Ethics Quiz: The Interrupted Marriage Proposal

Disney clearly “can’t win for losing,” as a saying I’ve never understood goes. At Disneyland Paris, a couple invaded a stage in the park reserved for performances so the guy could propose to his love with a castle in the background. A Disney cast member then interrupted the romantic moment, snatched the engagement ring, and motioned the couple and guests to leave the forbidden area.

There is some controversy over whether the couple had received permission for the stunt (from someone not authorized to grant it)—an Ethics Alarms principle holds that all public wedding proposals are stunts, and unethical ones—but the intervening Disney employee was undoubtedly correct that the couple and the witnesses were breaking park rules.

So your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Was it unethical to break up the proposal?

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, you can’t just let park visitors go anywhere they please, and the employee was acting in accordance with park rules. On the other hand…Awwww! It was a proposal, and he spoiled the moment!

Naturally everyone on social media is beating up on Disney—gee, I wonder if the same thing would have happened if it was a gay couple. But the pair put the employees in a no-win situation, and that was unethical on their part.

The move to clear them off the stage wasn’t wrong, but it was dumb. Disney needs all the good publicity it can get right now, and it should have been foreseen that this would not go over well with the social media mob—and it didn’t.  Disney quickly offered a public mea culpa, saying,

We regret how this was handled. We have apologized to the couple involved and offered to make it right.

I don’t think the company had another choice, but if that employee is disciplined in any way, I hope he sues.

19 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Interrupted Marriage Proposal

  1. Could have been handled better. Tapping the proposer on the shoulder and saying, “sorry, you can’t do this here,” would be one thing. Running between them and snatching the ring smacks of, “hey, look what I did!” Just for the record, I don’t like proposal stunts, or proposals generally, which always smack of self-importance. Sometimes I think the Quakers, who have little formal ceremony at all, got it right when it came to marriage.

    • Also, that employee is rocking an awfully superior attitude and body language for an adult man wearing Mickey Mouse ears…

      He’s lucky that was in Paris. The same smug dickishness while snatching an expensive ring from someone’s hand would have a much higher likelihood of sparking an ass-kicking in Orlando or Anaheim.

  2. I think he crossed the line when he took the ring. If he just shooed them off the stage, that is one thing. Taking people’s property (especially something that can be as expensive as an engagement ring) is asking for trouble and possibly illegal. Can companies just snatch the belongings from people if they break the rules (‘This line is for 9 items or less, I am taking your credit card’)?

  3. I have been proposed to a few times but never with a castle in the background.
    I am with Jeff on the punk’s “smug dickishness” and in place of a well deserved ass-whooping I would press Disney to pay for the wedding, or else…
    Disney is still vulnerable; make them pay because that twirp most certainly represents the people running Disney these days. Think of it as well deserved righteous punishment for being who they are.

  4. Ok taking the ring went WAYYYYY too far.

    That’s ridiculous.

    If they had permission, they weren’t doing anything wrong.

    I don’t get why people think proposals are stunts and selfish.

    Commuting ones life to someone FOREVER is a big deal and used to be a cultural celebration at the top of most culture’s lists.

    Of course being a woman I probably lean towards the romance of it all, but showy doesn’t mean classy or meaningful either.

    I’ve seen some that have made me cringe but the bride weep, so who am I to say?

    I’m not sure if it was unethical to break it up if they were in a forbidden area.

    A proposal doesn’tmean free reign of private areas AND, if they did get permission, the cast member who broke it up may not have had time to co firm that so to me he should err on the side of the couple.

    It’s not like they were having the ceremony there. Plus a proposal usually takes a few minutes so yeah, it was poor judgement and perhaps unethical because he ASSUMED they did not have o permission.

    Any yeah taking the ring was a total dick move.

    Hopefully Disney offered to do some things special to make up for it like free premium annual passesAND a honeymoon on a cheesy Disney cruise.

    Both would cost them NOTHING and they not be able to pay for publicity that good.

    And you are so right, they NEED IT.

    Badly!

  5. Unethical to propose in public and in front of third parties. The proposee needs to be able to decline with impunity. Proposals should be intimate.

  6. Legal Question:
    As this incident took place in Paris, where the rule of law is based on the Napoleonic Code (I think I got that right ?), what kind of (French) legal action ought the proposer expect (for apparent trespass) as well as the cast member (for swiping a presumably expensive ring)? Under the French legal system, would Disney Paris have any liability?

    My inquiring mind would like to see a discussion among the Commentariat.

    Thanks,

    MB

    • The whole thing took place on private property, so none of it is really a criminal matter. The civil/Napoleonic law principles are not significantly different than a common law jurisdiction. Criminally, both system require there to be a law broken, with sufficient men res to satisfy the conditions of the law. Civilly, France would require a law to define the available torts, as common law torts would not be available. However, the incident here is too de minimus for any civil or criminal penalties. At worst, the guests could be expelled from the park (which would not involve civil authorities), and that does not even appear to be the case here; they were merely asked to leave the stage!

      The park could expel the guests for violating the park rules, and then attempted reentry would be trespass; but climbing on a stage in an otherwise unrestricted area is not a criminal matter. Further, getting permission, even improper permission, would destroy any criminal case.

      Similarly, a landowner temporarily confiscating a guest’s property for a rules violation is not a criminal matter; for instance, if security took a flask while escorting a violator out of the park. There would be no crime, nor civil tort, if the flask were returned after they left the premises.

  7. Gay or not has NOTHING to do w/ this. My gay friends are having fits over this. That cast member is a “mean twinkie” & everyone knows it. FURTHERMORE, the man DID ask for permission from another cast member & was given that permission. I hope the cast member DOES suffer some consequences; otherwise he will do it again.

    • If that space was off-limits for guests, there was nothing inappropriate about enforcing the rules, though I accept the argument that the kind thing—Golden Rule—would have been to let it go. I didn’t say the episode had anything to do with gays. I did say that I wonder, given Disney’s well-publicized LGBTQ obsession, if the handling of a gay couple would have been the same.

      Personally, I doubt it.

      • I don’t know about that last part. The apparent glee and gusto with which the guy interrupted and ejected them from the stage signals to me that he’s the kind of guy who lives to enforce petty rules. My guess is that officious little twerp would have done the same thing to a gay couple or anyone else on that stage for any reason.

        • The difference would be, had it been a gay couple, the Disney execs would be mewling and groveling more after the fact.

        • In my experience, Disney security play a character just like any other “imagineer” in the cast. My ex-wife led the family under a rope for an area reserved for on site hotel guests and was escorted back with the gusto by the most jubilous authority ever.

          There’s very little wiggle room with the rules, see for example a female guest inspecting the chest of Gaston in another recent viral video.

          Letting this fly isn’t anything good for PR, it’d only be seen by dozens, and would inspire copycats. I seriously doubt permission was granted, quite sure that’s dust being thrown in the air by the proposer to save face.

  8. “But the pair put the employees in a no-win situation, and that was unethical on their part.”

    Hard disagree. The pair did no such thing. The pair asked for permission, and was given it by someone who they thought had the authority to give it. What were they supposed to do? Continue asking Disney employees for permission until they asked the right one and their 5G connection told them so? I’m not sure whether the couple received “appropriate” permission or not, but if there’s a villain in the case that their permission was not appropriate, it was whoever gave them the nod. THAT person put the other employee in a rough situation.

    Let’s assume a couple of things. Let’s assume that the couple did not have permission, even if they thought they did. Let’s assume that it was that employee’s job to enforce crowd control on that stage. Disney employees are trained to the max, and Disney is notoriously strict at enforcing policy. People cannot come to work in uniform. They can not be partially uniformed. They cannot chew gum or consume food while on duty. They cannot smoke. I want to juxtapose that with both the way this was done and the urgency with which it was done. Fella ran across a stage to interrupt that proposal with as much motivation as your average parent has while attempting to rescue their child from a rolling car. I am willing to bet not insignificant sums of money and give you odds that “proposal breaking” by “grand theft ring” was not in the employee manual…. Because if it was, this would not have been the first time something like this went viral. I’m just saying.

    • I guess I’ve seen the fake permission ploy in action too many times. It sounds to me like the guy asked an obvious underling whom he knew (or should have known) had no authority to grant permission so he would have a plausible defense if challenged. The woman he asked didn’t have the guts to say, “Don’t ask me! I don’t make the rules.” This is how the bold and shameless crash parties and sneak into events without tickets, too. I remain torn about whether the kind and ethical thing was to just look the other way, but not because they had “permission.”

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