Doing the math on Al Gore

How Aunt Bea, Big Gay Al and Frankenstein fit together.

By Heather Havrilesky
Published April 9, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

(Aunt Bea + Arnold Schwarzenegger + Uncle Bernie) x Big Gay Al = A

We want to start with some over-seriousness, a little no-nonsense focus on issues, mixed with some uptightness about rules of conduct, but sprinkled with tradition and some warmth. Aunt Bea brings us all this and much, much more. Remember that look of dismay she'd get when foolishness was afoot? That look that said someone was up to some tomfoolery that she wouldn't for a second engage in, and therefore, couldn't help but scold ruthlessly? Now think about Al. Oh yes, it's a fit.

Schwarzenegger puts a little steely jawed anger behind his over-serious idealism, and, paradoxically, throws in a funny accent that makes it impossible to take anything he says seriously. The average voter, having the attention span and focus-power of an eggplant, actually prefers hearing about complex policy issues through a voice that undercuts its own message -- and, kinda makes you giggle!

But we still have to include that awkwardness, that rigidity found only in Catholic church officials and week-old corpses, hence the addition of dearly departed Uncle Bernie. You may think Bernie brings only the smell of rotting fish and dead, empty eyes to the barbecue. Not so! Bernie also throws in that telltale dyed, balding head of hair and outdated '80s fashions only a thoroughly out-of-touch Tipper could love.

But is this sum bursting with the fruity flavor of our Al Gore? I think not. Hence, we multiply by that outrageous bastion of aging fabulousness, Big Gay Al, and we're well on our way.

Look at this A more closely now. We've got a dangerous level of alienation here, the kind of alienation that comes from sticking to your guns about what you believe, the kind of alienation that leads to cafeterias filled with dead teenagers. Aunt Bea's about as stubbornly dogmatic as they come. Schwarzenegger's accustomed to battling bastions of corrupt cops, bloodthirsty aliens and Ritalin-hungry kindergartners for what he believes. Uncle Bernie lived and died all alone in that big beach house -- why? And Big Gay Al? Why, he had to take in stray pets and stray boys suffering from sexual identity crises just to have some company out there on the outskirts of South Park! You don't need me to tell you that this alienated loner element needs to tempered, lest we end up with a pathologically dogmatic tyrant in office.

(A + Barney the Dinosaur + Ronald McDonald) - Richard Simmons + Frankenstein = B

So we throw in Barney the Dinosaur, a real cuddly son of a bitch who really cares -- man, does he love you -- and he wants everyone to sing along, get it? Barney's a real team player and a natural born cult leader if I've ever seen one, and Al shares with him that je ne sais quoi you find among bumbling types who still, somehow, win undying admiration through their sheer pathetic cuddliness and insecure need to harvest the love of the masses.

Now, you'll remember that we subtracted Ronald McDonald from our George Bush equation, in order to take away that awkward honky element that looks so hapless to our multiethnic populace. But Al Gore is cursed with a need to seem "down" with the "homies," so like Ronnie McD, he'll drag his cracker ass all over town looking square as hell and not knowing it.

What with Big Gay Al, Barney and Ronald, we've accumulated a surplus of manic ass-kissing and cloying cuteness that's downright unnatural. So we subtract the awful cuddliness and goofy horror of Richard Simmons, and throw in a more monstrous, menacing unnatural element via Frankenstein to balance out any remaining excess of goggle-eyed glee.

B is mighty close to the man himself. Yet, by subtracting the warm fuzziness of Richard Simmons and throwing in the stodgy, dimwitted anger of Frankenstein, we've created a somewhat frightening creature in B. Most people wouldn't dream of bringing the rabid, chest-beating convictions of this group together. We need drive and firm beliefs, yes, we need leadership qualities and agreeability, yes, but we're messing with deadly levels of perfectionism and patriotism here. Poor B is so Type A it won't last more than a few days before throwing itself over the nearest cliff over some soggy Corn Chex.

B - kamikaze + Tinky Winky + Stiff Stuff extra-strong hairspray = C

No one in their right mind would dream of combining the excessive dogmatism and loyalty in this equation. However, we've gracefully taken care of this threat by subtracting the ill-fated conviction and lemming-like enthusiasm of a kamikaze from B. Throw in the innocence and curiosity of Tinky Winky and some extra-strong hairspray and -- like magic -- there's Al Gore!

C = Al Gore

Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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Al Gore