To what extent can BFC be viewed as drawing on key elements of Bakhtin’s notion of carnivalesque?Bowling for Columbine is a post-structural film produced by Mike Moore. It leaves a message about America and its people. Today, the world is not a safe place.
However, the world is made unsafe by the people who don’t believe it is safe. This is what the film is based on: fear and guns. Bowling For Columbine is a carnivalesque to an extent as it contains many elements of a carnivalesque. These elements are shown through repetition, polyphony of voices and the creation of another world. Many responders would believe that this movie is a misleading act based on Mike Moore’s self-promotion. When looking beneath the surface however, we can see that the film is trying to say something about America, even though there is no clear answer to the question being asked.
This is why the film is a post-structural text. There is more than one answer and texts are interpreted depending on the responder’s context. It is not a documentary however because a documentary is a discussion based on evidence for and against. Although Bowling for Columbine provides facts, it is biased. Mike Moore presents a film that is dialogical in nature.
He arranges questions and scenes in the film to get the answer or response that he wants. Also, the camera used is analogous to Moore’s own gun. He targets certain people and appears on the scene so as to make himself seem bigger. His camera is also used to shoot’ people with questions that he already knows the answer to. This happens to people such as the bank employees and youths Bent and BJ and this is why responders may think the film is a reason for self-promotion.
There is no clear cut answer to the question that is constantly being asked throughout the film. This is why Bowling For Columbine’s narrative is polyphonic. Polyphony allows multiple voices to be expressed.
As there are too many different people in the world that have different contexts such as age and cultural background, one clear answer can not be stated in the film. This silence is important because it shows that what is important is missing, the answer to why so many people are killed each year. Polyphony also makes it possible for anything to be said as there are no dominant voices. It does not matter what ranking in society you are or where you come from, all people can have a say to influence ideas. It is the resistant voices that extend the views and pushes boundaries so that more opinions and questions can be raised regarding the abundance of fear and levels of crime in America. There are so many different opinions and voices that it destroys the one single ideology and therefore, forces responders make up their own mind as to what the answer to the question is. The repetition of ideas and random images has a significant impact on the answer to the film and the responders.
There are many ideas that are seemingly insignificant to guns that are constantly being brought up. However, they all represent some part of America, its people and fear. The report on Africanized bees seems random yet is very significant when relating it to the black and white community. Africanized bees are a lot more harmful than the normal bees that America has. Therefore, families try to kill these Africanized bees. These bees represent the black community and the normal bees represent the white community as they have a bigger population and are less harmful from a white person’s point of view.
Identical reports are also repeated to make the point clearer. This is shown through Moore’s arrangement of clips so that reporters are shown to repeat “Black man” and “suspect” continuously. Random images such as these are constantly repeated in the film. This brings forward many ideas as the responder wonders how they relate to the idea of America and guns in the film. However, not just random images are constantly repeated.
The same idea of people bowling and the phrase by Charleston Heston, “From my cold dead hands” are repeated throughtout the movie. The repetition of these images is important. They bring back the main question as it is still not answered yet. The movie starts and finishes with the scene of bowling. Just like the question is brought up at the beginning yet by the end, it is still not answered.
As the end finishes where the film began, we can see this as a representation of the cycle of fear and guns where everything leads into each other. The repetition of identical ideas and random images are all important in getting the point across that the question can never be answered. Bowling For Columbine creates a different world full of fear and humour. A carnivalesque lets the stereotypical themes of society be turned around and humour is displayed to make this new world more festive. In the film, the usual respected and harmonius world is turned down. This can be seen in America. It is known to be a brave and respectable nation that controls all fear but when “turned” upside down, America is a nation full of fear and cowardness in which fear controls them.
This other side of America is what is shown in Bowling For Columbine. The movie satires America by making a joke of the way in which it operates. Humour is therefore used to cover the underlying truth and make it seem so unrealistic that all people can do is laugh. The cartoon about America’s history summaries the movie. It is funny yet very true. In this different world that carnivelsque creates, all extremities are seen as everyday things. The advertisement for the bank shows how easy it is to get a gun when opening up a bank account.
It proves how lightly the most serious things are being taken and makes it seem like an everyday thing. Also, bowling is shown through out the movie. Moore tries to represent the bombings as bowling. There is a cycle just like in bowling: you bowl over the pins and more pins are just put back up. This is the same for the bombings and shootings in America, they will never end until an answer is found to the question.
However, there are so many answers to the question that one clear answer can never be found. There are many humorous scenes that are made to satirise a very serious issue. The beginning of the film is in black and white footage. The presenter is very laidback as if it was just a show for entertainment. The version of the song “What a wonderful world” at the end is played in a punk rocker style. It is ironic to see that it is sung this way because the lyrics would usually fit a crooning style rather than in a rock style. However, today this is what teenagers listen to, indicating that today’s world is harsh and cruel and maybe The Ramones version of “What a wonderful world” would be more appropriate.
People in the movie itself also make fear and guns seem insignificant and funny such as the news reporter who is only interested in how his hair is instead of the shooting of a primary student. All these ideas shows the unserious attitude used so that people can survive in this harsh world. These elements all show how Bowling For Columbine is a carnivalesque.
A polyphonic narrative allows for everyone to speak their opinion so that an idealogy that tries to have the last word on the subject is destroyed. Repitition of the same idea and random images presents many ideas and shows that the question is never answered. The creation of another world and humour helps deal with the harsh world in which we live in. The world can not be peaceful when fear is so easy to be bought through guns. It seems that the question, why are there so many killings in America, is never answered in the film and until there is an answer there can not be a solution on which everyone will agree on. Analysing Bowling For Columbine as a carnivalesque shows what kind of world we are living in; not exactly a wonderful world.