Titanic: the love story that isn’t lovely nor a good story

A prompt from reader, Rachel A

For those born in the ‘90s, there is a movie that each of us have had the misfortune of seeing.  Whether it be with the significant other you’re trying to charm or a friend that promised you this was one of “the movies of our generation,” there was no escaping James Cameron’s Titanic.  While this is a semi-universal experience for people in my age-group, it was especially hard on those of us who were trying to impress girls with our apparent sensitivity in the 2000’s.  On top of everything I hated about this movie, the worst part was that I seemed to be alone in my disdain.

Nearly everyone I’ve asked (to this day) wants to argue that Titanic is somehow a love story for the ages and Jack and Rose were the star-crossed lovers unseen since Romeo and Juliet (another overhyped failed attempt at romance).  I hate to break it to everyone, but they’re wrong and not only is Titanic a bad movie, it’s a bad story written by a bad director.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s break it down.

Length

This is a point even diehard fans will concede.  At 3 hours and 14 minutes, Titanic will stretch a charming movie night into a fight for consciousness.  Time and again, I look back at the myriad times a well-meaning woman tricked me into watching this marathon movie only to shocked back to reality by how long it’s taking.  And while the imposing runtime is a travesty all its own, the pacing is the real killer.  After an entire hour and a half, you see the ship finally collide with the comically large iceberg and you think “oh my god, it’s almost over that was way longer than I remember.”  That thought exists in your mind just long enough for you to check the red bar on the bottom of the screen and realize you just hit the half-way point.

That devastating realization is compounded, if you’re still back in the ‘90s-early 2000’s, when you have to replace the VHS tape.  If you’re under the age of 20, a VHS tape was a box the size of a small package that held the movie inside on a special tape and if you were lucky, the cassette would be a wacky color like orange.  Titanic’s VHS tapes were decidedly not wacky, nor were they orange.

Rose is a terrible protagonist

Kate Winslet is a national treasure, but her character, Rose, was a horrible person and didn’t deserve her proletariat boyfriend, Leonardo DiCaprio.  We meet Rose as she woefully takes part in the lavish trappings of her class until she can’t take it anymore and decides to commit suicide rather than simply breaking off the engagement.  Will the film ever discuss the mental health implications of a suicide attempt?  Of course not, because all the characters already know that Rose isn’t a person of reason and it might’ve just been a plan to flirt with the hot poor kid all along.

“Present day” Rose is no better either.  After scientists/treasure hunters personally fly her to the boat (these were the days before Zoom), she refuses to help them until after they hear her long story about the one interesting time of her life. 

Sidenote: do you think she told them about the sex scene or was that just for us viewers?

Give it to the people who listened to your long-ass story!

They listen to her meandering story, which takes over 3 hours movie-time to tell, so god knows how long it took her to break it down word for word, she tells them she doesn’t even have the “Heart of the Ocean” jewel that they specifically asked her for before she got on the helicopter. To top it all off, she actually does have the necklace (or whatever piece of jewelry) and instead of giving it to the nice scientists, she throws it overboard so they can maybe find it in the months to come.

It isn’t even a good love story

The refrain I hear from Titanic-apologists is always “but it’s so cute, Jack and Rose are the perfect couple,” but they really aren’t.  Again, Jack is just a poor kid with a hint of charm and a dash of artistic talent that Rose hooks up with once on a boat before she lets him drown.  They never make plans to run away together after they dock.  She never asks him to be a part of the higher society she can’t seem to escape (unless she commits suicide of course).  He never says anything they doesn’t boil down to “hey let’s have a fling on this long boat ride.”  There is never a hint of a relationship that was built to last, it’s almost as if the characters themselves read the end of the script.

Even within the confines of the movie, we see that Rose married someone from the bourgeoisie and stayed married to him longer than she was alive when she met Leonardo DiCaprio.  And after she dies (not by suicide), she doesn’t see the love of her life for the last several decades, instead we see the teenager she hooked up with in the back of a car hours before it was on the bottom of the ocean.  This says more about James Cameron’s view of the afterlife than it does about the movie, but it’s still insane and ruins an already shaky love story.


But, like professional football, even though it hurts your head and takes years off your life, this movie isn’t all bad.

It doesn’t need to be said why most of us tuned into this movie for the first time, but I’ll say it anyway: we wanted to see Kate Winslet’s boobs.  “Draw me like one your French girls” isn’t a brilliant writer’s flourish nor is it particularly sexy, but we all remember it because it’s the cue that the real reason we put this movie on is about to start.  As much as I’d love to wax poetic about Kate Winslet’s chest, I think I’ll take a page from James Cameron’s book and acknowledge they they’re in the movie, they are nice, and move on.

The only other thing of note in this film is the admittedly brilliant sequence where the band plays themselves off (the boat).  “Gentlemen, is has been a privilege to play with you tonight” is an excellent parting line by the band director as they start their swan song and attempt to finish even as they’re falling overboard.  If the movie would have ended there and spared us the following half hour, maybe Titanic would’ve gone the way of Avatar and out of our collective consciousness.

So, next time you’re trying to spice up your movie night with that special someone, remember: Titanic is way longer than you think it is and Crazy Stupid Love is still out there waiting to be you and your partner’s new favorite romcom.

5 thoughts on “Titanic: the love story that isn’t lovely nor a good story”

  1. We watched this movie in 8th grade and during the scene where people are throwing themselves off the boat and one guy hits the propeller and starts spinning, all the boys in my class started cracking up while the girls were crying. Therefore, Titanic will always have a soft spot in my heart.

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