A Sterotype of Titanic Proportions…

I rewatched Titanic recently, and realised just how much my romantic notions have developed, because once upon a time I considered this to be the epitome of romance, and now I’m walking away in disgust”¦

You have Rose (Kate Winslet) a beautiful young woman engaged to an absolute jerk Caledon (Billy Zane) for his money – theirs has all dried up, according to her mother Ruth (Frances Fisher, in about the best performance this movie has to offer). She ends up falling for a poor immigrant Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and embracing a freer life at his proddings. She spits off the ship, she makes love, she does all sorts of things a good turn-of-the-century girl doesn’t do.

At the time (I was in my early teens) I thought this was highly romantic, and feministic, to boot. But watching it again, I’m insulted. Rose, in a nutshell, jumps from one man to another. Jack encourages her to “˜be herself’. As an old woman she says of him “˜he saved me in every way a girl can be saved. I interpreted this as “˜I was too preoccupied with status and money that I needed a man to come and make me see reason’.

So what it really amounts to, for me, is that she hated her life, but was scared of falling on her ass, so waited for ANOTHER MAN to come along and say “˜Ill catch you’.

Personally, I’d rather a woman who fell on her ass/face, got back up, bruises and all, gave herself a dusting-off, and kept on moving”¦


  1. Lavode says

    I’ve heard James Cameron described as a feminist because many of his works feature “strong women”, it’s just that those strong women often need a male character to show them how to survive. (Terminator, Aliens, Titanic, arguably Terminator 2 and Dark Angel…)

  2. says

    Very true, Lavode. In fact, I’d never though of it this way until you said that, but Alien differed from Aliens in exactly that way: in Ridley Scott’s first movie, I didn’t see any of the male characters as helping Ridley survive. But in the second one, James Cameron coughs up Kyle Reese the Second and even casts him with the same guy.

  3. scarlett says

    The difference I see between Terminator and Titanic is that Sarah is a hell of a lot more proactive than Rose, epecially when you get into the second movie. I never got the feeling Rose was capable of looking after herself the way Sarah was; sure she TOLD us how he ‘saved’ her and WE SAW THROUGH PHOTOS all she did after him, but I never FELT it the way I felt Sarah wielding a gun and inspiring her son.
    I never saw Dark Angel, but I’ve been told that – that it’s another example of Cameron writing a great female lead but undermining her by having a man show her how to be a leader.

  4. says

    Now wait a second.

    Imagine the same story with homosexuals.

    I mean, I still don’t see this as “needed another man” in quite the way you’re seeing it.

    I see it as the story of someone who wasn’t quite as gutsy as your preferred heroine but who is actually much like most of us in this world.

    Most of us do learn life lessons we just weren’t getting on our own by bonding extremely closely with someone who’s already learned them. We acquire tastes for things that we end up never giving up (like risking falling on one’s ass!) while we have the safety net of someone whom we love loving us quite often in life.

    Okay, it’s not an extraordinary story, but it’s not an extraordinary stereotype, either.

    It’s just…a heterosexual-romantic play on what happens to most people at various turns in life! (Sometimes through best-friendship, sometimes through family, sometimes through romance.)

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