Sometimes, you see something on TV so ludicrously gross that you think it must be a parody, something dreamed up by Montgomery Burns, because how could ANY real, live human being be responsible for it?
Last night, as I was watching NBC, I saw a house ad for General Electric–part of their “ecomagination” push to make us think that they’re a conglomerate with a heart. I’m going to describe the ad to you, but I know you won’t believe me, so here’s a link. The ad I’m talking about is the bottom one on this page, called “Model Miners.”
So, the whole ad is a bunch of half-naked sexy people digging for coal in the bottom of a mine shaft that resembles a Britney Spears video. These people are strong, because, apparently, working in the bottom of a hole is a great way to keep in shape. These people are sexy, because coal comes from America, where we all look like supermodels, even those of us covered in coal dust all day. And they’re very healthy, because of all the exercise. No black lung here.
Okay, so if you see it with the sound off, it’s a very visually enticing ad. I’m not going to deny that.
But, but, America, they use Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” as the music. Yes, yes, I know, it’s inconceivable. At the same time they’re trying to make you believe that coal is safe and sexy and environmentally friendly, they use a song that has as its central theme how the miner is exploited by the evil coal companies.
Without any apparent sense of the irony of it, they have, playing over these hotbodied post-modern miners, the lyrics “You load sixteen tons, and whattaya get?/ Another day older and deeper in debt/ St. Peter don’cha call me, cause I can’t go/ I owe my soul to the company store.”
It’s such nonsense that it makes my head hurt, using songs about the evils* of an industry to promote the industry.
Why don’t we just use “8 Miles High” to advertise for nuclear power? Why don’t divorce attorneys all use “Goin’ to the Chapel” in their ads? Shall the IRS promote their new, more personable face with “Tax Man” playing in the background?
Have words no meaning?! Have we really gotten to the point where pretty pictures and catchy tunes can be thrown together on screen without regard for their content?
Don’t answer that. I can’t bear to know.
* Even if you aren’t a big environmentalist and don’t care if coal companies blow the tops off of Appalachian mountains, take a minute to ponder what losing, say 66 men in a mining disaster means for a town like Powhatan Point, OH, which had, according to the last census, only 515 families. Thank god mining has gotten safer, but when you look at a list like this, it doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the industry. But who knows, maybe GE sees things differently, and we can expect to see that in their next ad campaign: “We don’t kill as many of your loved ones as we used to!”