The Proposal

This romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock as Margaret, a ruthless ladder climbing editor and Ryan Reynolds as Andrew, her abuse-puppy assistant seems to be a tale of traditional love over and against the feminist or egalitarian worldview. Margaret is an abusive witch to everyone in the office, who fears her and makes fun of her behind her back. She is arrogant, dominating and fully intent on making it to the top of corporate culture, crushing anyone who gets in her way. In short, she is trying to be like the ambitious men she sees in the corporate world. Unfortunately, a green card snafu regarding her Canadian citizenship threatens to deport her and ruin her ambition until she creates the scam that she is marrying her assistant Andrew. The only problem is, he is a very subservient and patient assistant – one may even say “ass-kisser.” But this deception puts his future in jeopardy, not the least because it is a felony to fake marriages like that for citizenship. She has pushed him too far, but he gives in, by forcing her to give him the long-promised never-given promotion to editor that he’s longed for in exchange for him marrying her.

When they visit Andrew’s family in Alaska for a weekend in order to announce the marriage, Margaret is surprised to discover Andrew is from a very rich, very successful business family. So he is not a snively little weak toad, but has chosen to try to make his own way, and a non-financial way as an artist, which ticks off his father. We see through this that Andrew is in fact a very strong person with his own vision in life, willing to defy family tradition. Also, Andrew turns around and deliberately does not treat Margaret as Queen, but as an equal. He lets her carry her own luggage, remarking that she’s a feminist and likes to do that kind of thing for herself. She is suddenly not a pampered coddled selfish little queen anymore, and she lashes back. While trying to tell the family “how they met” they have to make up a story on the spot, and Margaret tries to paint a picture of Andrew as a weak man, while he fights to spin it back to a more equal relationship, thus showing Margaret’s weakness: She can never be loved until she learns to submit herself to a man to be loved. This of course, she cannot do because of her own past hurts, but it makes her invulnerable and unable to love. She must be in control and “over” a man, which is why she will never find one. Andrew clearly seeks to be the leader she needs in a relationship, but she just can’t do it.

Of course, they fall for each other during this scam, but they lose it all, including their jobs, when the INS catches their little ploy. They avoid jail, though, but she is softened, and loses her job and humbles herself before her whole office in packing up and in apologies. The irony was that the proposal for marriage at the beginning of the film that was a scam was forced on Andrew and Margaret made it, thus establishing her as leader which led to disaster. But at the end of the film, Andrew seeks her out and makes the proposal for real marriage this time, promising to be a leader she can give to and receive in return.

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