The Proposition

Behold, the viral video du jour. This dude proposes to his girlfriend in a spectacular fashion. It’s a lovely scene and yes, by all means, go right ahead and dab at the lone tear welling in your left eye. Why wouldn’t a person get a little choked up?

(But if you’re blubbering like it’s the ending of “Marley & Me,” um…that’s all on you.)

After I finished crying, and then phoned every elderly relative whom I haven’t seen in at least three months and told them I loved them, I had three or four thoughts about this marriage proposal:

1) There are very few “surprise” proposals. Isn’t that true? The proposal happens during some sort of zone of weeks or months during which the woman is very much expecting to be proposed to. And if the luckless, feckless, or witless man fails to do so during that period…oh dear. So I’m pretty sure that this woman had been walking around with her “Yes, my darling…yes!!!” bullet in the chamber and the hammer cocked for a while.

Nonetheless, she had no idea what form the proposal would take. Maybe this filled her with second thoughts. At the end, maybe it occurred to her that, wow, all this time, her “boyfriend” had been harboring a secret and uncanny skill for arranging, producing, directing, and choreographing a spectacular musical dance number.

If so, some part of her could then have urged her to follow that thought all the way to a very logical and disappointing conclusion.

2) This elaborate marriage proposal validates a theory that I’ve been curating for a long time. Some women — certainly most, and maybe not even many, but definitely a nonzero number — spend years fantasizing about their dream wedding. When the opportunity presents itself, all of that pent-up dreaming explodes and sends globs of white-hot Liquid Crazy flying in all directions. And that’s why her fiancĂ©e has to spend every Saturday before the wedding learning how to ride a horse…into a church, to “rescue” the bride from a forced marriage to an “evil land baron,” while the guests who’ll be waiting at the real church watch the whole telenovela unfold via a big screen above the altar. And try their best not to say or Tweet anything completely appropriate.

The same percentage of men have this exact same rare quirk of personality or genetics. It just expresses itself differently in the presence of testosterone. Instead of spending their whole lives fantasizing about an overblown wedding, these men fantasize about an overblown marriage proposal. I think men are (on average) less likely to care about a spectacular wedding, so long as he and his beloved are married at the end of the day. Similarly, I think women are less likely to care about a spectacular proposal, so long as they’re engaged. (And the guy didn’t embarrass the holy hell out of her at her place of work.)

(I omit instances for same-sex couples, but only because not enough sample data exists to expand the theoretical model to include this valuable demographic. I am confident that with an larger dataset, I will be able to make knee-jerk, sexist pronouncements that include all orientations.)

A friend, while telling the tale of his own marriage proposal, revealed the only advice that any man needs to know regarding choice of venue for a proposal. I shall paraphrase:

“If it’s between the restaurant where they had their first date and the statue in Central Park where he first realized that she was The One, a man should propose at the statue. It’s less likely that Central Park will have been torn down and replaced with an orthodontist’s office when they go back and revisit it on their tenth wedding anniversary, dressed for a nice dinner.”

These words were spoken with the authority of one who is clearly Sadder But Wiser.

3) The video started off very cute and a little shaky, as one would expect. Then, the dancing got good, and the actors in some of the mini-scenes looked…professional. The participants didn’t overplay their bits, and they didn’t underplay them, either. They seemed to fulfill their roles expertly, armed with the twin benefits of confidence and experience.

The half-a-tear that had been forming in my eye was frozen by an icy cynicism. I made a vow at that moment:

If it turns out that this is a goddamn viral ad for the SUV that the ‘girlfriend’ was led into at the beginning, then I must — I simply must — loathe the makers of that vehicle for ever and ever.

I will refuse to ever own any of their cars.

Indeed, I will be so furious at having been duped and manipulated that I will book a flight to Los Angeles. I will take a taxi to CBS, get in the audience line for a taping of “The Price Is Right” and then I’ll get myself a spot in Contestants’ Row by being extremely charming and witty when the producers show up and start introducing themselves. Once I’m there, I will draw upon my encyclopedic knowledge of the prices of personal watercraft and grandfather clocks to win the right to run onto the stage, meet Drew Carey and play a pricing game. I will likely win said pricing game, thanks to the foolproof strategies I developed while watching “The Price Is Right” every morning during the two weeks that the Blizzard of ’78 had closed down all of the schools. If it’s the Clock Game, I will win the hell out of it.

I will spin the Big Wheel with a deft hand and win the Showcase Showdown. I will get to the Showcase. I will pass the crummy first Showcase to the other contestant.

I will do all of this just so that if the big prize at the end of the second Showcase proves to be a vehicle made by this same car company that had broken my heart with their fake wedding proposal viral ad, I can bid ten million dollars.

“Ten million dollars?!?” Mr. Carey will sputter after the “OVERBID” sign lights up on my podium. “Why the hell did you bid so high?”

That’s when I will look straight into the camera and say “Because that’s how much money you’d have to pay me to be caught dead in one of [name of car company]’s piece of **** cars,” I will calmly say. “I mean, holy **** on a rocket sled, Drew, I’d honestly rather commute to work in one of those ships on which hundreds of lepers used to be set adrift at sea. Wouldn’t anybody?”

It will be perfect irony. CBS couldn’t air it due to the profanity, but someone at the production company would probably post the video to YouTube…where it would instantly go viral.

Advertisers need to understand something: they shouldn’t risk their brands on viral ads unless they’re explicitly advertisements, right from the get-go. These things don’t fool us any more. When was the last time anybody was handed a small, suspiciously-light metal can and they failed to suss that it contained a potentially-lethal metal spring instead of the Deluxe Fancy Salted Mixed Nuts that its label promised? I can’t name the year but meat rationing was probably still in effect.

Ditto for anything on YouTube in which more than three people happen to be drinking the same brand of anything in the same shot at any time.

4) Interesting, isn’t it, that the couple chose to share this video with the world. I’m not judging them for this decision. I reckon it falls under the general category of “We’re so happy that we can’t even contain it; we want to shout it from the rooftops.”

Still, it’s a statement about life in the 21.2nd Century. During the Age of Videotape, this moment would have been shared with a group that included 11 people who are keenly, joyously interested, plus 19 people who just happened to be in the room with one of the 11 when someone pushed “Play” on the remote. Call it an audience of fifty people, tops.

Nearly a million people have seen this proposal so far. Wow! By my way of thinking, publishing the video changes the event. Suddenly, it’s not so much “Our son’s marriage proposal” as it is “That marriage proposal video that went viral and got BoingBoinged.” The Moment stops being something cherished by a close circle of family and friends and becomes part of the blur of public entertainment.

Again, I’m not judging. I simply marvel that there can be such a wide range of attitudes regarding this stuff. And sometimes, a thing like this comes along and reminds me that people who are even just ten years younger than I am are from a world that’s vastly different from the one I grew up in.

There’s Right and there’s Wrong. But there are also those ideas that you can’t instinctively relate to, simply because you’re stuck with an outdated factory-installed browser that doesn’t support the latest plugin.

Don’t be smug, kids. We were once exactly like you. We mocked the Mosaic generation just as sharply as you Firefox people mock us Netscapers. Need I remind you all that by the time you all turn 30, the Safari and Chrome babies will be the new hires at your company?

12 thoughts on “The Proposition

  1. DDA

    …dab at the lone year welling in…

    But yes, if it had turned out to be an ad, it would have backfired on the car company for a while.

    I don’t know if the couple posted it or if the “partner in crime” did the deed. Given the name and the woman in red who figured so prominently in the video, I wonder…

  2. Maurye

    Does not matter. Your take on the whole thing was more enjoyable than the proposal itself. Why couldn’t we have viral commentaries on viral videos? You have one here.

  3. Rob. Reeves

    I worry about these people that NEED to have everyone see & love what they do because where does it end? Is this couple going to try and spend their whole honeymoon trying to dream up something that will top this video?

    Reminds me of when a sequel was made trying to recapture whatever it was that made the Rocky Horror Picture Show into what it became. Sometimes lightning doesn’t strike twice, particularly when you are trying too hard to make it happen.

  4. Calgary Guru

    “…to sit her on the back of a Honda CRV with…”

    If this wasn’t an ad, it probably would have just said “…to sit her on the back of my car with…”

    I say this is an ad!

  5. sam kusnetz

    the bride- and groom-to-be are my dear friends amy and isaac who i’ve known for years and years. they are both professional actors, and many of the people in the video are also actors or dancers or singers. this is not an ad, this is not isaac trying to play to amy’s dream wedding or anything like that. this is honestly just their idea of fun.

    i’m as cynical as the next guy, so i’m posting the reply not to be snippy, but only to say “look! no, really, this is real!”

  6. D Daeges

    Life is funny, my daughter first showed the video to me. I loved it and thought it was cute and romantic. Then my wife comes home and has to show me this video… A proposal that a co-worker’s son made to his girlfriend. Of course, like a dope, I took the wind out of her sails and said I’d already seen it. We watched it anyway – on our big screen where it is even more fun. Apparently Amy and Isaac are pretty talented, have a bunch of talented friends and as actors, they like to share. I for one am thankful that they shared this with us and wish them long and happy lives together.

  7. D Daeges

    … By the way, I agree with your sentiment wholeheartedly on thought #3 and I like how you expressed it.

  8. LollerskaterAU

    If some of the people in the video seemed professional, it could be because the groom-in-waiting is an actor, so it stands to reason that many of his and her friends are also actors and performers.

  9. Laura

    Oh such cynicism Mr. Ihnatko. Icy is indeed the word to use. Here is a thought…smile, enjoy, don’t worry about that you cannot control and wonder at the quality of such a video that it got us all to talking and wondering if it were real. Real or not, it was a fun few minutes that even my cynical husband enjoyed. Love ya Andy!

  10. Mario Losasso

    Your spot on Andy. If this turns out to be an ad, the townsfolk should riot and burn down the ad agency.

    There is no way an ad can be viral. That is by virtue of it being an ad.

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