“Un Geste Suffit”? Unpacking the Inconvenient Truths about Al Gore’s Celebrity Activism

David Marshall, Glenn D'Cruz, Sharyn Mcdonald


The present work interrogates Al Gore’s persona as a climate change activist with reference to a process we describe by the neologism “personification”: the act of constructing/presenting a public persona in order to cultivate impressions that enable public figures to consolidate authoritative reputations. The formation of such a commanding persona requires the circulation of three forms of symbolic capital: cultural, celebrity, and reputational capital as well as the performance of overtly theatrical strategies calculated to establish an empathetic relationship between performer and audience. In 2006, former Vice President Al Gore released the award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. This film subsequently functioned as a catalyst for various forms of climate change activism. This paper unpacks the contradictory ideological and cultural work performed by the film with reference to what we describe as un geste suffit; that is, those gestures that merely perform individual agency in order to connect the formulation of personal ethical identity to communal forms of political activism like environmentalism. Through a close reading of the presentation of Gore’s persona in the film itself, and research which tracks the reception and political efficacy of the film, the paper contributes to the growing body of scholarship on the politics of environmental/scientific communication. Finally, we locate our reading of Gore’s film within a contemporary context by making reference to the way An Inconvenient Truth is both resistant to and complicit with the environmental policies of the Trump administration.


celebrity activism; persona; Al Gore; climate change; An Inconvenient Truth (film); personafication; meta-narratives

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/psj2018vol4no2art757


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