Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.
I’d hate to be the guy who planned on proposing to his girlfriend the week after this video hit the Net. Leave it to a Portland resident to up the creative ante for major life events to unobtainable levels for the common man.
Recently, Isaac Lamb (an actor and Portlandian) proposed to his girlfriend Amy Frankel (also an actor and Portlandian) in an elaborate, lip-synched, extensively choreographed spectacle set to the tune of Bruno Mars’s “Marry You.” The vid received upwards of 8 million views and very few dislikes proportionally speaking (which is in itself quite an achievement), before it was blocked by YouTube on copyright grounds. You can still view a copy of the video via Vimeo here.
At the beginning of the vid, we see Lamb’s brother assisting Frankel into a pair of large headphones while she sits in the back of a Honda CRV. As the car begins to move, relatives and friends start popping in and out of frame lip-synching and dancing to the song, culminating in the appearance of a faux marching band and the entrance of a dapper Lamb in a dark suit ready to pop the question. (Spoiler alert: she says yes.) It’s way fun, though somewhat car-commercial-esque.
Marital-themed viral vids such as this are now a staple and a standard, begun by the likes of Jill And Kevin’s Wedding Entrance and carried forward by a thousand wedding reception choreographed dance breakouts. For some reason we all love to see traditionally somber moments replaced by overly indulgent choreography set to a Top-40 R&B hit. Perhaps it’s a chance for these “common sentimental events” to be given a unique, interesting, creative, and meaningful twist that we often feel they need.
On one hand, “making a moment” in order to capture and create something special and unique is exactly what a situation like a marriage proposal or wedding party entrance calls for. G. K. Chesterton said, “Beautiful things ought to mean beautiful things.” Reverse the thought (which I’m certain he would approve of) and you get, “Beautiful things ought to be said beautifully.” Lamb worked wisely to ordain a beautiful, meaningful moment with the beauty it deserved. This ought to challenge us all to ordain our moments well.
But on the other hand, we also need to be careful not to treat our moments poorly. Approaching heavy things such as matrimony with flippancy or self-aggrandizement cheapens life, and the culture of digital one-upsmanship we can intentionally or inadvertently create to foster this is all too real. From the way that Lamb has spoken about the proposal in interviews, it seems he didn’t at all expect the video to go viral, or even be seen by anyone but friends and family. On NBC’s Today show, he even sheepishly apologized for the effects on other potential grooms-to-be. But apologies or not, the temptation for the next guy to make his proposal into the next big viral vid hit instead of something meaningful now exists.
Which leads me to ask—what is the digital age and meme culture making our moments into? Is it providing us with tools to redeem the time in a more beautiful, personal, and meaningful way? Or is it simply creating license for us to promote ourselves using our moments? At least Lamb’s “live lip-dub proposal” hit gives us a fine example of viral vid moments at their best: a man creating something breathtaking and beautiful to make a point that such a moment ought to be breathtaking and beautiful, which is in itself a God-glorifying reality.