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"I wouldn't say a single word to them; I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did."
Marilyn Manson when asked what he would say to the students at Columbine, Bowling for Columbine

The Columbine High School massacre saw the deaths of fifteen people -- twelve students, one teacher, and the killers themselves -- and the injury of another twenty-four people. After it happened, everybody ran around like a headless chicken trying to rationalize it. Here's our attempt.

Background

With so many claims about them coming from every direction, what is known about the killers and their motivations deserves to be discussed. First of all, the two boys were juvenile Delinquents who had a history of trouble with the law. The year before the shooting, the two had been arrested for breaking into and stealing tools from a locked van. They made such a good impression on the police that, in exchange for having their criminal records expunged, they would go through a program that included community service, psychiatric treatment and, for Harris, anger management classes. Again, they made such a good impression that they were discharged from the program a few months early. In the memoirs they taped before the shootings, they bragged about how well they had fooled the police into thinking they had reformed. Later, the two would make a video for a school project called Hitmen for Hire, in which they played two Bully Hunters, and Harris would write a violent Doom Fanfic for a creative writing project. In addition, Harris had been caught the year before making threats on his website to various students and teachers, and Klebold had a long history of cursing at teachers and getting into fights with his boss at the pizza place he worked at.

Harris and Klebold were victims of bullying, including homophobic remarks, but as it turns out, they gave as good as they got -- they often wrote in their diaries about how they themselves had bullied underclassmen and "fags." In early reports, they were said to be members of the "Trenchcoat Mafia," a clique of gamers and self-styled outcasts who all wore trenchcoats. In reality, they were only friends with one member of the group, and most of them had graduated by the time of the massacre. They weren't the loners that early reports described them as -- they had a number of friends, and three days before the massacre, Klebold had taken his female friend Robyn Anderson to the prom. They were avid gamers, particularly of Doom (which Harris had even made mods for), and used the names "Reb" and "VoDKa" (the former was Harris, the latter was Klebold) as both their online handles and their nicknames.

The general consensus among investigators regarding their motivations is that they (particularly Harris) were Nietzsche Wannabes who wanted to leave their mark on the world. A personality profile of Harris stated that he was an anti-social, paranoid, narcissistic psychopath with unrestrained aggression, while his journal reveals a Social Darwinist mindset, with frequent references to "natural selection" (the shirt he wore during the massacre even had that slogan on the front). One entry in Harris' journal contains a discussion on how he wanted to put everyone into a super-Doom game and see to it that only the strong survive. Klebold's diaries talk about how he and Harris were more highly evolved than the rest of humanity, but his secret journal reveals that he was self-loathing and possibly suicidal. Their diaries make frequent reference to the Oklahoma City bombing, the Waco Siege, and other disasters, noting how they wished to "outdo" these events. Their codename for the massacre was "NBK," taken from a film that both of them were huge fans of, in which the main characters go on a killing spree and become celebrities in the process.

The Massacre

Harris and Klebold had begun planning their attack a year in advance. Their plan was to build large bombs that they would plant in the cafeteria and then detonate at lunch time, destroying the cafeteria and the library above it and killing hundreds of students in what would have been the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in history (the reason why they thought they would "top" Oklahoma City). After that, they would pick off the survivors outside as they fled the burning school. Notes in their journals also contain thoughts about heading to Denver International Airport, hijacking a plane and crashing it into a building in New York City, as well as fleeing to Mexico. The date of the massacre, April 20, coincides with Adolf Hitler's birthday, leading some to speculate that the killers were neo-Nazis. However, others have denied that the boys had Nazi sympathies, and there is evidence to believe that they had originally planned to attack the school on April 19, the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and the end of the Waco Siege, but were forced to push it back a day. Others have speculated that they chose April 20 because it was the day that many of the school's stoners, whom they had never had much of a problem with, would be cutting class to get high.

The killers arrived at the school at 11:10 AM and went to the cafeteria with the large duffel bags containing their bombs, each wired to detonate at 11:17 shortly after the start of lunch. They headed back to their cars to wait for the bombs to go off... which they didn't, thanks to their lack of finesse at the finer points of bomb-making. Realizing that their bombs were duds, the two broke out their guns (a 9mm carbine and sawed-off pump shotgun for Harris, and a TEC-9 and sawed-off double-barrel shotgun for Klebold) and headed to the school's west entrance. Here, they took off their trenchcoats, killed two students and a teacher, and wounded nine others as they went through the halls. At 11:29, they headed to the library, where the main body of the massacre took place. When they walked in, Harris told everybody wearing a white baseball cap (a tradition among the school athletes) to stand up. Ten people were killed in the library, and twelve were injured. These would prove to be the last victims of the Columbine massacre, as the killers left the library at 11:42 and spent the next twenty minutes wandering the now-empty halls and cafeteria, shooting and throwing pipe bombs seemingly at random. They went back into the library (which had since emptied out) at 12:02 and briefly exchanged fire with the policemen who now surrounded the school. Harris and Klebold then committed suicide; one fired his gun in his mouth, and the other shot himself in the side of the head.

There was early speculation that there had been a third man involved in the shootings, based on reports that a strange man had been seen on the roof on the school (later shown to be a repairman who locked himself up there after he heard gunshots), and claims that the two killers couldn't have hauled all of the bombs into the cafeteria by themselves. While all evidence points to Harris and Klebold being the only culprits behind the massacre, this hasn't stopped countless conspiracy theorists from speculating otherwise.

Aftermath

Although school shootings are a relatively, some would say distressingly, common occurrence in the US (there had been one almost every year since 1966) [1], this one quickly entered the halls of infamy for its then-unprecedented scale. Future school shootings, even those with greater body counts, would find themselves in Columbine's shadow. The Irony of all this media attention is that this is exactly what Harris and Klebold wanted to happen -- they desired to see their names burned into the history books. Almost immediately, a whole number of apocryphal events began finding their way into the Popular History version of the shooting, Moral Guardians of all stripes used Columbine as an excuse to rant about whatever it was they felt was evil (or whatever would get them the best book deals), everybody was searching for answers, and American high schools came under the thrall of a number of Columbine-related concepts, some of which had never happened. The word "columbine," once the name of the state flower of Colorado, entered the vernacular as a euphemism for a school shooting, and many future school shooting plots made reference to "pulling a columbine" and a desire to "top" Harris and Klebold. Police forces, having witnessed firsthand how ineffective traditional police tactics were against spree killers, saw themselves developing new ways to respond to such threats.

The image of the Badass Longcoat spree killer took off, not helped by the fact that The Matrix had been released just three weeks earlier. In reality, the killers had taken their trenchcoats off as soon as the shooting began, and wore T-shirts and jeans, leading many to believe that the coats were more about projecting a scary, iconic image to the victims and the media than anything. (In any event, it seemed to have worked.)

Thanks to some erroneous reporting early on, students who were socially isolated or outcasts suddenly became viewed as potential mass murderers in waiting, even though Harris and Klebold weren't outcasts.[2] In particular, the Goth subculture suffered a huge backlash as a result of the shooting, with their outcast status and "dark" persona earning them the suspicion of many. Schools modified their dress codes to ban trenchcoats and restrict the amount of black clothing a student can wear, and started to assume that all school shooters fall under a certain list of stereotypes and can therefore be identified before they kill (similar to a terrorist watchlist). In a Congress-mandated study, the FBI found that not only is this idea not true, but it is also a dangerous line of thought -- while schools focus on trying to find students who fit a predetermined list of traits, real potential shooters go unnoticed. Even so, if a school shooter is portrayed in the media, he (and it's usually a "he") will always be a shy, bullied student who keeps to himself, and it's almost entirely because of this misconception.

Violent video games were one of the most popular scapegoats for the massacre, with much hay being made out of the fact that the killers were fans of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Armchair psychologists were claiming that the killers had become desensitized to and obsessed with violence as a result of playing video games. Florida attorney Jack Thompson first emerged as an anti-video-game figure as a result of the massacre, setting himself on the trajectory that would ultimately lead to his dismissal from the legal profession. Once it came out that Harris had made various levels for the game, the media was almost immediately claiming that they had been based on Columbine High School, with the demons replaced with students and teachers. As it turned out, they weren't. The most elaborate of the so-called "Harris levels," titled UAC Labs, can be read about and downloaded here, third down the list, with commentary on the massacre and its effect on the gaming community.

Certain popular movies also came under fire. Among the targets were: The Matrix, with its stylized action scenes, its story about our reality being a lie, its proliferation of Badass Longcoat heroes, and the fact that it had been released just three weeks prior to the killings and was still a box office hit; The Basketball Diaries, which contained a fantasy sequence in which Leonardo DiCaprio's character shoots up his school while wearing a trenchcoat; and Natural Born Killers, which both of the killers were huge fans of, and whose plot eerily mirrored the aftermath of the shooting.

The debate on gun control was reignited by the massacre, with each side repeating its talking points. Gun control advocates claimed that the tragedy could have been averted had there been more restrictions on the purchase of firearms, noting that Harris and Klebold had acquired their weapons through mostly legal means.[3] On the other side, gun rights advocates claimed that gun control, particularly the "gun-free" zones around schools, had left the students and teachers defenseless, making the situation worse than it had to be. Schools, meanwhile, took security into their own hands, installing metal detectors at school entrances, hiring security guards, mandating see-through backpacks, running "intruder drills" (similar to fire drills) in order to practice what to do if someone were to attack the school, and instituting "zero-tolerance" policies regarding violence or the threat of it. Such policies quickly became highly controversial, with many people, particularly students and social scientists, feeling that they are out of control and infringe upon the rights of the students. A report by the Secret Service stated that schools were taking false hope in such security measures, and that they wouldn't do anything to deter another massacre -- in fact, they concluded that zero-tolerance policies getting an unstable student suspended or expelled for a minor infraction may very well push him or her over the edge. However, many schools still have zero tolerance policies in place.

Various conservative Christian groups proclaimed the massacre to be the result of the secularization of society, the teaching of evolution and sex education, and the lack of religion in public schools. Many within such circles are more inclined to accept initial accounts claiming that two of the victims, Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, had been killed because of their Christian faith, having been asked if they believed in God -- and answering "yes" -- before they were shot. Most authoritative investigations of the massacre have concluded that these stories of how the two died are apocryphal, and based on the experience of Valeen Schnurr, a girl who was asked by the killers if she believed in God, but survived the massacre. However, many continue to consider the two to be martyrs and symbols of faith in the face of death, and a number of Columbine-inspired works have portrayed their killers as specifically targeting Christians.

One of the most popular targets of social backlash was shock rock, metal and other "Satanic," "unhealthy" or "violent" music, with Marilyn Manson acting as a main lightning rod. In reality, Harris and Klebold viewed Manson as a sellout and a poser, but this didn't stop people from claiming that their music had somehow influenced the two to shoot up their school. Ultimately, this became a case of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity for Manson, as the massacre greatly increased their pop culture profile; the frontman's interview with Michael Moore about the shooting may have been his Crowning Moment of Awesome.

Some alleged that the killers were either neo-Nazis, or had a fascination with Adolf Hitler and his regime. Supporters of this theory point to the fact that the attack had taken place on April 20, Hitler's birthday, and the fact that the killers were fans of Rammstein and KMFDM, two bands often hit with accusations of being Music to Invade Poland To. Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold's, denies that the killers were Nazis, although she claims that there was a lot that she didn't know about them. It is worth noting here that Dylan Klebold's mother was Jewish (although he was raised Lutheran), and that, as noted above, it is likely that the attack had been planned for April 19.

The fact that Eric Harris had been taking the anti-depressants Luvox and, before that, Zoloft was a point of note for many people critical of the perceived overprescription of psychiatric medication in today's society, particularly among teenagers. It would later be discovered that Harris had been rejected for military service due to his use of these medications, and it was speculated that this is what drove him over the edge. (This was later shown to be untrue -- Harris had not received news of his rejection by the time of the massacre.)

Finally, one of the most popular culprits for the shootings was society in general. For the first time, there was genuine examination and criticism of the social hierarchy of high school, particularly the high status that athletes enjoy in it. Schools began to crack down on bullying within their halls, and most people who were of school age soon after Columbine will most likely recall all of the assemblies calling for tolerance and respect for fellow classmates. The fact that we still have the Popularity Food Chain shows that such efforts ultimately proved futile, as 1999 became ancient history for a new generation of high school students who were only in elementary school when the shooting took place -- it took another cycle of bullying-related suicides a decade later before people started asking these questions again. Neglectful parenting also came under fire, as people claimed that, had the killers' parents been paying any attention to their kids, they could have stepped in and stopped it.

And before anybody asks, yes, there are Conspiracy Theories claiming that Harris and Klebold had been Brainwashed by The Illuminati.

One of the most disturbing trends to happen after the shooting was the Draco in Leather Pants aura that developed around Harris and Klebold, with many students on the bottom of the high school food chain calling them heroes and martyrs who stood up to the privileged jocks and bullies that ruled high schools across the nation. Trenchcoats became a popular fashion accessary among such students, with schools responding by banning them under their dress codes. A series of copycat shootings took place, carried out mostly by people who wanted to get revenge on their classmates and, like Harris and Klebold, leave their mark on the world. Even thirteen years later, a quick search will find a surprisingly large number of tribute sites and videos for "Reb and VoDKa."

Perhaps the most important effect of the massacre was the way that it would shape American popular culture for years to come. The most noticeable and immediate change was a trend of stiffer censorship against violence in movies and TV shows that lasted into the early Turn of the Millennium. The teen Horror genre, popularized by the likes of Scream, began to die out as depictions of young people being brutally murdered suddenly became very unsettling. After a period of Too Soon, school shootings became popular subject matter for Ripped from the Headlines programs, the canonical example being the Law and Order episode "School Daze" (one of the first to be advertised with such a slogan). It can be argued that the Columbine massacre marked the beginning of the end for the viewpoints and culture of The Nineties (much like how the Altamont disaster is said to have killed The Sixties), and that the time between April 20, 1999 and September 11, 2001 was a time of transition between The Nineties and the Turn of the Millennium.


Media that is about, references or was affected by the event:

Comic Books

  • The unpublished September 1999 issue of Hellblazer, entitled "Shoot", depicted a study of a series of fictional school shootings. Seeing as how it was set to come out just five months after Columbine, it's not that hard to speculate why DC withheld it from publication.
  • The cover of Preacher (Comic Book) #52 was originally supposed to depict an 8 year-old Tulip O'Hare getting a handgun as a Christmas present. After Columbine, it was changed to a standard facial shot of an adult Tulip.

Film

  • Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine examines America's obsession with guns and violence, and suggests that it had played a role in the shooting, pointing out that the NRA has done little to restrict the purchase of guns and ammunition for less-than-wholesome purposes. However, he does go out of his way to state that guns themselves are not the problem, showcasing how Canada, Eh? has a comparatively low rate of gun violence despite gun ownership rates being almost as high as in the US. (As the saying goes, guns don't kill people, people kill people.) The film's general theme is that there are no easy answers for the massacre -- after all, both Harris and Klebold were bowlers, so could that have driven them to kill?
  • A number of indie films have been made that are basically retellings of the Columbine massacre and the events that followed with the names changed.
    • The Gus Van Sant film Elephant is probably the most well-publicized of these films.
    • Heart Of America is Uwe Boll's version of the concept.
    • Zero Day. The killers' preparations and home videos as a Found Footage Films.
    • Home Room, which focused more on the aftermath of the shooting.
    • American Yearbook.
    • April Showers, which was directed by a man who was a senior at Columbine when the massacre took place.
  • The Black Comedy Exploitation Film Duck! The Carbine High Massacre. Released exactly one year after Columbine, Duck! was the first film to be made about the killings, and without a doubt the most tasteless. The makers of the film were arrested and briefly imprisoned for bringing guns onto school grounds to shoot their movie -- something that they proudly boasted about on the film's cover. What else would you expect from a film made by two guys from Jersey calling themselves William Hellfire and Joey Smack?
  • The made-for-TV movie Atomic Train wasn't shown in Denver out of apparent sympathy for the Columbine massacre. The movie had absolutely nothing to do with schools, shootings, or anything like it, being about, y'know, a nuclear train, albeit one wherein the inevitable wrong-going happens near Denver.
  • Officially, the reason that it took Toei Company so long to give Battle Royale a proper release in the United States is because of their demands that it get a national theatrical release and a marketing campaign on par with the average Summer Blockbuster. However, many fans of the film can't help but feel that lingering squeamishness regarding the film's subject matter (high school kids being forced to kill each other) also played a role in the 13(!)-year delay.
    • This is also probably the number one reason why the American remake is stuck in Development Hell. Nobody wants the controversy that would accompany a film like this. In fact, when the remake was announced, one major Battle Royale fansite had the headline "HELL FREEZES OVER".
  • Tim Burton's 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had Mike Teavee (now a video game addict, as opposed to a TV addict in the original) be from suburban Denver, Colorado. One can't help but feel that this was a subtle reference to the Columbine massacre, particularly the role that violent video games allegedly played in it.
    • Then there's the fact that the first thing you see is the exterior of a house, with the sound of bullets echoing through the air and flashes of light through the windows; you don't realize it's a video game until you're inside. The caption saying "Denver, Colorado" doesn't help.
  • The Boondock Saints wound up seeing its American theatrical release limited to just five theaters partly as a result of the Columbine massacre[4], which led him to burn all his bridges with Miramax, his distributor., causing it to become a Direct to Video film for all intents and purposes.
  • Being released just ten days after the massacre is often cited as the reason why the horror-comedy Idle Hands flopped at the box office. Its plot involves a boy's hand being possessed by a demon, causing him to kill his parents and his best friends, and the climax involves the hand going on a bloodthirsty rampage at the High School Dance.
  • The film Dawn Anna, starring Debra Winger in the title role, was about the mother of one of the victims of the shooting, detailing her struggles with brain cancer not long after meeting her future husband. After being cured of the disease, her daughter, Lauren Townsend, is killed in the Columbine massacre. Yes, it's a Lifetime movie -- what, are you surprised?
  • The Life Before Her Eyes, starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood, is about a woman who survived a Columbine-style massacre fifteen years prior and whose present-day life is falling apart due to her Survivor Guilt.
  • The original poster for The Final was clearly designed to invoke the massacre. It's no surprise why it wasn't used on the DVD release.
  • Ginger Snaps was hit with Columbine-related controversy north of the border. News that Telefilm Canada was funding a "teen slasher flick" (and one with a Goth protagonist, at that) right after both Columbine and a copycat shooting in Alberta caused a media frenzy, forcing Telefilm Canada to publicly defend their decision. In the end, all this may have helped a small, independent horror film gain wider recognition -- it wound up becoming the fifth highest-grossing Canadian film that year.

Literature

  • Stephen King has cited the massacre as a major reason that he has allowed his early novel Rage (written under the Richard Bachman Pen Name), which deals with a high school gunman, to fall out of print.
    • Speaking of King, he has referred to Carrie White as a Distaff Counterpart to the Columbine gunmen.
    • No word on his other published work that deals with a school shooting, the short story Cain Rose Up. The collection it's in may still be in print.
  • The book Give a Boy a Gun is about two high school students who plan to shoot up their High School Dance. The killers idolize Harris and Klebold and hope to outdo them with their massacre.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin is written from the POV of a school shooter's mom reviewing her relationship with him over the course of his lifetime. Late in the book he speaks of the Columbine shooters as having stolen his spotlight.
  • Parallels are drawn between Columbine and the school massacre that Freddy is responsible for in A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dreamspawn. The massacre was blamed on the (now insane) protagonist and her dead friends, because they were outcasts. Its handled really Anviliciously.


Live Action TV

  • Any Teen Drama or Ripped from the Headlines show in the late-'90s/early-2000s has probably made reference to the massacre or school violence in general, with many of them doing a Very Special Episode on the subject.
    • Law and Order: "School Daze"
    • Degrassi the Next Generation: "Time Stands Still Part 2"
    • Cold Case: "Rampage" (it pretty much is Columbine, but with a shopping mall)
    • One Tree Hill: "With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept"
    • Numb3rs: "Dark Matter"
    • Standoff: "Peer Group"
    • Flashpoint: "Perfect Storm"
    • Joan of Arcadia: "The Uncertainty Principle"
    • Boston Public: Surprisingly enough, despite being a series primarily set in a school, this show has had only one episode involving a school massacre plot. In one episode, a student's notes describing a plan to bomb the school were found, but nothing actually happens nor does this get mentioned again.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer saw two episodes in season 3 affected by the shooting. One episode, "Earshot", which was set to air just four days after the shooting took place, was quickly pulled, due to the fact that a) the story was an Axes At School plot about Buffy gaining telepathy and overhearing somebody thinking about killing students, and b) it featured a student climbing up into the school's bell tower with a sniper rifle (he was actually trying to kill himself, not the other students, but was stopped by Buffy). The second was the Season Finale, "Graduation Day, Part 2", which had Buffy, with help from the entire senior class, blowing up Sunnydale High School in order to kill the Mayor after he turned into a giant snake monster. Fans would have to wait until July of 1999 to see both episodes air.
    • "Earshot" also featured one of the characters remarking how school shootings were "practically trendy," which would have almost certainly evoked the wrong reaction had it been shown on the original airdate.
    • An irony at the time was that, when "Earshot" was pulled from airing, The WB aired a rerun of the episode "Bad Girls" in it's place. The fact that said episode featured Faith murdering a guy by accident, then non-chalantly telling Buffy that she didn't feel any guilt or remorse, made some people wonder what kind of message the WB was trying to send kids.
    • The WB also made Joss edit the final episode of the season, Graduation Day, to make the school explosion less spectacular, and remove some dialogue from the denouement about how neat it was that they blew up the school. After the changes were made, WB still dithered, right up to nearly the last minute before deciding not to show the episode until later in the summer. They waited so long that the episode had already been sent out to stations in Canada that carried the show, and been placed into their broadcast schedule. And because it was a holiday weekend in Canada the people with the authority to take it out of the schedule were "unavailable."
  • An episode of The Closer featured a group of just-out-of-high-school boys who talked about doing what the Columbine boys tried to do. While most people assumed they were planning a school shooting/bombing, Major Crimes realized that they were planning to blow up a building and pick off the survivors as they fled. Unfortunately, they only figure out what the target is (a shopping mall) while inside it, when they spot the planted bombs. Notably, the focus isn't on high school dynamics, but on mass-murdering terrorists, and the high school is only important as that was how the boys knew each other.
  • The NCIS episode Bait, starts off with a boy bringing bomb into his classroom and holding the other kids hostage. He's also a hostage. The bomb's controlled by members of organized crime.
  • Silent Witness did one of these too, but in the university where the pathology lab is situated.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "Painless" revolves around the anniversary of a school shooting, with the Unsub targeting the survivors. Their motivation turns out to be that they were a fellow survivor that got ignored by the media in favor of more 'photogenic' students, one of which stole his story of standing up to the gunman. The other 'top ten' survivors were aware of this, but refused to clear up the truth.
  • American Horror Story had Tate shoot up his school before he got killed by cops and turned into a ghost.


Music

  • My Chemical Romance's "Teenagers" mocks both the tendency to demonize school violence and "outcast" groups in the wake of school shootings, and teenagers themselves who take umbrage at being treated like vicious little monsters when they continue being casually cruel to one another.
  • After being Mis Blamed for the massacre, Marilyn Manson proceeded to write the album Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). Most of the lyrics and subject matter were direct responses to Columbine, with Manson calling it "a declaration of war" on the Moral Guardians.
  • On The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem defended Manson and himself from the public backlash that erupted from Columbine with the single The Way I Am. Other lyrics more specifically mentioning the incident were censored in the song "I'm Back", even on the explicit version.
  • The Nightwish song "The Kinslayer" is about the incident. The lyrics even quote real dialogue between the killers and their victims.
  • Five Iron Frenzy was from Denver, and one of the band members lived three blocks from the school, and his sister was one of the students present on that day. So the incident hit home for them. They wrote the song "A New Hope" in response.
  • The song "Youth of the Nation" by POD was inspired by Columbine and the Santana High shooting in California.
  • Five For Fighting's "Easy Tonight" was a response to the incident.
  • Christian Rock band Flyleaf's song "Cassie" is an ode to Columbine victim Cassie Bernall.
  • Pearl Jam's "Rival" is guitarist Stone Gossard's reflection on Columbine.


Stand-up Comedy


Theater

  • The one-act stage play Bang Bang You're Dead, about an imprisoned high school killer who is confronted by the ghosts of his victims, was actually written before Columbine (although based on other school shootings) to raise awareness about school violence. However, the timeliness of its subject matter caused it to become incredibly popular, being performed 15,000 times in the three years after Columbine. The play was later adapted into a film by the Showtime network.
  • Columbinus, a 2-Act play, focuses on Harris and Klebold, and some other students at the school. The first act has generic names for the characters: Poser, Goth, Loner, Freak, etc. The second act has the characters named and follow the actual shooting. The Play is based on information from friends, family, and documents.


Video Games

  • The freeware game Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, made using RPG Maker, is based on the events of the shooting. The first half follows Harris and Klebold through the massacre, from their morning preparations to their suicides, with flashbacks to past events interspersed throughout. Chiptune versions of Marilyn Manson, Rammstein and Nirvana serve as the soundtrack. The second half has the two being sent to Hell, which turns out to be remarkably like Doom, and ends with them killing a Cyberdemon and becoming Satan's minions.

    According to interviews with the creator, Danny Ledonne, the game was made to explore hyperreality and the treatment of death in video games, and allow people to explore the massacre and the killers' mindsets in a way that only a game can do. The game is set up like an old-school, turn-based RPG, denying the players the visceral thrill of watching teenagers (who are all represented by 8-bit sprites) getting brutally gunned down. The consequences of the killers' violence are shown -- the first half ends with photos of their dead bodies, and the entire second half has them, literally, in Hell for their sins (though it's slightly undercut by what they wind up doing in Hell).
  • One of the things that first put Newgrounds on the map was site creator Tom Fulp's Columbine parody game Pico's School. The setup : a bunch of goth/punk/neo-nazis kids went postal and turned the school into a battlefield. It's up to Pico to save the day by mowing down anything that moves (including Innocent Bystanders if you want) and killing the leader of the goths who is an alien in disguise by shooting her in the baby factory with an assault rifle. The Stinger reveals that the school opened again and the goths are replaced by gangsters kids.
    • To this day, Pico remains the mascot of Newgrounds. Scroll halfway down on any Flash video on the site, and you'll see an option to rate the video. There he is! He has a whole holiday on the site devoted to him, "Pico Day", and even a spinoff series with an evil twin known as "Piconjo" (an extremly pale Pico with a BFS and a dong the size of a tree, resulting in 99% of his apparitions culminating in a penis joke or something related), described by Newgrounds itself as the Wario to Pico's Mario. Pico, Piconjo, and Pico's best friends Darnell (a black Pyromaniac and Mad Bomber kid) and Nene (a suicidal Chinese girl with quite an addiction to blades and a comical tendency to catch herpes due to her loose morals, who is often portrayed as Pico's Love Interest) are only the main characters of the whole Picoverse, which includes gems such as the Uberkids (cloned "genetically perfect" kids who duel Pico and friends in a rock-paper-scissors Russian Roulette tournament in their first apparition), the goth kids (which includes a neo-nazi one-eyed punk, a Ninja who loves fighting in the dark and aiming for the crotch, a medium/telekinesist and the alien mentionned before. Now THAT'S Refuge in Audacity.
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution: In the Crapsack World of the setting, it apparently happened again, as one NPC will mention "the second time."
  • You can't even use official Sega lightguns on the American Dreamcast because the console was released a few months after Columbine and gun support was region locked out. You had to use the scant few shitty third-party guns that were quietly eked out to Funcoland in order to make games like The House of the Dead 2 playable.
  • Persona 2 was released as two games in Japan. The first game involved students armed with semiautomatics and Uzis fighting against a resurrected Adolf Hitler, as well as being given the option to kill their school's principal. The second game was cleared for release in America only because two of the characters got a Plot-Relevant Age-Up and everyone else was ignored.
  • The Emo Game series makes a number of references to the shooting. In the first game, the Hot Topic store sells Trenchcoat Mafia fashion accessories (including a Columbine High T-shirt), and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold appear in the second game.
  • One of the longest sections in flash game The Game's sequel is an extended parody of the moral outrage following the shootings. Featuring Left 4 Dead-based caricatures.
  • School Shooter: North American Tour 2012.


Webcomics


Western Animation

  • The initial censorship of parts of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was done as a direct response to Columbine.
  • The Static Shock episode "Jimmy" had a bullied student shooting at a group of football players.


Other

  • The Onion's take on the subject: "Columbine Jocks Safely Resume Bullying."
  • The card game Chrononauts has Columbine as one of the events on its timeline. The expansion has an identity where one of the goals is making sure the shooting happens, and the base base game have several that require stopping it.

Notes

  1. Although, in a grim irony, the worst-ever US school massacre remains the bombing of an elementary school in Bath Township, Michigan, which happened in 1927.
  2. There had been a pair of heavily-publicized school shootings in the two years prior (one in Paducah, Kentucky and one in Springfield, Oregon) in which the killers fit the profile of the "lonely outcast," so the media automatically assumed that the Columbine killers were loners as well before all the facts were known.
  3. Note that, by "legal", we mean in the sense that they didn't go through the black market to get their guns -- instead, they had Klebold's friend, Robyn Anderson, purchase the guns for them (a straw purchase), which is a felony offense in the US.
  4. The chief reason, however, was because of writer/director Troy Duffy's gigantic ego
  5. "The Trenchcoat Mafia! They're like 'no one would play with us! We had no friends, the Trenchcoat Mafia...' Hey, I saw the yearbook picture, it was six of them! I ain't had six friends in high school. I don't got six friends now! Shit, that's three-on-three with a half court."
  6. "Who gives a fuck what they was watching? Whatever happened to crazy?"
  7. You're gonna have little white kids sayin', 'I wanna go to a black school where it's safe!'"
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