The Columbine shootings continue to "inspire" Hollywood

Thirteen years and a hundred school shootings later, why is Hollywood still obsessed with this one?

Other signers were troubled that the network backing the miniseries is Lifetime, purveyor of turgid melodramas involving cheating spouses, suave serial killers and Tori Spelling. ("Lifetime should stick to cheesy movies about pregnancy pacts and Dance Moms," one wrote.) But the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that any film project purporting to be the "real story" of Columbine, yet put together by outsiders, would reopen wounds not yet healed and possibly inspire more copycat shootings.

"This is a terrible idea for a movie," wrote Anne Marie Hochhalter. "I was injured at Columbine, and Dave Cullen's book is inaccurate and sensationalized. Please don't let this movie be made; it brings back all the pain I experienced, and is insensitive to all of us in the Columbine community."

Hochhalter figures in several passages in Cullen's book; she was one of the first students shot outside the school and was left paralyzed by her injuries. Her mother's suicide a few months later provides another graphic scene. But Cullen never interviewed Hochhalter; his accounts of her family's ordeal, complete with quotes, come from various news articles.

Journalist Dave Cullen says a miniseries based on his book about the tragedy will do more good than harm.
MaryLynn Gillaspie
Journalist Dave Cullen says a miniseries based on his book about the tragedy will do more good than harm.
In Bowling for Columbine, director Michael Moore took aim at America's gun culture — and broke all box-office records for a documentary film.
In Bowling for Columbine, director Michael Moore took aim at America's gun culture — and broke all box-office records for a documentary film.

"It felt kind of violating, to be honest," Hochhalter says of the experience of reading Cullen's book. "He got the part about how I was injured completely wrong. I couldn't bear to read the whole thing. The fact that this movie is in the works, based on what he wrote — I just feel sick over it. I don't want young, impressionable, angry people out there, who idolize Harris and Klebold anyway, to see this on film."

Cullen, who now lives in New York City, says he was surprised by the virulent opposition to a miniseries based on his book. The project has been "in development" for years now, but he cautions that it hasn't been "greenlit," hasn't been cast. There isn't even a finished script yet.

"When the book came out, I braced for possible controversy, and there wasn't much," he says. "People who don't like the book probably aren't going to like the film. But with the film, we don't have anything for them to judge yet. It's frustrating."

Although it's drawn the most ire, the miniseries isn't the only Columbine-themed project in the works. A stage play based on Cullen's book is also planned, and We Need to Talk About Kevin, a new film starring Tilda Swinton as the mother of a Harris-like teen killer, has been making the rounds of the festivals and is scheduled to open in Denver on March 30.

And the news continues to offer its own reminders of the tragedy. Most of the students who attend Columbine today aren't old enough to have any direct memories of the attack. They'd rather see their school's name celebrated for its frequent state athletics championships than used as shorthand for "massacre." But events keep conspiring to keep the school's dark legacy alive. In the past three months alone, locals have had to contend with not one, but three "Columbine-related incidents" that made national news:

•In December, Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis was interviewed by a sixteen-year-old youth from Utah about the attack. The youth was arrested a few weeks later, suspected of plotting with another student to bomb an assembly at his school and escape in a stolen plane.

•In February, a fourteen-year-old girl was arrested after an alleged assault on two other students with a hammer. The girl's mother claimed that she'd been bullied. The case wouldn't have made headlines — except that the school happened to be Columbine.

•Two weeks later, a shooting at Chardon High School in Ohio left three dead and two wounded, the latest in more than a hundred such incidents since Columbine. The suspected shooter, seventeen-year-old T.J. Lane, reportedly told a deputy that he'd fired at random, but other accounts have suggested he was seeking revenge.

If you include college-campus violence in the statistics, then there were deadlier school shootings before Columbine (University of Texas, 1966) and afterward (Virginia Tech, 2007). Harris and Klebold had hoped to kill hundreds more, with bombs planted in the Commons and the parking lot, but their plan failed miserably. Yet Columbine remains the touchstone for this type of event, the standard by which other horrors are measured, the archetype for Harris-and-Klebold wannabes. That the culture is still so fascinated by the shootings thirteen years later may have more to do with the powerful myths woven around the tragedy — by the media, the killers, law enforcement and others — than the "actual events" of what happened that day.

"Directors will be fighting over this story," Klebold declared in one of the so-called "basement tapes," the videos the pair made in the weeks before the attack. It was just about the only prediction that the killers got right.

But whose story is it?

"We all have hundreds of stories about what happened that day and since," says Granillo. "But that's not the story they keep telling."

******

Klebold and Harris began planning their grandiose suicide mission more than a year before the attack. Amid all the fantasizing and strategizing, it's clear they were aiming for something quite different from the late-1990s rash of school shootings in places like West Paducah, Kentucky, and Jonesboro, Arkansas.

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19 comments
Guest
Guest

Great article dealing with all sides of a very controversial subject. Once again, Alan Prendregast helps sets the story straight(er) on the Columbine tragedy.

Payton_vege
Payton_vege

Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

craighorman
craighorman

When I read about it — I don't know if furious is the right word, but I was intensely emotional. craighorman

Greg Reck
Greg Reck

I thought the research that went into Cullen's book was exceptional; however, I do agree with the notion that he does overdramatize some of the sections with fragmentary evidence.

Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with the families and friends of the Columbine community whose lives are going to be portrayed for a movie. However, like most Hollywood movies that are centered on true events, there is bound to be vast misinterpretations that anyone who has read 'Columbine' (especially the criticism of Cullen book) will recognize these flaws.

I might be wrong, but I think the purpose of this film is not to immortalize Klebold and Harris but instead to shed light on the community's response to the tragedy. There is still a lot to be learned from what happened that day, and hopefully this film will cause school administrators across the country to revaluate their security measures. And God willing our crooked politicians will outlaw the sale of firearms for recreational purposes. The film can also bring attention to the causes of Klebold and Harris' rampage for a generation of students who were too young to remember Columbine, like myself.

Sarahtanderson
Sarahtanderson

This whole this is just disgusting. I don't care if the have a script ready or not. This whole "project" is just completely wrong.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

Along with that our JROTC was bad arses and where well prepared with the flag polls and the whole school used to have to go to see the home coming show where ROTC showed off their I will kick your butt skills with a flag poll.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

That is the way it was in my school. But I live in a more conservative area. I knew the ex retired officers on campus. And some of us kids used to practice invasion Red Dawn drills and had full scale war plans maps out with using our elders in case it happened. So we knew they where armed.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

My personal belief is like my father stated in a more conservative time. When the kids knew the Principle had a shotgun on campus and some of the teachers where ex officers or had concealed guns on them. But that is a very conservative view point, he said kids in his age did not think about that as they knew the elders where armed.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

Sounds like a great way to allow further students to be able to track, infranchise, along with see mental conditions of kids who are possibly those type of students who would kill their own fellow class mates. The mini series could use points like, how to be nicer to kids who seem outkasted. I remember when I was in school I tried to be nice to those kids who just seemed to want to be alone and did not wan to socialize with everyone else. Kids forget that other kids are human sometimes. Especially in inner city schools or suburbia. Where Church does not play a big part in child upbringing. It was funny as a major peer in the school as a very outgoing character how I look back and see what influence by just being me really played on the whole school. They do not teach kids that. Kids do not understand aura's or reality of those kids who are just more leaders or outgoing than others how they look up to them. That is something that is not taught in social studies.

KrisD
KrisD

LEAVE THE DEAD VICTIMS ALONE. And let the living ones in peace and quiet. They don't need that horrific event to be put forth into the public's eye again.

Randybrown
Randybrown

Once again Alan Prendergast shows his mastery of telling the true story, an incredibly complicated story, told by one of the few experts on the Columbine Tragedy.Alan understands it, and he has written about it with integrity for years.

About Cullen's book, it is, in my opinion, pitiful.If Cullen had bouts with PTSD it was about his failure to write a good book and tell the real story. His book is a joke. His tales of PTSD made me laugh. He cried for 3 weeks... bull. The police love him. That is all you should need to know, after watching the fiasco on tv. You could write a book about the errors in his book.

Sam, mentioned in Alan's story, is a wonderful young man. What a brave young man. I have met him and admire him. His story of the time in the cafeteria is chilling and maddening. I hope for him all of the best, and good luck on his documentary.

And, Thirteen Families is a wonderful, sad, heartfelt movie with some of the most memorable moments in film I have ever seen. Gee, I am starting to cry a little bit here. Hope it doesn't last for 3 weeks. It is a sad but great film.

One of the worst parts of this tragedy is the waste of the money that was donated to the Columbine Community, that was used to build bike paths,etc, and not saved for days like these, when the survivors would need counseling and some help to get through the day.There are still broken and healing hearts out there: sad, questioning, wondering, hoping that the school shootings will one day stop. They know about the sadness that the unnecessary violence creates. They have lived it.

Stop the bullying.

Randy Brown

Ragtag
Ragtag

As you are too young to remember Columbine, let me enlighten you a bit. This thing has been beaten to death, reported on, referenced, pondered, and discussed to no end. This miniseries will do nothing but make money for the people buying advertisement slots during its broadcast. You know bullying is wrong, you know that shooting up a school is wrong, and you are probably very well aware of the culture of fear that has lead to a zero-tolerance policy for violence and weapons in practically all K-12 institutions (7-year-old kids getting suspended and/or expelled for bringing a steak knife to eat their lunch with). We've learned our lessons, perhaps too well, and policies have been put in place to remind us of this fact constantly. A cheesy, over-dramatized miniseries will not make us learn these things any more than we already have, and such a production will only hurt the families and friends that you allegedly "sympathize" with.

Tjh3679
Tjh3679

And firearms used for recreation should be banned why?

Ro
Ro

So should there not be films about the Trade Centers and 9/11? How about the holocaust? The millions of Africans killed by warlords? All terrible and different situations but all similar in death. If you didnt have books and films about our past why would except any one to remember what happened? This situation may still be familiar with us Coloradons but what about a 16 year old in Florida?

Kendra
Kendra

I haven't read Cullen's book.

I did read your son's book about Columbine. That's truly horrible all the bullying that was going on and how the police ignored threats and then played like they hadn't already heard about it.

Ragtag
Ragtag

Greg doesn't understand a great many things. Even in countries where the general public can't purchase firearms, the criminals still manage to acquire them. By Greg's "logic," anything that's ever killed anyone on purpose should be banned. Drunk guy gets in a car and runs over his girlfriend? Better ban cars. Asshole grabs a kitchen knife and stabs an acquaintance or a spouse? I guess we should all do our cooking with sporks.

Timbuk2
Timbuk2

Who cares about a 16-year-old in Florida? Do you really expect anyone, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, to actually learn something of value from a made-for-TV, ADD, good/bad, edited-for-time, exaggerated-plot miniseries? I'm not sure what universe you smoke your granola in, but not everything is so clear cut so as to learn everything about our world from the boob tube. Books? Fine. Film? Fine. This is the Lifetime Channel we're talking about. Have you ever watched their "programs?" There will be strong Christian overtones, suggestions that Harris and Klebold were misogynistic abusers of women, overt foreshadowing, fabricated subplots, dramatic music and cheesy close-ups, all brought to you by L'Oreal makeup or some shit.

Alison Maynard
Alison Maynard

Cullen's book has received attention because it is favorable to the law enforcement community and puts over the same myths about Columbine we were fed right from the outset.

Myths that have never been debunked, because any attempts at a real investigation of what happened have been stymied. The worst offense, in my mind, was placing under wraps--in the National Archives no less, for 25 years--the depositions of the Harris & Klebold parents taken in Mark Taylor's civil suit. That shows a cover-up. More evidence of a cover-up is that a commission was created to "investigate" Columbine, made up of law enforcement aficionados and apologists, which continually wrung its hands over not having subpoena power, so--such a shame--it could do no real investigation. Well, there were two officials who DID have subpoena power, and could have used it--STILL could use it--to obtain the Harris & Klebold parents' depositions as well as the documents in the sheriff's office and the school. These were the DA, Dave Thomas, and the Attorney General (at the behest of the governor), Ken Salazar. Salazar, by the way, profited from the killings by mounting an "anti-bullying campaign" which received hundreds of thousands of dollars of free publicity before the 2002 election. Neither of these officials exercised their subpoena power, however. Five years after the killing Salazar announced with great fanfare that he was opening a "limited investigation." Well, why limited? And why 5 years after the fact?

The sheriff's report has many inconsistencies, revealing that not simply two, but SEVERAL shooters, were observed by dozens of students, who even identified two of them as alumni of the school. There is a videotape made early in the day of the sheriff leading someone handcuffed to his car. We were never told who that person was. The pictures of Harris and Klebold dead in the library show that it is impossible they killed themselves. Both are prone and blood is splattered up on the shelves a few inches off the floor near their bodies, showing they were killed while in that position. Also, the gun is held in the left hand by Klebold, who was right-handed--and it's a big long gun. There were something like 150 bombs found in the school. There is no way two students could have brought those into the school. There were affirmative reports of a stand-down order being given to at least one sheriff's deputy who charged into the school to try and save the students, and was ordered back.

The mention of Dewayne Fusilier, the FBI agent charged with leading the FBI investigation, is interesting, because his own son was a Columbine student who, a couple years earlier, had made a videotape about shooting up the school.

The excessive presence of the MILITARY, as well as law enforcement agencies from all over the metro area, while the killers were inside the school shows advance knowledge that Columbine was going to happen--and lends support to a theory that Columbine was, in fact, yet another false-flag operation designed to cause terror in the populace, and lead to more and more suppression of our civil liberties in the name of "security." The school is located in the heart of "CIA country" and the military establishment. Eric Harris's father was, in fact, military; and the Harris family had lived at Plattsburg, NY, the site of CIA mind-control experiments.

I believe another reason for Columbine may have been to enhance name recognition of the Ken Salazar, as well, like Obama another puppet of the finance capitalists.

So, anyway, whenever it appears that the people are starting to discover the real story, and that they've been lied to by their public officials, the banksters trot out their apologists like Dave Cullen, to burnish the myth and divert attention from the fact that there was no real investigation. And the media outlets are inundated with the Hollywood version and we get more hype and blather about The Myth. And we never get the Truth.

 
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