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Trauma, Liminality, Hope — The Ritual Function of Bowling for Columbine

Trauma, Liminality, Hope — The Ritual Function of Bowling for Columbine

Michael Moore’s 2002 Bowling for Columbine ambitiously seeks to explain what led to the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, with numerous detours into related topics. Moore’s thesis is clear: a ubiquitous, uniquely-American climate of fear fostered Columbine. Despite "slippery logic, tendentious grandstanding, and outright demagoguery,” Bowling for Columbine’s “disquieting insights into the culture of violence in America should occasion sober reflection from those who would prefer to stop their ears" (Scott n.p.). Despite its failings, Bowling for Columbine may better be experienced as a ritual; the film may place the viewer in liminality, a non-rational state in initiatory rituals, meant to bring participants to a “threshold,” at which they are fundamentally changed (“Liminality”). Wielding facts and figures in service of its threshold, disregarding accuracy, Bowling for Columbine tears down the ideologies and kneejerk solutions behind which one may hide the senseless trauma of Columbine. At this threshold of powerlessness, with an as-yet unprocessed trauma in full view, the individual may achieve what philosopher Slavoj Zizek refers to as “the courage of hopelessness” (Courage).