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June 2, 2010

The Gores: Happily Never After

News of Al and Tipper Gore’s separation after 40 years of marriage has rekindled discussion of their infamous smooch at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, and its reenactment in 2004 (below).

This photo booth strip seems less contrived than the 2004 photo op, where the larger-than-life lectern reminds the audience that politics are even bigger than personal commitment. The photo booth strip lacks the presence of a physical audience, however, our intimacy with the Gores and their relationship is implicitly assumed.

Just as radio increased the intimacy of the presidency by projecting FDR’s fireside chats into our grandparents’ living rooms, the digital age allows us to construct virtual scrapbooks of public figures. Like other artifacts of public memory, these scraps hint at the power structures on which they are premised: the young Al Gore performs his masculinity by looking solemnly and squarely at the audience, while Tipper appropriately smiles and showers him with affection.

On the surface,  there is no questioning “the perfect love” in this heteronormative, prototypical American relationship. Not surprisingly, though, the relationship — unlike the paradigm on which it was based –turns out to be a lot more complicated.

Savulich/New York Daily News

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