Working in a Coal Mine: Lord I Am So Tired, but Good-Looking


The NYT (or Josh Ozersky at least) reads my 'online magazine'*....

Working in a Coal Mine: Lord I Am So Tired, but Good-Looking - New York Times:
Working in a Coal Mine: Lord I Am So Tired, but Good-Looking
MOST people tend to think of coal mining as a dangerous, dirty business. But General Electric, as part of its Ecomagination campaign, is trying to change that. And in a hopelessly conflicted new ad, G.E. is using some powerful explosives: glistening bodies, a soothing message and archness so extreme that it ends up backfiring. As the spot begins, we hear Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" and see shadowy figures, identifiable only by their helmet lights, walking into a coal mine. (The helmet light, like the physician's reflector, remains indispensable to commercials that don't have a lot of time for explanations.) At first, this ad looks like a paean to labor - the song after all, is a workingman's lament - and we see several strong and stylized male figures that bring to mind W.P.A. murals. But soon the hot female miners appear, carefully soiled and seductively oiled up. The commercial, we see, is visually indistinguishable from a Victoria's Secret ad, right down to the blue filters and hubba-hubba slow motion. And that's the point: "Thanks to emissions-reducing technology from G.E. energy," an amiable narrator tells us, "harnessing the power of coal is looking more beautiful every day." For G.E., it's a simple setup and punch line. Jonathan Klein, a company spokesman, said, "In 'Model Miners,' the goal is to communicate that G.E.'s emission-reducing technology can make coal a more appealing energy source." But it's a little more complicated than that. For one thing, there is the song. "Sixteen Tons" is pure despair, despite the bounciness of Ford's 1956 hit version. For most of the 20th century, the miner was the quintessential labor martyr. "More than anyone else," wrote George Orwell in 1937, "the miner can stand as the type of the manual worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but because it is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience." No one expects G.E. to preach a Marxist sermon, but the use of "Sixteen Tons" ("You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?/ Another day older and deeper in debt") as a jokey soundtrack is an odd public relations move. And then there are the women themselves. The basic visual gag here is the juxtaposition of exquisitely coiffed and made-up models with the dirty, dangerous environment. But the whole point of the campaign is to assure us that our notions about coal are out of date. Isn't it? Between so many strong symbols - laboring miners, sexy women, a grim but bouncy refrain - it's hard to say for sure. One thing is clear, though: throwing oiled-up hotties at the camera is, in commercials as in hip-hop videos, usually a sign you don't have anything to say.

*Phrase possibly coined by Greg Saunders at the Talent Show and popularized by Atrios. I'm just joining because I think the whole regulation of political speech issue is being way, way overplayed by the Feds....

As Robert Chaviano used to intone, "It's all semantics"

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People do the damnedest things with music, like using the scream-of-despair "Born in the USA" as a patriotic anthem, or "American Woman" to back up scenes of USA female Olympians.

Excuse me? "American woman, stay away from me"??!

People are idiots.

Yeah, or London Calling for Jaguar. Did they ever listen to the lyrics?

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on July 5, 2005 7:16 AM.

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