.
He tells Moore
he was number 2 on the bomb list at high school. “This town really gets people
down.” But Moore goes after him now—and keeps pushing
for the real reason he was considered a threat.
Finally, t he kid says, “I was a troubled kid. Well, okay, the thing is, I have a thing called
The Anarchist’s Cookbook.” “You never
made a bomb yourself?” “I’ve made ‘em!
There was nothing big. The latest thing
I built would have to be a good five-gallon drum of napalm—homemade napalm.” What is his regret? He wanted to be number 1 on the list. “I
guess it was kind of an ego thing to know that I was number 1 on something in
Oscoda, even if it was t he bomb threat list.”
9. Back to the Nichols interview. He admits it was wrong to blow up the Federal Building. “I use the pen. The pen is mightier than the
sword. But you must always keep the
sword handy for when the pen fails. I
sleep with a .44 magnum under my pillow.
Michael Moore expresses disbelief.
“Everybody says that.” So Nichols
takes him into his bedroom and shows him the gun. The cameraman stays back, outside the
bedroom, and we can see Moore
standing inside by the bed and hear Nichols talking. “Is it loaded?” We can’t see Nichols. “Aie yie yie!” Nichols says. We hear a hammer cock. “I believe you,” Moore says.
Suddenly a graphic on the screen: “Nichols has cocked the gun and put it
to his temple.” Moore says, “Don’t do that!” Nichols laughs. “Put the hammer back.” Moore
cheats and uses Nichols’ voice-over, as we hear him say, “No one has the right
to tell me that I can’t have it!” Then
he continues—on camera at the table: “It’s protected in the constitution.” “Where does it say a handgun is protected?”
Michael Moore asks. “No—gun!” Michael Moore cuts him off: “It doesn’t say
gun!” Both say together, “It says arms!”
Michael Moore keeps after him, and finally asks, “Do you think you
should have the right to have weapons-grade plutonium here on the farm?” After some more “badgering” of the witness,
Michael Moore gets Nichols to admit, “That should be restricted.” “Oh, so you do believe in some
restrictions?” “Yeah, there’s whackos
8: WONDERFUL WORLD
10. Cue the montage—upbeat music with the
lyrics, “Happiness is a warm gun!” Shots of Virgin, Utah, where gun ownership
is required, a shot of a Midway game, “Shoot the Geek!”, little kids shooting
paintball rifle shots at a live “Geek,” a firearm in a holster on the lower
thigh of a woman’s leg, a teenager shooting an M-16, a “chick” in a bikini
shooting an M-16, a blind target shooter (who says, “I’m actually real
comfortable with assault rifles), then two guys holding mean-looking rifles, a
man shot from behind in an airport concourse, a man who puts a gun in his mouth
and pulls the trigger, a woman shot suddenly from behind by her estranged
husband, a man with a gun (in the middle of a freeway) who puts a shotgun to
his head and pulls the trigger, and a black man in the middle of the road who
is shot and falls backward. The montage
11. A young Caucasian woman stands outside a
typical suburban townhouse (small trees to the side, green lawns), and talks
about how good life is in this city. Then cut to an interior of a missile
manufacturing site. An executive
(dressed in a suit and red tie) says, “This happens to be a place where two
young men made very bad and very wrong decisions. Other than that, I don’t know if Littleton is any
different than a whole lot of other places.”
So we know we are in Littleton, Colorado, home of Columbine High School. Cut to a Chamber of Commerce film touting the
good life in Littleton—limitless
golf, sunny skies, warm temperatures.
12. Then we see Michael Moore standing next
to a Denny Fennell, a security consultant.
He stands outside of a house in Littleton. Here’s “your average suburban middle class
home.” But notice the metal grill over
the door. “The burglar and the rapist
are still somewhere here in the neighborhood.”
The camera moves right and we see Michael Moore next to him at the front
door. “Where exactly are the burglar and the rapist right now?” Cut to Michael
Moore sticking a picket knife through the grillwork. His point is obvious: he won’t do much damage
with that weapon. “What if I had a
spear?” But the security consultant
isn’t listening. He takes Moore
downstairs and shows him a safe room—where the owners would retreat in case of an
attack by a burglar or rapist. “And now the criminal has to break through this
door!” “An axe would do it,” Michael Moore says. The security consultant agrees with that
idea. Back outside, the security
consultant begins to generalize about Columbine. “It changed how we talked. If I say ‘Columbine,’ everybody knows what it
means. I don’t have to explain to you
that Columbine—“ and he can’t finish his thought. He begins to choke up. “What’s wrong?” “Sometime Columbine bothers me.” Michael
Moore affirms his emotional response.
Finally, he is ready to speak.
“There is something about that kind of viciousness, that kind of
predatory action, that kind of indiscriminate killing”
13. Exterior of Lockheed Martin in Littleton. It is the world’s largest weapons maker. The public relations man we saw earlier
explains what goes on in this facility.
There are the missiles behind him.
They employ over 5,000 people—many of whom have children who go to
Columbine. “What happened in Columbine
is a microcosm of what happens throughout the world.” Michael Moore asks him about the signs
everywhere in town—“We are Columbine.”
He has the pat answer: “We embody that spirit. It behooves us to help one another.” Michael Moore’s voice-over notes that this
fellow said no one in Columbine has been able to figure out why the boys
“resorted to violence.” “Why would kids
do this? Some of that may have root in
their anger about various issues.” So,
as a good public relations man would do, he praises his company’s $100,000
bequest to anger management programs in the area. “We hope to help those students alternative
way to deal with anger.” Michael Moore
has another tack. He wonders if kids are
violent because they see t heir parents making weapons of mass
destruction. What’s the difference
between what Lockheed Martin does and what Harris and friend did? “I don’t see
that connection. The missiles you’re
talking about are designed to defend us against aggressors.” As he continues, Michael Moore cuts to a shot
of a sign meant to implore workers not to make production errors: “It has to be
foreign object free.” Obviously, to
Michael Moore the sign has multiple meanings.
“We have to learn to deal with that anger.” Then he concludes, “We don’t irritated with
somebody cause we’re mad at ‘em, and drop a bomb or shoot at ‘em—or fire a
missile at them.
14. Cue the montage music—Louis Armstrong
singing “It’s a Wonderful World.” Images
that follow: various rulers overthrown by the U. S. Government from the 1950s
on, including the P.M. of Iraq (so we could install the Shah), the President of
Guatemala, South Vietnamese President, the coup in Chile, the backing of
military dictator in El Salvador, training of Osama Bin Laden and other Afghans
so they could kick Russia out of their country, funding of the “Contras” in
Nicaragua, money given to Saddam so he could defeat Iran in their war, U.S.
kicking out Noriega in Panama, invasion of Kuwait by Iraqis (using weapons from
US), and the US invasion of Iraq. At the
end of the montage Michael Moore adds in the Clinton bombing of Sudan “weapons
factory,” bombing raids over Iraq (no-fly zone), and then shifts back to US
aiding the Taliban, and ends with a shot of the second plane hitting one of the
World Trade Center towers.
15. At the U.S. Air Force Academy, south of Littleton, we see a shell
of a B-52 bomber as a memorial to the North Vietnamese people it killed on
Christmas Eve, 1972. Then Michael
Moore’s voice-over continues, as we see images of Rocky Flats, where
weapons-grade plutonium was manufactured—now a vast toxic waste dump. A few
miles away is NORAD, buried in Cheyenne
Mt., the center of all
nuclear weapons control in case of a World War.
Then Michael Moore notes that once a month Lockheed transports one of
its completed missiles on the highways of Littleton—late
in the night. Moore’s
voice-over: “—passing nearby Columbine High School. The rockets are transported in the middle of
the night, while the children of Columbine are asleep.
16. Graphic on the screen: “April 20,
1999.” Shots of the bombing of Kosovo,
completed by NATO. Graphic on screen:
“Largest one day bombing by U.S.
in Kosovo War”—a title that’s more than a little misleading. Then file footage
of dead villagers killed when bombs were accidentally dropped on their village.
Cut to Pres. Clinton, who says, “We are striking hard at Serbia’s
machinery of repression.” Then we hear a
foreign correspondent’s voice saying “on the hit list were a hospital and a local
primary school.” Perfectly unbalanced
editing in this segment. Graphic on the
screen: “One Hour Later.” We see
President Clinton again. “We all know
there has been a terrible shooting in a high school in Littleton, Colorado. I hope the American people will be praying
for t he students, and the parents, and the teachers.”
17. Cue an aural montage—complemented by an
acoustic guitar solo—of voices, people calling out of the high school to the
police, dispatchers, news reporters, and as we hear this images (with lots of
dissolves) to the dead and empty hallways of the high school. Suddenly Michael Moore cuts to the video
monitors that show the various rooms. We
see four monitors at a time and watch the action—looking hard to see the two
killers, watching people cower under tables, watch one adult hurl himself
through the air to try to evade being shot, watch one of the two killers toss a
small bomb into the middle of the room.
As this unfolds, the acoustic guitar plays with increasing urgency, and
the aural montage continues—and then adds the voice of Eric Harris’ father, who
refers to his son as being in the “trench-coat mafia.” Then the aural montage ends, the acoustic
guitar swells, and Michael Moore adds his voice-over as we shots of people
grieving, blood spattered floors, furniture scattered everywhere. The two students killed twelve fellow
students and a teacher. Dozens were wounded.
Over 900 bullets were fired. Most
of the bullets were bought at the local K-Mart.
Cut to a TV reporter on camera who notes that one of the two boys talked
about hijacking an airplane and “crashing it into New York City.” Moore’s
voice-over: In the end, they turned the guns on themselves. Some of the
students are interviewed. One recounts
that she pleaded with them not to kill her—so they killed the girl next to
her. “And he shot the black kid, because
he was black.”
11: HESTON AT THE NRA RALLY
18. Charlton Heston at an NRA rally. He holds up a rifle and exclaims, “I have
only five words for you! From my cold
dead hands!” He came to Columbine 10
days later. There he is at the
dais. He notes he has a message from the
Mayor (who happens to be African American)—and the Mayor gets boos from the
audience. “He sent me this. ‘Don’t come here. We don’t want you here.’” What does he say to the mayor? “This is our country. As Americans, we’re free to travel where we
want in our broad land!” Applause. “Don’t come here? We’re already here!” Applause.
Cut to a father of a victim of Columbine speaking at an outdoor
rally. Many people hold up signs. One sign shows the man’s son. “Something is wrong in this country when a
child can grab a gun so easily and shoot a bullet into the middle of a child’s
face—as my son experienced. A Tech-9 semi-automatic weapon, 30-bullet weapon,
like that that killed my son, is not used to kill deer. It has no useful purpose. It is time to address this problem.” Back to Heston at his rally. “We have work to do, hearts to heal, evil to
defeat, and a country to unite. When the
sun sets on Denver
tonight, and forever more—let it always set on “We the People—secure in our
land of the free and home of the brave. I, for one, plan to do my part.”
12: SOUTH PARK/MATT STONE
19. Michael Moore sits across a table from a
young man (in his 30s) outside a fast-food restaurant in Littleton.
He complains about Heston coming to Denver at a time when people were hurting
from the horror of Columbine. “Why would
you do that?” Michael Moore’s
voice-over: This is Matt Stone. He has fond
memories of growing up in Littleton. Stone notes that Columbine was a “crappy
school.” Moore’s voice-over explains that they two
created a cartoon, not carnage. Cut to
scenes from their South
Park series—with their
trademark more than irreverent humor.
Back to the interview. Stone
emphasizes how “painfully normal” Columbine was. He recalls the pressure put on him when he
was in 6th-grade math. If he
didn’t become an honor student, and go on to take more and more honors math,
then “you’ll die poor and lonely!” The
rule was, “If you’re a loser now, you’re going to be a loser forever!” He recalls that Eric and Dylan, the two
killers, were called “fags” by other kids.
“So I’m a fag now and I’ll be a fag forever. And you wish someone could have grabbed them
and said, ‘High school is not the end—’ ”
Michael Moore cuts him off by noting that both kids were going to
graduate in 2 months. Stone concludes by
noting how often the cool kids become pedestrian citizens and work their lives
out as insurance agents, while the geeks and the nerds go on to do great
things. (I suppose he means himself in this case.)
13: SCARY KIDS
20. Michael Moore’s voice-over: It still sucks being a teenager, and it
really sucks going to school. We see
clips of some students’ videos at Columbine—with students saying inane things
to be cool on camera. Moore’s
voice-over: After Columbine, it really
sucked being a student in America. A bass line begins and cues the
montage. We hear various news reports
(another aural montage) of kids who broke the rules and were punished. Anything that smacked of violence was fair
game. Then he cuts to another promotional video—this one for a metal detector
company. A mother-figure on camera talks
calmly about the need for a “well-enforced dress code.” As she talks, we see a kid empty his pants of
several weapons, including a shotgun.
14: MARILYN MANSON
21. Cut to shots of little kids, who in
voice-over Michael Moore characterizes as having turned “into little
monsters.” His voice-over: But who
was to blame? Another montage: of
various “experts”—each of whom has the answer: the heavy-metal subculture,
parents, violent movies, South Park cartoons, video games, television,
entertainment, Satan, cartoons, society, toy guns, drugs, shock rocker Marilyn
Manson—and then six times “Marilyn Manson.”
22. Cut to a news report of Manson canceling
the last five days of his national tour out of respect for the families of the
Columbine students. “The singer says that artists like himself are not the ones
to blame.” Senator Joe Lieberman on
tape: “This is the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record
company.” Shots of Marilyn Manson
voice-over: The killers listened to
Marilyn Manson. Two years later, Manson comes back to Denver.
Reports of protest. “I thought
I’d go and talk with him myself.” Quick
shot of Moore,
dressed in his trademark floppy shirt, blue jeans, tennis shoes, and baseball
cap, walking behind the arena. Manson on
camera in his dressing room. “When I was
growing up, music was the escape. That
was the only thing that had no judgments.
You put on a record, it’s not going to yell at you for dressing the way
you do. It’s going to make you feel
better about it.” Cut to a protester
(Christian conservative, I presume), who speaks to a protest crowd. Will people
who listen to Manson go out and commit violent acts? No!
“But does everybody who watches a Lexus ad go out and buy a Lexus? No!
But a few do!” Back to
Manson. He admits that he is “the poster
boy for fear. I represent what
everyone’s afraid of. I do and say what
I want. Back to the protest
speaker. Then Manson again: “The two
by-products of that whole tragedy were violence in entertainment and gun
control—and how perfect that those were the two things we were going to talk
about in the upcoming election. And then
we forgot about Monica Lewinsky, and the President was shooting bombs overseas,
yet I’m a bad guy because I sang some rock and roll songs. Who was the bigger influence? The President or Marilyn Manson? Here Michael
Moore interjects that the same day as Columbine the U.S. (really NATO) dropped more
bombs on Kosovo than anytime in the war?
Wide shot of the tiny room—Michael Moore sitting across from
Manson. That latter says, “You’re being pumped full of fear. There’s floods, there’s AIDS, buy the Acura,
cut to commercial, if you’ve got pimples—nobody’s going to fuck you. It’s a campaign of fear and consumption. Keep everyone afraid, and they’ll
consume.” Michael Moore asks, “What
would you say to the kids of Columbine.”
Manson answers, “I wouldn’t say a single thing. I would listen to what they have to say. And that’s what no one did.”
15: WAS IT THE BOWLING?
23. Here are Amanda and Nicole, both of whom
went to Columbine. They are sitting on
the stoop of a house or apartment building.
Michael Moore asks them about the two guys. “We were in their bowling
class.” Moore asks, “Where’s the educational value in
this?” “I learned to bowl better.” What were the two kids like? “Not very social.” When they bowled, one of the girls says they
were crazy—they just threw the ball down the lane. Moore’s voice-over: So did Eric and Dylan bowl
two games before moving on to shoot up the school? And did they just chuck the balls down the
lane? Did this mean something? As archival footage comes up of young women
bowling, and falling. Moore’s voice-over: Why wasn’t anyone blaming
bowling for warping the minds of the two boys for doing their evil deeds?
Wasn’t it just as plausible as blaming Marilyn Manson? After all, it was the last thing they did
just before the massacre.
16: WE’RE #1
24. The montage continues (with martial
music playing under Michael Moore’s voice-over.
Then he goes on to wonder about all the people in other countries—they
go bowling, they listen to rock music, they watch violent movies, play violent
video games, etc. Now he really gets
wound up. Is it poverty? Is it our Western tradition of clearing the
land and destroying indigenous people?
But wait—look at other countries and the violence they have
wrought. Cut to Hitler as a graphic on
the screen says, “Germans exterminate 12 million,” and “Japanese occupation of China,” and “French massacre in Algiers,”
and “British slaughter in India.” His voice-over: In spite of all this, how
many people are killed by guns each year?
As he recounts the figures, the graphics pop up on the screen (across
images from movies, tourist travel films of the countries, and other archival
footage: 381 in Germany, 255 in France, 165 in Canada, 68 in the UK, 65 in
Australia, 39 in Japan, and 11,127 in the USA.
25. There stands Michael Moore next to a
father of a child murdered at Columbine.
“Are we homicidal in nature?” Of
plays devil’s advocate—bringing up British soccer riots. But the father is unconvinced. “What is it about us?” “What is it?”
They say “What is it?” a few more times, and Michael Moore shrugs his
shoulders as the father says, ‘I don’t know.”
17: A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMERICA
26. Cut to the South
Park cartoon’s “A Brief History of the
United States of America.”
The narrator of the film is a bullet cartoon character. We see the Pilgrims who were AFRAID of being
persecuted. Off they sail to the New World. But then they were scared of the Natives, and
they got scared all over again. “So they killed them all.” Next they got afraid of each other. Then they
burned witches. Then they killed the
British in the Revolutionary War. But they were still afraid. So here comes the 2nd Amendment,
and now every white man can keep his gun.
A new American says, “I loves my gun!” Here comes slavery. They kidnap Africans and bring them back for
slaves. And the slaves got no money for
their work, and America
became rich. But after 200 years of
slavery, the white people became afraid of the black people. But then Samuel Colt in 1836 patents the
first six-shooter, and the white people snatched them up. But it was too late—the Civil War was over,
and the slaves were free. Now the whites
were really afraid. But the slaves took
no revenge. Bu there comes the KKK, and
in 1871, the same year the Klan became a terrorist organization, another group,
the NRA, was founded. Now politicians
passed a law that made it illegal for a black man to own a gun. Flash forward to 1955, when Rosa Parks
wouldn’t move to the back of the bus.
“Then all hell broke loose”-the Civil Rights movement. White people were so afraid they all fled to
the suburbs. And then they went out and
bought millions of guns, locked themselves behind gates and fences, and felt
safe and secure. “And everyone lived
happily ever after.” Last shot shows the
entire family—baby included—holding up a gun.
18: FEAR OF EVERYTHING
27. Image of a house made secure against
nuclear attack. Cue the montage—a dark,
menacing bass that runs throughout the scene. Moore’s voice-over: Or did they? as that
graphic pops up on the screen. voice-over: If you turn on the evening news, America
still seems like a scary place. Here
come the images of people scurrying about, fearful, anxious. Michael Moore covers the Y2K scare (nothing
happened), the killer bees (the bees never came), sabotage of candy at
Halloween (only 2 kids in the past four years have been killed by Halloween
candy—poisoned by relatives), animals that attack lawn mowers, weight loss
supplements that kill, escalators that maim, etc. Most of the images are from media reports.
19: FEAR OF BLACK MEN
28. Michael Moore walks along a sunny street,
a lovely boulevard, with another man.
Then we learn we are in South Central Los Angeles—and Moore mentions that in all the newscasts, the
phrase “South Central” is shorthand for awful violence. The other man is Prof. Barry Glassner, author
of The Culture of Fear. “They’re not making it up. But they’re choosing what they cover.” Glassner notes that the media focuses on
“dangerous black guys.” Of course, we
see several shots of police dealing with such perpetrators. “And we’ve heard this our whole lives.”
29. Cue the montage—this time with violins
(a stringed quartet), as Michael Moore drives home, using an aural montage
combined with visual montage of one black man after the other—each one
representing danger, suspicion, and evil.
Nineteen black men are shown, one right after the other. Of course, none
of the men we see are dangerous, suspicious, or evil. But they are black men
who happen to be on the street. Then Moore brings up the woman
who drowned her two children and blamed a black man. Everyone believed her at first because she
named a suspect everyone could believe in.
also mentions the man who murdered his wife and then blamed a black man for
Moore’s voice-over: You know, the thing I love about this country of
mine is that whether you’re a psychotic killer or running for President of the United States (the Willie Horton add in 1988),
the one thing you can always count on is white America’s fear of the black
man. Then cut to news footage of the
killer bees (also known as “Africanized bees”).
Of course, the hidden agenda is that the word “Africanized” is code for
African American. If you’re black, you
have to be bad.
20: SUBURBAN GUNS
worse, as noted by Arthur Busch, Flint, Michigan’s county prosecutor, “The black America has
become entertainment for the rest of the community. If it bleeds, it leads”—and the lead is
almost always a crime where the perpetrator is allegedly black. He notes, “Most
African Americans are quite averse to gun possession. He makes the point that white America in
their suburbs live in fear of some kind of invasion of savage hordes (as we see
racist images of African Americans).
Most of the problems with kids possessing guns are in the suburban schools—not
in the urban schools. Michael Moore
notes that most people think it’s just the opposite.
31. Back we go to Oscoda—and the bar where
one of the two young guys we saw earlier talks about stealing a gun and going
with some of his friends to downtown Detroit so they could sell the guns to
black kids who are in gangs. But he’s
not doing this anymore. “I can’t keep
selling guns. It’s getting risky,
man. Everybody knows me up there. If people want guns, or drugs, or alcohol,
they come to my house—and that’s just too much.” Cut to a shot of a stream of police
cruisers—obviously after a black perpetrator.
But he professor notes that in his research, while the murder rate went
down 20%, the news coverage went up 600%.
Back to the county prosecutor.
“The people are conditioned by the local news to believe that their
communities are much more dangerous than they actually are. Here crime has
decreased for the past eight years—but handgun ownership is on the increase. Back to the professor. “Crime rates have been
dropping. Fear of crime has been going
up!” Then we return to South Central
with Michael Moore and the professor standing on the corner of Florence and
Normandie, the intersection that was ground zero in the riots—after the Rodney
King incident—and a quick cut to the horrible moment when a black man hurls a
chunk of concrete against a white truck driver’s head and then jumps for
joy. The professor points out that for
two men to be in South Central is no big deal.
They won’t be mugged or killed.
But the pollution all around them is a greater danger than being
attacked by black men.
The professor points out
that for two men to be in South Central is no big deal. They won’t be mugged or killed. But the pollution all around them is a greater
danger than being attacked by black men.
Now Michael Moore has an idea—to ask a reporter about doing a story on
the pollution. The reporter laughs and
goes along with the idea. Then Michael
Moore asks another reporter about what stories typically lead the local news,
and the answer is, “The guy with the gun.”
asks a couple of cops to arrest someone “who is polluting up the air.” “Absolutely not,” the cop says, and then
22: CORPORATE COPS
cop in a night scene chases a perpetrator—a black man—and several cops surround
the guy who is face down in the grass. Moore’s voice-over: For over a decade there has
been one show on American television that has brought black and white people
together in an effort to reduce our fears and celebrate our diversity. Obviously, an ironic statement! Cue the music for Cops! We see a couple of quick shots from the
television series, as Moore continues in his voice-over, explaining that he
went to see a former producer of the television program. There he sits in an office. The producer, who characterizes himself as a
card-carrying liberal, as he listens to Moore ask him why not make a show that
focuses on the causes of crime—rather than the car chases and
fleeing-suspect-chases of the current crop of shows. His answer: “I don’t know what that show
would be. Anger does well, hate does
well, violence does well.” That seems to
the nature of the ratings-dominated business.
brings up the idea of how shows like this contribute to the demonizing of black
and Hispanic people. Moore wonders if people will say, “I hate
those people now; they may hurt me”? “I
know what you’re saying. I’m not sure
that’s what we’re doing.” He admits that
the program may show more black and Hispanic criminals than white criminals—but
he says, “We’re not trying to demonize them.”
Then he says he would like to see that reversed as soon as
possible. “Start tonight,” Moore encourages
him. “The thing is, I don’t know how to
start tonight. I don’t know how to tell
that story.” So Moore pitches him the pilot for Corporate
Cops. Cut to seven quick shots of
Michael Moore dressed in a blue coat and a blue cap with the word POLICE on
it—as he goes about looking for corporate criminals. The producer plays along with the idea, but
he says, “I don’t think it would make interesting reality television, unless we
can get those people to get into their SUV’s and drive really fast away from
the police. But Moore
keeps pushing the idea. There he is
again—a close-up of him wearing dark sunglasses with his grizzled beard, and
then a close-up of a corporate crook—right there on the street. Then another seven quick shots of Moore chasing him,
pushing him up against a car, and then dropping him face down on the sidewalk—the
tough cop taking care of the white-collar criminal! The producer makes the point that it’s tough
to compare the crook who steals $85 from an old woman’s purse and the criminal
who steals $85 million from poor people.
“It’s not good television.” Then
the producer compares violence not happening in Canada
vs. violence really happening in the U.S. “I’d like to find out what that difference
is.” Moore says, “Yeah, I’m trying to find out!”
CHAPTER 23: OH, CANADA!
33. Three Canadian teenagers stand outside a Taco Bell in Ontario. All are skipping school, but it doesn’t seem
to be a big deal. Moore
asks them all the gun murders in America. “I have no idea. People must hate each other.” When Moore
wonders if Canadians hate each other too, the young man says, “We don’t go to
the point of shootin’ somebody just to get revenge.” What do they do, then? “Tease ‘em, ridicule ‘em.” Cut to a shot of a police officer sitting
behind his desk at the station. Moore asks, how many gun
murders this year? None. Last year?
One. This is Sarnia, Canada,
population 73,000. So how about Windsor, Ontario, across
the river from Detroit? Windsor’s
a city of 250,000. How many
murders? Not for at least three
years. Moore’s voice-over: There were no Canadians
shooting other Canadians. Now it’s time
to dispel some myths about Canadians! In
turn, Moore discloses that Canadian youth watch more violent television and
movies than Americans do, there is more unemployment in Canada than in the US,
and Canada has a diverse population—13% non-white. All of this is to set up the next point. We see a gun range in Windsor,
and Moore talks
to a few guys about the guns they own.
Most own several guns. Then for the second time we see the Mayor of the
city of Sarnia
in his office, and he talks about the hunting heritage of Canadians, and so it
would not be unexpected that Canadians own lots of guns. Then a guy sitting in a car (who is he?)
delivers the statistic that out of 10 million families in Canada there
are 7 million guns. Cut to the gun
range. Moore’s voice-over: Wow! Canada was one gun-loving,
gun-totin’, gun-crazy country. Then
he talks to a few people who tell him how easy it would be to buy a gun in Canada. Off he goes to a K-Mart in Canada and buys
as much ammunition as he wants.
CHAPTER 24: UNLOCKED DOORS
34. He keeps the cinema verite style moving: we keep seeing the
people he is interviewing and hear him ask the questions before they answer
them. He finds two people in bars and
asks them if they lock their doors.
Nope. He learns that both of them
have suffered break-ins. But do they
lock their doors now? Nope. Cut to Moore
standing outside, looking around as if confused. He is in Toronto, and he is obsessed with this idea of
people not locking their doors. He
approaches a guy at a sidewalk café.
“You don’t lock your doors?”
Nope. The guy explains, “You think as Americans the lock is keeping
people out of your place. We as Canadians see it as when we lock the door we’re
imprisoning ourselves.” Cut to Moore on the street in Toronto.
His voice-over: I decided to go a neighborhood unannounced and see if
this unlocked door thing was true. We
watch him approach and open three doors.
The last one he says, “No one locks their doors!” He talks to another woman at her front
door—she isn’t afraid. And then he ends
by talking to the man at the third house—and apologizes for opening the door
35. He notes, in a local bar, that the television news programs
Canadians watch seem a bit different from U.S. programs—because they feature
articulate politicians saying serious things about policy. Moore’s
voice-over; Night after night, the Canadians were not being pumped full of
fear. And their politicians seem to talk
kinda funny. We return to the mayor of Sarnia, who talks about
the importance of social programs.
“That’s how you build a good society.”
In another scene, he talks on camera: “You don’t win by beating up on
people who can’t defend themselves.”
Then he makes a pointed comment about political conservatives like
President Bush—“and at the same time they are giving tax breaks to people who
don’t need them.” Another young man on
camera responds to Moore’s
question, “Where do the indigent people live?”
He shakes his head. “We don’t
have that problem here.” Then Moore
takes us to where poor people live—a two and three-story housing area, nice
brick buildings lit by the afternoon sun. Moore’s voice-over: This is what a slum looks like in Canada.
Then back to the kids in front of Taco Bell.
asks them “Why should people have health care?”
Their answer, “Everyone’s got the right to live.” Moore
spots a man outside an emergency room.
He has numerous stitches across his forehead. How much did he pay for this treatment? Nothing.
Then back to one of the two people in the bar, the middle-aged blonde
woman. She notes that in the U.S. the
response is to “pull their gun at ‘em.
You’re on my property.” Then we
spot Moore back at the midway at the spot in Windsor, and there he is talking to a black man, from Detroit, visiting for the
night. Another black man says, “People over here are a little more open-minded,
a little more welcoming.” Later he adds,
“Segregation is more intensified over there.”
Back to the kids at Taco Bell. The girl says, “I just think the view of
things in the States is fighting. Canada is more,
‘Let’s negotiate. Let’s work something
out.’ Where the States is just ‘We’ll
kill you—and that’ll be the end of that.”
Back to the guy who is shown riding in the front seat of a car. “If guns made people safer, then the United States
would be one of the safest countries in the world. It’s the opposite.
CHAPTER 25: LITTLE KALYA
fades to black. Now Moore
uses graphics on the screen as we listen to the 911 call that came from Buell Elementary School
in Flint, Michigan,
when a little 6-year-old girl was shot and killed by her classmate. The teacher becomes increasingly despondent
as she talks to the dispatcher, and finally she wails, “Please Lord! Please
Lord! Please Lord!” Cut to Michael Moore in the hallway of the
school talking to the principal, an elegantly-dressed African American woman.
She recalls that when the police came in, “You’re no longer in control.” Camera stays on both of them. Then an
exterior of the school, as Moore’s voice-over
reveals that the school was in Flint,
Michigan, his old hometown. The boy found a gun at his uncle’s house,
brought it to school, and shot the girl.
Cut to a tiny plastic elementary school chair. Moore’s
voice-over: With one bullet, that passed through her body, she fell to the
floor and laid their dying, while her teacher called 911 for help. No one knew why the little boy wanted to
shoot the little girl. Flint
was now home to a new record—the youngest school shooting ever in the United States. Cut to the flowers left at the entrance to
the school. Cut to the media remote news
vans. Moore’s voice-over: On the morning of the shooting, it only took the
helicopters and satellite trucks a half hour to show up on the scene. Then Moore
shows us several reporters making their remote spots. He focuses on one young male reporter who
barks at his producer after taping his spot.
“We’re having technical problems—okay?”
The camera stays on him as he chats breezily with one of the
assistants. Later, we see this same
reporter sitting on the edge of the remote van while an editor cuts his
spot. He complains that “some networks
that unfortunately go from tragedy to tragedy.
I feel bad for them, because that’s all they see.” Camera pans right inside the van and shows a
small photograph of the little girl taped there.
begins a long voice-over. The B-roll for
the voice-over is in parentheses.
Throughout the B-roll we hear piano music playing quietly under the
shot of rows of reporters, camera operators, remote trucks in a parking lot) The national media had never visited Buell
elementary or this part of Flint
ever before. And few if any of these
reporters bothered to visit it even when they were here now. If they had ventured just a block away from
the school, they might have seen a different kind of tragedy that would have
contained some answers as to why this little girl was dead. (Closed General Motors factory) For
over 20 years, this impoverished area, in the hometown of the world’s largest
corporation, had been ignored as completely as it had been destroyed. With 87%
of the students living below the official poverty line, Flint did not fit into
the accepted and widely circulated storyline (shots of abandoned
buildings) put forth by the nation’s
media—that being the one about America and its invincible economy. (Pawn shop and abandoned buildings) The number one cause of death of young
people in this part of Flint
was homicide. (Street signs with
names like Princeton and Harvard) Years ago someone named the streets in this
part of town after all the Ivy League schools, as if they dreamed of better
days and something greater for themselves.
38. Back to the principal of Buell Elementary School. She is shown walking along the corridor with
Moore, who is hunched over, one of his hands up on the side of his face.
Suddenly she stops, and she seems to fight for self-control. “I don’t want it to happen to anybody else,
either,” he mumbles. As soon as she fights off the tears, he is ready with,
“It’s okay,” and tries to reach out to her.
She turns around and begins to walk away. He puts his hand on her back and begins to
rub it, repeating, “That’s okay.” Then
he sobs, “I’m sorry!”
CHAPTER 26: THE OTHER VICTIM
39. Before this image cuts away, we hear Charlton Heston’s voice:
“From my cold dead hand!” and see him on
stage. Moore’s voice-over: Just as he had done after the Columbine shooting,
Charlton Heston showed up in Flint
to have a big pro-gun rally.
“Freedom has never seen greater peril,” Heston says to his
audience. Then we hear from a
protestor—a woman who is against the NRA.
Then Heston is on camera again, this time answering a local reporter’s
question about why the NRA came to Flint. Of course, Heston talks about gun safety
issues for children. “You see a gun,
don’t touch it. Leave the room. Call an adult.”
Then back to the county
prosecutor we met earlier. “And then Moses himself showed up!” The prosecutor relates stories of the
pressure he received from townspeople and across the country who wanted to
“string up” the 6-year-old boy who shot the little girl. He refers to these people as “gun nuts.” He says, “They wanted this boy hung from the
highest tree. There was such an
undercurrent of racism and hate. It was
ugly.” Then we see Moore standing next to a police detective who
brought in the little boy after the shooting.
He gave the kid some crayons, and the little boy drew a picture for the
man and asked him to put it on his wall.
(The boy had seen drawings of the man’s children already on the wall.)
What is the picture. The boy standing
outside his house. The drawing does not
seem to illuminate anything about the boy’s context—it’s just a drawing of him
outside his house. Moore asks why he hung the picture on the
wall. The cop answers the question and
then says, “That’s where it’ll stay.”
CHAPTER 27:WELFARE TO WORK
40. Cut to the little boy’s mother entering the courtroom. Moore’s voice-over:
In order to get food stamps and health care for her children (close-up, slow
motion, of the mother), she was forced to work as part of the state of Michigan’s welfare to
work program. This program was so successful at tossing poor people off welfare
that its founder, Gerald Miller, was hired by the number one firm in the
country that states turn to privatize their welfare systems. That firm was
Lockheed Martin. (Now Moore’s story seems to have come full circle—from Lockheed
in Columbine to Lockheed affecting Flint.)
Lockheed had found the perfect way to diversify, the perfect way to profit from
people’s fear—from an enemy much closer to home—poor black mothers—like Tamarla
Owens (close-up of the mother in the courtroom.
She is crying.)
41. Cut to a well-dressed man sitting behind his desk. He complains about a program that sends
single-mothers 60 miles one way to work.
“How does that help a community?”
He scoffs at this kind of system.
And he is the sheriff of Flint,
Michigan! “I wish I could put two parents in every
home, and make them equally responsible—but you can’t do that!” Cut to a bus that is driving through streets
early in the morning. Moore’s voice-over: This is the bus she was forced to ride every morning in order to work
off the welfare money the state had given her.
She and many others from Flint who were
poor would make the 80-mile round trip journey every day from Flint to Auburn Hills. (Cut to the beautiful suburban hones with big
lawns.) She would leave early in the morning and return late at night—rarely
seeing her young children. Back to
the sheriff: “What’s the point in doing that?
Where does the state benefit? Where does Flint benefit from that? I think that may be
part of the problem! We drove the one
parent out!” Back to the bus we go—and Moore interviews two of
the riders. One man has been riding the
bus for three years. “Half my
neighborhood works out here in the mall.”
He gets $3 more per hour. That’s
why he spends the time in traveling to and fro on the bus. Did he know the mother? “She was a nice lady. She came to work every day. She worked two jobs. She was trying to make
42. Dick Clark’s American
Bandstand Grill in a big mall in Oakland Hills.
That’s where the mother worked (and a second job in the fudge
voice-over explains who Dick Clark is—and then Moore
sneaks in a low blow by slipping in a photograph of Clark
with Bob Hope and Charlton Heston. One
of the employees of the Grill refers to Clark’s
trademark line: “Music is the soundtrack of your life.” Moore notes in
voice-over that Clark applied for special tax
breaks by hiring welfare-to-work clientele.
voice-over: Even though the mother
worked up to 70 hours a week at these two jobs, she did not earn enough to pay
her rent, and one week before the shooting was told by her landlord that he was
evicting her. She asked her brother if
he could take her in for a few weeks. It
was there her son found a small .32 caliber gun and took it to school. His mother did not see him take the gun
because she was on a bus to go serve drinks and make fudge for rich people.
of the palm trees and wide avenues of Los
voice-over: I decided to fly out to California to ask Dick
Clark what he thought about a system that forces single mothers to work two
low-wage jobs to survive. Cut to an
awkward shot, the camera behind Moore,
as he leans on the van where Dick Clark is safely huddled inside. Moore
tries to explain the context of his documentary, and he mentions the
six-year-old that shot a six-year-old.
“Get in the car, Dave!” Clark yells at
his associate, standing off camera to the left. “We’re really late.” Moore
keeps talking. “But the mother of the
kid works at Dick Clark’s Grill—” and Clark
cuts him off. “Forget it. Close the door!” “These people are forced to work—Dick—I want
you to help me convince the Governor of Michigan— ” But Clark yells, “Come on! We’re going!” and the woman next to him in
the backseat slides the van door closed.
continues, “—that the welfare-to-work—these women are forced to work.” The van drives off. “They’ve got kids at home. Dick!
Ah, Jeez!” as he turns around.
CHAPTER 28: FEAR AND AMMO
44. Cut to President Bush, all dressed up in his flight jacket and
addressing a military crowd at a rally. Moore’s voice-over: In George
the poor were not a priority. And after
September 11, 2001, correcting America’s
social problems took ja back seat to fear, panic and a new set of priorities! Back to Bush, speaking to the military
folks. He asks everyone to make “the
defense of the United States the number 1 priority and fully fund my
request.” Now as this scene unfolds, hard-driving
music begins to pound under the shots.
Cut to a shot of people running in panic on the streets. Music continues, and now we hear from people
selling chemical suits, weapons, ammunition, and then a reference that at
Wal-Mart gun sales were up 70% after terrorism struck America. Moore’s
voice-over: In the months following the
9-11 acts, we Americans were gripped in a state of fear. None of us knew who would die at the hands of
the evildoers (cut to an old black and white silent film of an evil-looking
sheik) or who might be sitting next to some crazy guy about to light his shoes
on fire. (Shots of guns sold) The
threats seemed very real. Our growing fears were turned into a handsome profit
for many. (Increased sales of home security devices) Suddenly we jump back to Professor
Glassner, author of A Culture of Fear
again. “Why are we afraid of all these things? A lot of people are making a lot
of money off of it and a lot of careers off of it.” And then really unfair cuts to images of
Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ashcroft, key components of Michael Moore’s axis of
evil. Moore’s voice-over focuses on the record
defense contracts handed out by the Bush Administration. The montage music keeps right on
booming. Moore’s voice-over: And the greatest benefit of a terrorized public is that the corporate
and political leaders get away with just about anything. More muckraking by Moore
as he cuts to a clip from Fritz Hollings, senator from South Carolina: “I’ve never seen a better
example of cash and carry government than this Bush administration—and
Enron.” Back to Moore’s voice-over: One thing is clear—a public
that is this out of control with fear should not have a lot of guns and ammo
CHAPTER 29: RETURNING THE
45. Wide shot of a young man in a wheelchair. “I was shot with a
Tech-9. It was supposed to be
semi-automatic, but it seemed like fully automatic to me.” In Moore’s
voice-over he introduces us to Richard, this young man, and Mark, another young
man—both of whom were shot at Columbine by the two killers. Richard is a paraplegic, and Mark had numerous
operations. They show off the scars from
the bullets. Mark says, “The kids at
Columbine had to pay a penalty that day—for the nation.” Several 17-cent K-Mart bullets are still in
their bodies. Image of the back of Richard’s body—with tiny brown-tipped scars
where bullets entered his body. Moore’s voice-over: I thought of one way we could
reduce the number of guns and bullets laying around. I asked the boys if they
would like to go back to K-Mart and return the merchandise. We don’t really see him ask the boys—we
are given quick shots of Michael Moore with the two young men.
46. Cut to first-person camera, as someone gets out of a car and
we hear, “You ready?” “You go.” Suddenly we are off—in blinding white
light-until the camera reaches the doorway of K-Mart headquarters in Troy, Michigan. Suddenly we are inside, and there is Richard
in his wheelchair. A production assistant and Mark help Richard up the steps in
his chair. Someone at the central kiosk
tells them to shut the camera off. Sure. Cut to an hour later and the camera is back
on and here comes the director of media relations to talk to Michael
Moore. He introduces the two young men. “They’re students from Columbine high
school. There were shot at Columbine in
the massacre with bullets purchased at K-Mart.”
As soon as she hears this, she changes her tone and says, “You came a
long way.” Richard says, “You stopped
selling the handguns; it sorta makes sense to stop selling the bullets,
too.” Mark speaks up, too. “Our request
is that you get rid of the 9-millimetr bullets.” Her response: K-Mart only carries sporting
firearms. She says she will take the
message to the CEO and then asks for Michael Moore’s business card. Of course, he’s been down this road before—in
Roger and Me. He doesn’t want to give
her ac card. He wants action. “To be
blunt, Mark has a K-Mart bullet an inch away from his aorta.” Then an urgency sets into his voice: “I told
them that somebody here would listen—would take their request seriously. Not a
PR person, but somebody who has some authority to answer some of the questions
they want answered. “K-Mart does care about this,” she says. Suddenly the
conversation seems to be over. Now Mary
is conspiring with two other executives—off to the side—and then Moore
announces that two hours later she came back down with the merchandiser—the guy
who buys the bullets for K-Mart. “Stay out of trouble,” we hear him say. “We’re not the ones in trouble,” Moore shoots back. Mark
lifts his shirt and shows the men his bullet wounds. “From your bullets. That’s where the K-Mart bullets went
in.” But nothing else happens. The merchandiser goes back upstairs. Moore’s
voice-over: We waited around for a couple of hours, but no one else came
down. As we left the building, Mark came
up with an idea: go to the nearest K-Mart and buy out all their bullets. (One problem here is that two of the
production assistants lurk in the background of shots—and it’s hard to know who
they are or what they are doing there.)
CHAPTER 30: K-MART
47. So the next shot shows Mark inside a store and buying two bags
of bullets. Then we see him leaving the
store—the two plastic sacks in his hand.
voice-over: The next day we decided to go back to K-Mart’s headquarters with
all the bullets. This time we bought the
local press. Suddenly a hoard of
reporters and photographers can be seen following Moore and his entourage. Then a quick clip from a local news program
notes the two boys from Columbine are “very angry with K-Mart.” Moore
is back inside the headquarters again, and a security man says, “Always a
pleasure seeing you.” While the security
men huddle behind the counter, Moore
holds up a bullet and says loudly, “These are the bullets that are in both Mark
and Richard’s body right now. Quick cut
to Richard, sitting quietly in his chair—and three boxes of ammunition in his
lap. A K-Mart authority figure orders them outside—and not to block the
doors. So now we go outside, with all
the cameras rolling. A woman introduces
herself and says she has a statement on behalf of the company. “What happened in Columbine was truly tragic
and touched every American.” She looks
over toward Richard, who is off camera.
“We are truly sorry for the disadvantage to this young man. K-Mart is phasing out the sale of handgun
ammunition. The business plan calls for
this to be complete in the next 90 days.”
Reaction shot of Moore. “Wow!” he says. He looks around.
48. The spokesperson continues, “K-Mart representatives met with
Mr. Moore and the students from Columbine yesterday and listened to their
concerns about the products carried in K-Mart stores.” Moore
shakes hands with the spokesperson. “We
want to thank you for committing to no longer selling handgun ammunition—and
within 90 days—“ and she confirms that K-Mart won’t sell it after 90 days. She
turns to leave, and Moore
begins to clap (and we hear some other clapping). “That blows my mind!” he says, as the
students, and two production assistants, look on. “That’s more than what we
asked for.” He and Mark share a few
laughs, Moore reaches out to embrace Richard,
and we go to Moore’s
voice-over: The kids from Columbine had
scored an overwhelming victory against K-Mart, and it inspired me to do
something that I had to do. Back to L.A.: All I needed was a star map.
CHAPTER 31: CHARLTON HESTON
49. Next shot is Moore
walking up to a locked gate, the estate of Charlton Heston. He reaches down and pushes a white
button. We hear the sound of a phone
ringing. This is shot through the front
windshield of the production vehicle.
The image shows Moore
dressed in his blue jeans, oversized coat, and baseball cap. He wears basketball shoes. Charlton Heston answers the phone. Michael Moore bends down and talks to
him. “This is Michael Moore, the
filmmaker?” Heston acknowledges him. He
tells Heston he is making a documentary about “the whole gun issue.” “I may be able to give you some time
tomorrow.” Heston sits a meeting at 8:30
in the morning.
50. Graphic on the screen.
8:30 the next morning. There is
Michael Moore again. This time he
doesn’t talk directly to Charlton Heston.
Why did he reach him directly the night before? The gate swings open, and to the music of the
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Theme, the burly Moore
saunters past the gate. As he walks up the drive, we can see Heston in the
distance. Heston walks a bit awkwardly, as if measuring his steps carefully,
and the two men reach out and shake hands. This is set up as a point of view
point of view. Heston is shown on the
left of the frame. He sits in a high
director’s chair—easier to get into and out of when one is frail. Moore
sits on the right of the frame, turned toward Heston—and the shot is a modified
point of view shot.
- Moore shows him his lifetime NRA card.
for you!” Heston says. Then he reaches over and touches Moore on the wrist, as if
to affirm his good sense.
got guns in the house?”
- “Indeed I do.
Bad guys take notice.” Heston
smiles broadly and then laughs.
- “So you have them for protection.” Heston admits that he has never been a
crime. He also admits the guns are loaded.
- As he says, “If you really need a weapon for self-defense, you need it loaded.”
do you need it for self-defense?”
don’t,” he admits.
Moore goes for
the next level. So why keep loaded guns
2nd Amendment gives me that right.”
totally agree,” Moore
says—a bit deceptively I would think.
could say it’s a comfort factor.” Then
he adds, ”I’m exercising one of the rights passed on down to me from those wise old dead white
guys who invented this country. If it's good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.”
why exercise that right to have a gun?
- “I choose to have it,” Heston says.
the clock behind Moore
reads 6:03. But the meeting was supposed
to be at 8:30.) Then Moore shifts
the subject again. He brings up Canada. Here’s a country with a low murder rate and yet there are 7 million guns in 10
won’t be very long.”
- Moore stays on task.
He wants Heston to answer the question of why Canadians have all those guns and yet have such a low crime rate.
think American history has a lot of blood on its hands,” Heston says.
- Moore vehemently disagrees that Americans are any more
violent that other people around the world. Think of the Germans. Think of
cuts him off. “It’s an interesting
point, one that could be explored—and you’re
good to explore it. But that’s about all I have to
- “You don’t have an opinion as to why we are the only
country that kills each other on
this level with guns?
- “Well, we have probably a more mixed ethnicity than other
- “You think it’s an ethnic thing?
- “No, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.” (Of course, Moore has him right where he
wants him now.) “We had enough problems with Civil
Rights in the
beginning--but I have no answer forthat—“
won’t give up. “What do you mean, you
think it’s a mixed ethnicity?”
- Now Heston looks a little defensive, a bit anxious. He
goes over the question Moore
asks him. Moore asks him to repeat
his answer. “We have a history of
violence, perhaps more than moscountries—certainly more than Canada.”
- Now Moore slips in the
reference to Flint, Michigan, and the six-year-old boy who shot his classmate.
“After that happened, you came to Flint and held a big rally.”
- “So did the Vice-President,” and Heston laughs.
- But Moore
keeps at him. “Did you feel that it was being at all insensitive that this community had just gone through a tragedy—“
- “—I wasn’t aware of that at the time.”
- “Had you known would you have—“
- “—Would I have canceled?
I don’t—I can’t say.”
- “The choice to come there was made after this horrible
killing took place. Had you
known that, would you have come?
- “I don’t know. I
have no idea.”
- “Maybe not?”
- “Maybe not.” It’s time to stop. Heston reaches out to shake hands, and at
moment Moore slips in a quick jab of a question: “Do you think you would like
to apologize to the people of Flint for coming there and doing that at that
- Heston is a bit taken aback. “You want me to
apologize—me—apologize to the
people of Flint?"
- “Or for the people in Columbine for coming after their
horrible tragedy. Why do you
- go to the places after they have these horrible
tragedies?” (You can see Heston processing this and making up his mind to leave.) “I’m a member of your group
- “Yup. Well, I’m
afraid we don’t agree on that.” He
stands up from the director’s chair he was sitting in.
- “You think it’s okay to just come and show up at these
events—“ His eyes follow Heston as the man walks in front of him. As he passes by Moore, Heston reaches out and pats Moore on his right shoulder.
- “You don’t think it’s okay.” But Heston is already past him. The camera
pans right and captures Heston walking stiffly away from Moore and out of the pool
house. The old man swings his arms awkwardly at his
side, and he walks with
a permanent stoop. Swish pan to the left. —but the camera does not return to
Moore for a reaction.
follows Heston down a sidewalk toward the man’s house. “Mr. Heston, one more
thing.” Heston turns around. “This is who she is—or was.” Moore
holds up a photograph of the dead six-year-old.
This is her—please don’t leave!
(If he is using only one camera, he is cheating here—because there is a
cut to him holding the picture rather than a pan. And when we return to the pov shot, we can
body on the right, but we can’t tell if he is holding up the photograph or
not.) Heston walks away, and this time he does not turn around. “Mr. Heston.
Please. Take a look at her!” Cut to Moore
holding the picture. “This is the
girl.” (We do get one swish pan from
him holding the picture up and Heston far in the distance. This confirms for me
that he cheated by giving the impression that Heston looked back at a short
distance and saw him holding the photograph.
In the real time of the moment, he didn’t have time to arrange the
photograph so that Heston saw it when he turned around—from twenty feet away.)
Now that Heston has gone into
his house, Moore
walks over to a spot near the entrance of the house and places the little
girl’s picture Pagainst a column—that way, Heston will have to look at her
sometime. Then he walks away, toward the
camera, with that signature hangdog look and slumped shoulders. Hard rock music cues.
CHAPTER 32: MIKE/BOWLING
52. Moore’s voice-over: I
left the Hestons’ estate in Beverly Hills and
walked back into the real world—an America living and breathing in
fear. Quick shot from movie stock
footage of a panicked crowd running through the street. Cut to Moore
standing next to a young tattooed man wearing a baseball cap that says, “Fuck
everybody.” He asks the guy what does he
imagine the person to look like who would break into his house. The answer?
“You . . . him . . . the camera
guy . . . anybody—you could have a gun in the camera.” Moore’s
voice-over: —where gun sales were now at an all-time high— Cut to a guy
with a thick German accent demonstrating an assault rifle as he says, “Can
shoot as fast as a semi-automatic. Cut to a shot of the Littleton exit sign. —and where, in the end, it all comes back
to bowling for Columbine. Cut to a
map of a crime scene at the Broadway Bowl in Littleton.
We hear a news report summarizing the killing of thee people in the
bowling alley. Then we see Michael Moore
talking to an employee, who says “three people died—“ and Moore
finishes it with his voice-over: —in Littleton,
in a bowling alley. Back to the
quick interview with the employee. “I’m
sorry,” Michael Moore says. Then a quick
shot of a GI Joe doll holding an American flag. Moore’s voice-over: Yes, it was a
glorious time to be an American. Cut
to Michael Moore, wearing shorts this time, and hurling a bowling ball down a
lane in a bowling alley. Camera pans
right, and he gets a strike. Up comes
the closing credits music—What a Wonderful World, as sung in a
restrained heavy metal version by Joey Romano.
Film resource written by Robert Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke, © 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
Request permission from the author to reprint this resource--for educational use only