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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

image 1 source:

  • Wayne Dickson

    Is this the time to mention explicitly the novel/movie Love Story inspiration, which the press and Republicans made fun of… but which was legitimate. What fictions might this separation inspire?

  • Wayne Dickson

    Another thought. Sorry.

    Al Gore has always seemed stiff and self-conscious. I understand. You should see the picture on my passport, said picture having been made in just such a booth in Rome, Italy. I use a Mac, and I get seriously self-conscious sitting in my own home using its PhotoBooth application.

    I can’t help wondering to what extent he’s trying to project an image of masculinity or whatever, and to what extent he’s worried about projecting an image of foolishness.

  • Ivyleaves

    To me he looks disengaged from Tipper, with a 1,000-yard stare. Definitely not happy.

  • g

    Oh fer heaven’s sake. People change over ten years. Give it a rest.

  • cmac

    They were happily and successfully married for forty years. Their separation is amicable. Happily ‘never’ after seems a bit of an overstatement.

    All relationships are complicated, just as people are complicated. Did politics kill this marriage? Or is it simply a case of two people developing different interests in the latter parts of their lives? The Gores are at a crossroads, one most younger people aren’t aware lurks in their futures, a time when people close the doors on their youth and move on to new things. It happens, sometimes, that the new interests conflict with old expectations. While I’m sorry to see this marriage end, I can’t say its forty-year-run was a failure.

  • KyCole

    That photo brings back memories. My ex and I have a very similar booth photo from when we were first married. My daughter has it now. We were married for 28 years and have been divorced for the last 3 years, but are still business partners and friends. Sometimes it is just time to enter a new phase of your life. We do much better apart than we did together- we’re just too different now to enjoy living together. Sometimes it just makes sense to get out before it all goes to hell. When I heard the news about the Gores I called my daughter and told her that I was excited because now Al was available (did I mention that I love Al Gore?). I wish for them both the best for their new lives.

  • yg

    if you knew nothing about these two, who would you guess would end up struggling with depression?

    even though i was a gore supporter, at the time i harbored a small amount of resentment against al. it seemed to me his ambition pressured tipper to be boxed in a traditional role. i used to wonder what she would have ended up doing if her husband wasn’t a politician. i could be totally wrong, but that was my impression.

    that might sound mean but i don’t mean it to be. even now, as pollyannaish and unrealistic as an expectation this is (in addition to none of my business,) i can’t help thinking of the couple i know who only reconnected after they got divorced.

  • Nichola Gutgold

    Oh, indeed. To say, “it’s complicated” seems to sum it up. Thanks, Kari. Great post!

  • yg

    this was a nice twist to the usual assumptions:

    Divorce lawyers tell me the fastest-growing segment of their clientele is the middle-aged and elderly. And their divorces do not all that often involve husbands running off with someone new, leaving wives alone and bereft. A 2004 AARP survey of 1,147 people who divorced in their 40s, 50s or 60s found that women initiated late-life divorces more often than men did, and if the divorced women wanted a new partner, they usually found one.

    instead of feeling sorry and viewing divorce as a loss, this might be more the case an act of empowerment.

  • Tommy_boy


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