To promote the recently launched — and somewhat idyllically named — Ecomagination campaign, GE has been running a series of commercials highlighting its green initiatives. One in particular, focused on clean(er?) coal, has sparked a good deal of debate over its use of sexy models to excite more than the imagination, if you will.

Josh Ozersky of The New York Times describes the 60-second commercial:

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.”

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Ozersky, as well as other columnists and a handful of letter-writers, note that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

As for me, I just like looking at beautiful people. Is that so wrong?

View the “Model Miners” spot as well as GE’s other commercials here and decide for yourself.

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