These are some thoughts I had after seeing the movie An Inconvenient Truth. While the content is very thought-provoking and may inspire viewers to make some life style changes, I keep thinking about Marshall McLuhan’s statement from decades past: “the medium is the message.” Accepting that premise, it seems—starting perhaps with Micheal Moore’s films—we are seeing the rise of edu-tainment films as a way to provide people in depth understanding of truly relevant contemporary affairs. Thirty years ago, the ‘medium’ for that would probably have been print: the newspapers and magazines. But lately we’ve been pretty much left to our own devices as citizens to research our own truths about pertinent matters, like what’s the worldwide impact of our standard of living, what’s in the stuff we eat on the fly, and so on. Perhaps this is a reason movies like An Inconvenient Truth end up drawing an enthusiastic audience. We are hungry for news that reaches past the pabulum that’s fed to us daily, like the highlights of life among the rich and famous.

When McLuhan first introduced the idea that the medium is the message, he created waves in the television industry; TV was the focus of his assertion. But he also turned many heads among the country’s political leaders and the American populace at large. It was like we became a little savvier about the blaring box in the corner of the living room. I think Al Gore’s film carries the same potential—we can begin to see ourselves educated (entertained a bit as well) and prepared to handle the responsibilities of world citizenship, not by the institutions we would’ve expected to do those jobs in the past (ie the schools, universities and news forums) but through the film industry. Here again, the medium is the message. Until now, I have read that antiquated institutions of government and education are ineffective and must be/will be replaced by smaller, more creative and artistic networks of people; this was the message of Alvin Toffler, George B. Leonard and other contemporaries of McLuhan. I could never figure out how the transition would be made, but ever the optimist, I watched for signs. Just like the television sat before us for years before we learned the medium was the message, a new phenomenon is underway and the actual significance of it has gone unnoticed, as far as I know. Al Gore’s movie is trans-political. In making the film, Gore worked with a small network of creative artists (just as Toffler predicted), not his fellow mates up on the hill in the Washington establishment. In this way, An Inconvenient Truth helps to move us past the bureaucratic dinosaurs of yesterday, and establishes a bridge to whatever develops out of the current small networks.

I went away from this movie in awe of the potential Al Gore tapped. Imagine if every politician and university educator who holds a treasure-trove of really important, relevant information gets together with the finest, most accomplished filmmakers. Then we suddenly have a chance of getting smart about an inexhaustible number of things using a medium we have come to enjoy—movie watching. This film is transformational in another way. Just as reality television has become popular entertainment over the past few years, An Inconvenient Truth is reality film. Only unlike what’s on TV, Gore’s, Moore’s and others like it, presents the reality that matters, or at least it should. Another one coming out this summer is What Happened to Electric Cars? This is a topic sure to thrill Gore as it comes out on the heels of his own movie and I’m certain will expose more of the inconvenient truth we’ve ignored in the past. And that brings me to my final point about the medium being the message.

An Inconvenient Truth gives a new twist to the idea of action films as well. The movie is meant to spur viewers into action. We aren’t supposed to sit by and watch some kung fu fighter kick the living tar out of a bad guy. We are supposed to look at the screen and catch a glimpse of ourselves as the bad guys. Then we’re to leave the theater, kicking our own butts out of complacency and into less detrimental actions for the earth. Well, it worked for me; I have consciously made some lifestyle changes. And going further, I subscribed to Kos and entered this, my very first blog. Perhaps that is not the action-packed response expected, but I think every deed, no matter how small, is action well taken.