Instead, the purpose was to weld a humanoid faceplate onto the gleaming titanium circuitry of Al Gore. Holding the blowtorch was wife Tipper, who not only introduced her husband but narrated and shot many of the still pictures used in the movie. It was a savvy move: Even to someone who grew up listening to her PMRC campaign being reviled by Ice-T and Mojo Nixon, Tipper turns out to be a moralist who's tough to hate, every bit as easygoing and approachable as her husband is stereotypically stiff. ("Al and Tipper: She's human enough for both of them.")
And basing the film on the Gore family photo album Al dressed up as Frankenstein for Halloween, Tipper hanging up laundry as a military housewife underscored one of the most oddly homey images of the campaign so far: her geeky, endearing habit of snapping pictures from the stage at every campaign event; she even recorded the leering mug of Larry King on CNN Wednesday. Note to the Gore staff, however: You might want to reconsider the symbolism of the candidate's wife publicly trying to capture their moment on the national stage while it lasts.
Al may have recanted his earlier suggestion that he and Tipper were the inspiration for Erich Segal's "Love Story," but a love story was exactly we got tonight: the first-person story of a wife obviously smitten with her husband, starting with their first meeting, a night out where they threw over their respective dates to hook up with each other. (Here is the difference between Al Gore and Bill Clinton: Al dumps his young lady for some other hottie and his campaign goes out of its way to spread the story, to humanize him.) Tipper's job tonight: to pledge her love to her husband convincingly enough that we would want to steal him from her.
Interestingly, the film was done entirely Ken Burns-style, panning over still photos, and you might wonder if it's the best idea for this particular campaign to show its candidate in a form where he remains 100 percent motionless. Still, for all the corny touches particularly the little faux-handwritten family-scrapbook captions visually, the device brought a human dimension to the man that DNC-produced film footage never could have. Simply put, it told you somebody cared enough about the man to take a picture of him without being paid to.
Unfortunately, somebody didn't take as much care with the cliché-ridden copy written up for Tipper. (Many of whose lines, embarrassingly, Al ended up repeating almost verbatim in his speech afterward.) "It was the late '60s, an exciting time, a time of change," she was forced to say. And "But soon Al faced the most important decision of his young life: Vietnam." It sounded like "Al Gore: Behind the Music."
And you know, maybe that was the point. Take a look at the signifiers on that screen. A handsome young man charting his course through the '60s and '70s, with all their rock'n'roll clichés. Discovering true, lifelong love to the plangent sound of guitars, he in his dark feathered hair, she in her blond feathered hair. She standing behind him, always with her camera. Could it be? Were they telling us that Tipper was Linda Eastman? And Al Gore... Paul McCartney?
Well, a full-on transformation from "Earth in the Balance" to "Band on the Run" was maybe a little much to wish for: After the credits rolled, there was our old Al, lurching up the aisle, reaching out to slap hands while oddly keeping his trunk almost entirely still. And yet there was a moment: hitting the podium, he and Tipper lip-locked in the most passionate kiss I've seen in American politics, a faces-moving kiss, a full-body-contact kiss, a Parental Advisory Label, get-a-room kiss that may well have involved tongue. Coming from a man who doesn't seem to clear his throat in public without a triple-vetted script, this was a fascinatingly private act.
Whatever else they feel about the man, viewers must have left believing that Al and Tipper Gore really do love each other intensely. Will they, like the millions who spent their girlhoods dreaming of swiping Paul from Linda, decide that any man who's good enough for her is good enough for them? Or will they decide to give this sweet couple some quiet time alone together at last? After all the gushy convention tributes we've seen, you'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. This November, Al Gore will look around him at see if it isn't so.