Could You Accept a Proposal Dripping of Blackmail?

by Emily Jasper on October 19, 2009

I was feeling a little girly Friday night, so I ordered food, got comfortable, and watched The Proposal. In all romcom honesty, it was pretty good. I liked the twisted play on the boss falling for the assistant. However, after all the credits rolled (I had to listen to “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock), I had a shocking revelation:

How inappropriate!!

Romantic comedies are known for pulling out the craziest scenarios to help the leads fall in love. Sometimes you even wonder how no one gets arrested for some of the insanity these people pull. This one hit a bit closer to home however.

Many of us aren’t awesome magazine editors, drop-dead gorgeous photographers, or super wealthy playboys. The majority of us work in an office every day, sometimes in a crappy environment, and we have to figure out how to balance personal sanity with the demands from those in positions of power.

Then Sandra Bullock goes and blackmails her assistant into marrying her so she won’t get deported. Most people don’t even want to get coffee for their bosses anymore, let alone marry them.

What happens when someone in a position of power over you blackmails you into something that isn’t just detrimental to your professional life, but your personal life? What does that say about the boss? What does it say about you?

If we didn’t know that this was a romantic comedy, we’d have been yelling at the movie screen, “Blow that whistle on her ass! Sic HR after her!” And in this extreme example, the answer seems clear. What about more subtle examples? Do you trust that if there is an abuse of power, someone in HR would do something about it? It reminds you of when you reported something in elementary school, and while it was the right thing to do, getting the smack down behind the monkey bars after the fact didn’t feel so right. You were a tattler and everyone knew.

So you grow up to not be a tattler. You want to show you’ll keep the secrets to keep the peace. You then end up like Ryan Reynolds’ character. Or perhaps you want to show others you aren’t afraid of them, that you can take them behind the monkey bars. So you might push a little. And push a little more. You become Sandra Bullock’s character. It isn’t outright blackmail, but highly suggested instructions that would be in the best interest of a subordinate.

We will probably never get to the point where we would have to accept or propose the solution demonstrated in The Proposal, but the concept brings up interesting points. If life wasn’t a romantic comedy, would you be able to pick out the abuse of power in everyday life?

The views expressed in my blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Photo from