Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Revisiting the "Model Miners"

Seth Stevenson at Slate finally took up the ludicrousness of GE's "Model Miners" ad. Hmm. I guess this is my first time scooping the MSM (main-stream media, for those of you not attuned to the right-wingnuts' lexicon). And, I noticed that John Ford resigned, frightened off, I'll bet, by my offer to run for his seat (Memphis, I'm still waiting to hear from you). So, let's see, I've scooped the mainstream media and am taking credit for ruining a political career, what's next? Will FOXnews come calling? Anyway, back to the "Model Miners." For those of you keeping score at home, the Legal Eagle was pretty close to right in his prediction of the lame-ass excuse the ad company would give for using "Sixteen Tons" in the commercial. The Legal Eagle said:
Tennessee Ernie Ford was chosen because how many recognizable songs about coal mining are there really? And if you are a 20 something adman, do you really even know what a company store is?
Ad man Don Schneider said:
[it] instantly feels like a coal-mining song [...] you can picture coal miners singing it without any negative feelings.
One anonymous poster said:
It's a good song leave it alone.
And you know, I can't decide who I feel worse for: Don Schneider or Anonymous, here. To Anonymous, I would say that it's precisely because it's a good song that I can't leave it alone. A good song holds up to the weight of public scrutiny. It means what it means and carries with it a whole lot more. And when Merle Travis wrote that song, he meant it to carry with it some outrage over his dad's lot in life. And that's not diffused by Ford's rendition nor GE's deafness to the words. So, I guess I feel less bad for Anonymous, because at least she or he can still recognize the value of a good song. But Schneider, wow, what a terrible life to lead, where words have no meaning. How can you hear "You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." and picture people singing it without any negative connotations? Do you not get what being deeper and deeper in debt feels like? Can you not imagine what shoveling sixteen tons of anything would be like? Or is it really, and this is what I think is the more likely truth, that he sees everything as just some product with only surface value? "Here is a catchy tune to pair with our beautiful people in order to sell this industry." On the one hand, it frustrates me that songs written out of anger and grief at a situation get co-opted by the very things they're trying to rail against: this song and this ad, "Fortunate Son" and jeans, etc. Because, I suspect that this is some move to diffuse the words of their power. "Look, John Fogerty might say something profound about how rich people don't send their kids to war while poor people have to, but we don't have to give it a second's thought, because it's just a song for selling jeans." and "Look here's a catchy song about coal mining. Hmm. It seems to be negative, but if owing your soul to the company store were really so bad, why would a coal company use it? It must not be." But I also love it. And here's why. Because I cannot remove myself from this consumer culture. I can't un-implicate myself in Walmart's exploitation of their workers, for instance, because there's no way for me to not support Walmart. Even if I decided to never go there again and buy things only from people who made them themselves, those people still shop at Walmart. I can't not use GE's products or choose not to benefit from the advances in technology they've made possible. But I can recognize that I've been reduced to a consumer, nothing more than a funnel through which money passes. And I can appreciate the moments when the illusion falters, when something like "Sixteen Tons" refuses to play its role as background noise to pretty pictures, and instead means what it means. It's like watching King Kong, caged up and put on display, and knowing that he's going to break free and destroy everything he can get his hands on. That's how I feel about this song in this ad, that it resists GE's commodification with that kind of anger. By insisting that the words are irrelevant, GE has given a protest against their product a national stage. That's pretty amazing. Will it make any difference? I don't know. But it's still something. *** For the record, if I ever get on FOXnews, knowing that they only give liberals minimal airtime, I'd use my thirty seconds to shout "Oh, Bill, rub your crusty falafel on me" because I am that immature.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I had my 30 seconds on FOX, I'd call Bill O'Reilly a dick. Just because I'm not very original.

I hate my clothes.

-Jon

6/01/2005 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Judging from Gwen Stefani's video, pirates don't really wear much in the way of clothing. That might be at the root of your anger at your own togs.

Not Gwen, though she's at the root of a lot of my anger, I meant your wardrobe not matching your dreams for yourself.

6/01/2005 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Yankee T said...

Bluff City weighing in here. I'm voting for you for John Ford's seat.

6/01/2005 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Woo-hoo! I have one live voter! Take that, doubters.

6/01/2005 08:08:00 PM  

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