Michelson / Period 6
03 October, 2013
Pathos, Ethos, and Logos in “An Inconvenient Truth”
“An Inconvenient Truth” directed by Davis Guggenheim is a documentary that Al Gore stars in for the public purpose of increasing awareness about climate change due to greenhouse gases, but for the indirect political purpose of increasing Gore’s popularity amongst the educated masses. Gore’s direct audience would be the liberal thinkers and people concerned about their environment or the future of their family. He asserts that global warming is severely impacting the environment and changes need to be implemented in people’s everyday lives to reduce the negative side effects of the human race’s actions. Gore’s tactics are compelling and highly effective to the point that the documentary received many reviews, both negative and positive, along with millions of dollars in the box office.
In the beginning, footage of a green, lush forest with a calm, flowing river is shown then it switches over to Al Gore, which forms a connection between him and nature. He then juxtaposes himself with a bigger picture of earth as he marvels at her beauty, which displays his respect and awe towards the planet, and associates himself as the protector or father-like figure for earth. This tactic also reinforces the connection between a healthy planet and Gore. Gore can be perceived as a trustworthy and smart person, due to the fact that he cares about the topic at hand, has evidence, and is passionate about the subject. These are the first steps to showing his credibility and trustworthiness to his audience so they might be more open to the idea of global warming. To get more people onto his side, Gore appeals to the audience’s emotions in a variety of ways. For example, a soft, soothing lullaby plays in the background while showing a clip of nature in harmony, associating calmness with nature, which people are naturally drawn to nowadays because of their average, busy lifestyle and how most yearn for a break from the everyday hustle and bustle. This move establishes a connection between the audience and Gore, because the audience should acknowledge that they have at least one similar opinion with Gore and it’s towards nature. But, at one point, Gore does a major gear shift and suddenly talks about his son and how he struggled with him being in the hospital. Gore claims that he has a life-changing moment and proclaims that he suddenly wanted to spread global warming awareness. The audience pities him because of his son, so their hearts soften towards him and just absorb his story. Gore also uses humor to build a closer relationship with the audience as a whole when he mentions his loss for the presidency and plays a cartoon clip describing global warming according to what he knows. Gore also discusses an old teacher of his that he disliked and how his teacher believed that the Continental Drift Theory was false. He then brings up the common belief today that the human race can’t affect the planet because the planet is bigger than the human population. He makes this analogy to make a point that history repeats and it’s not too late to change people’s minds to listen more intently, choose the right side, and make adjustments. It’s also important to note that he tells this story to his audience, which are mainly college students and the Continental Drift Theory is widely accepted today, so it would be funny for them to hear about someone who didn’t believe in it.However, Gore seems to abuse the trust he has earned from his audience with fear-inducing graphs of levels rising, which strikes fear in the crowd’s heart, making them more eager to listen to what he has to say for the suggested lifestyle changes so they could feel less guilty for what they have “caused.” Besides using the audience’s emotions so they would agree with Gore, he also uses evidence and logic to support his main thesis. The graphs he shows can also prove his later statement about how measures towards reducing human impact on the environment need to be administered because Gore states that about half of the world will not be able to get water because the glaciers that drinking water comes from are melting quickly. More archaic footage is played and showed current “before and after” pictures of famous landmarks and lush landscapes. When compared to each other, the differences are alarming, which causes the audience to panic and feel guilty, making them more likely to change their lifestyles to help reduce the damage done. Overall, the point that Al Gore was trying to get across was that global warming is real (to the critics that disregard his belief that is supported with evidence) and that certain measures should be enforced to help reduce the negative impact caused by the human race. The most effective rhetorical strategy used in this documentary was Pathos, due to the fact that most humans are emotional beings and react to their emotions and thoughts first before the concrete facts. However, the way Gore used the rhetorical strategy, Ethos, is what set up the success of the Pathos in this documentary because it set the stage; it would not have been as effective if the audience did not have a connection with Al Gore. But, the rhetorical strategies Pathos and Logos are the most effective together because when facts back up an emotion, it is more believable because there is concrete evidence.