What happens when your “prank” isn’t really a prank, but it is kind of awkward? This might take a while…
Cordero Roman has a number of videos on YouTube, most labeled as “social experiments” or “pranks.” He puts his recent filmed-in-Japan project into the latter category, and has titled it Proposing to Girls Prank in Japan!, exclamaiton point and all.
The video opens with Roman standing in a park in Tokyo and announcing his objective by saying:
“Even though I speak zero Japanese, I’m looking for a wife today, because everyone knows that the universal language of life is love, so let’s find a wife for me.”
After that, it’s on to the meat of the video: Roman walking up to complete strangers in public places and asking them to marry him.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t have any blanket opposition to a guy, or girl, trying to pick up an attractive stranger. It’s of course important not to be an asshat about it, and good manners dictate you should cease and desist if the other person isn’t receptive to your greeting, but if someone catches your eye, I don’t think it’s necessarily a sin to politely introduce yourself and try to strike up a conversation.
And yet, I’d really recommend stretching before watching Roman’s video to lessen the chance of pulling a muscle from the cringes it induces.
At the risk of spoiling the video, no woman agrees to Roman’s proposal. Time after time, he walks up to a young lady, says a few lines in English regardless of whether or not she shows any sign of understanding what he’s saying, pulls out the ring, and pops the question. But while Proposing to Girls Prank in Japan! fulfills almost all the promises made by its title, it completely stumbles over the “prank” part.
See, a prank is supposed to be some sort of humorous trick. The comedy comes either from the target’s reaction being overblown, or from getting the mark to believe the premise in the first place. For example, if you hide under a desk in your office, say “Boo!” when your coworker comes in, and he reacts by screaming “Oh no! A ghost!” and running out of the building, then that’s a prank. It’s not a particularly good one, but it at least meets all the criteria, like how eating a packet of sliced ham counts as a meal.
This video, though, is as much a prank as putting your dirty underwear between two hot towels is making a sandwich. What’s the joke supposed to be? That the women think he’s proposing? You’re down on one knee and holding out a ring. The only people who wouldn’t think you’re proposing are the ones who don’t know what that ritual looks like.
Okay, so maybe the funny part is the women’s reactions. After all, even if a stranger had just walked up to you out of the blue and asked for your hand in marriage, it would be pretty silly to actually get excited over the proposal, right?
Except, no one’s heart gets all aflutter at the romantic gesture. Sure, there’s a lot of laughter from the women, but none of it is of the “Oh my God can you believe how lucky I am?” sort. About half of it is nervous laughter at the awkwardness, and the rest is the targets laughing with their friends at how socially inept this random dude is.
▼ When some weirdo comes up to you in the park and immediately asks you to marry him, this response is entirely appropriate.
No one’s reaction is exaggerated or unwarranted, least of all the woman who displays the wedding ring she’s already wearing to Roman, then gets up and walks away when he doesn’t leave her alone.
But at least the married woman had that option. When your entire “prank” relies on putting people in an awkward situation, it’s not cool to pick a target who can’t leave the area, such as when Roman proposes to a woman greeting customers in front of the pachinko parlor she works at.
▼ Her manager is on the scene soon to shoo him away.
Also poor form? Carrying the act so far that after you get rejected, you feign anger and storm off, swinging your fist at the air.
Roman’s assertion that the “universal language of life is love” also wavers at points, like when he tries to explain to a girl who’s unable to understand English that she has a pretty face with this disturbing gesture.
There’s also the charming exchange where this group seems to understand Roman’s repeated mention of the word “wife.” Sensing a communications breakthrough, he decides to expand on what he means by telling them “Wife. We have consexual [sic] intercourse every night. Missionary? No?”.
But the biggest head-scratcher about Proposing to Girls Prank in Japan! is the fact that it was filmed in Japan in the first place. Roman isn’t based here, and did he really expect the nuances of Japanese culture to produce anything other than the mixture of awkward pity, discomfort, and mild ridicule you’d get doing this in any other society on the planet?