Andrew Tolve investigates the latest trend: proposing to your girlfriend for the world to see.
In the past few months, two marriage proposals have gone viral on YouTube.
In the first, a young man named Woodrow woos his girlfriend, Claudine, with an elaborately orchestrated proposal in New York City’s Madison Square Park—complete with a dance routine, streamers, a unicyclist, and specially printed I-♥-You T-shirts. You can watch it here. More than two million people already have.
In the second, the Old Spice Guy (wearing nothing but a towel and his usual sheen of bravado) asks a girl, Angela A. Hutt-Chamberlin, to marry her boyfriend, Johannes S. Beals, who had asked the Old Spice Guy via Twitter to propose on his behalf. More than a million people have watched that one.
A “marriage proposal” search on YouTube yields hundreds of results, many titled “Best Marriage Proposal EVER” and distinguished only by the number of exclamation points that follow. (e.g. “Best marriage proposal EVER!”, “best marriage proposal ever!!”, and “Best Marriage Proposal EVER!!!!!”)
Thanks to the breadth of the YouTube marriage proposal library, a psychiatrist, David Rose, has taken to studying the videos for behavioral insights into how women react to the big question.
And although the vast majority of YouTube proposals are videos of a proposal rather than proposals in and of themselves, that’s not exclusively the case (as the Old Spice Guy example illustrates).
Here’s another clip of a man proposing directly to his partner screen-to-screen.
So, what’s to be taken from this? Is chivalry really dead, as CNN asked in an article on its website last week? The story quoted a Stanford associate professor of sociology who posited that proposals via social media carry with them a giant dose of peer pressure. It’s fear of rejection and a lack of creativity, he argues, that makes a site like YouTube or Twitter attractive for proposals.
I’m not convinced. Clearly, proposing online lacks the intimacy of a guy getting down on one knee, but that doesn’t necessarily make it inappropriate or crass. If there’s one thing I learned from my bad proposal, it’s that a guy should let his intuition lead him to what feels right for him and his significant other rather than follow what novels or movies may suggest.
If a couple has spent hours watching YouTube together and has even uploaded some videos themselves, a YouTube proposal will be far more romantic and fitting than popping the question on some random beach under a perfect sunset in the Bahamas. (Take my word for it, that perfect beach in the Bahamas will turn out to be coated with BP oil, and it’ll be raining, and you’ll forget what to say, and your last thought will be, Why on earth didn’t I just propose on YouTube?)
The same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Myspace or whatever social media or new-age technology it may be. (Here are three examples of Twitter proposals: 1, 2, 3). If there’s a meaningful connection, go for it.
But be warned that if there isn’t, if a couple hasn’t watched YouTube together or doesn’t share a special affinity for Twitter, trying to make a viral video or a glorified Tweet likely won’t go over so well.
Which puts social media proposals in the same category as pretty much every other proposal method out there. Indeed, what I find interesting about this trend is not so much that people are doing it (not a surprise considering how pervasive social media has become) but how avidly we as a society consume it.
Even some poorly shot proposals on YouTube have more than a million hits, not to mention page after page of comments. Some of those comments are decidedly negative.
Here are two from the first page of the Madison Square Park proposal:
1) Wow, that was awesome. It will be cool to check back in around 2½ years and see what they come up with to announce the divorce.
2) If only she said no. That would have been so good! I wonder if his break up or divorce will be better organized, can’t wait to see that on you tube in 2 years. lol sorry for being so mean its random, but its what everyone thinks on the inside.
Deadspin has dozens more, many too crude to print here.
Part of the popularity of these videos seems to stem from the discrepancy between the gushy romance of a proposal, and the ugly truth that more than half of today’s marriages end in divorce. And then there’s the fact that many fiancés don’t even make it to the altar, as Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston recently reminded us.
The Bachelor reality series just wrapped up its sixth successful season of The Bachelorette and its fourteenth season of The Bachelor, even though only one of the twenty couples the show has crowned is still together.
Why do we keep watching then—to see true love flower, or to be reminded that true love is always more complicated and difficult than a show (or a YouTube clip) can depict?
I suspect it’s a bit of both.