“Titanic” is Cheesy
Since the pandemic started, I’ve been watching movies much more often than I used to. A few days ago, I finally got around to watching the famous Titanic.
Titanic was directed by James Cameron and came out in 1997. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack and Kate Winslet as Rose. The movie combines a historical tragedy with a fictional love story. It tells the story of Jack, a poor 20-year-old artist, and Rose, a wealthy but unfulfilled 17-year-old girl, as they travel on the doomed Titanic in 1912. Rose has been forced into an engagement to Cal, a snobbish rich young man whom she resents. Over the course of the film, Jack and Rose fall in love with each other and begin a passionate love affair, even while the villainous Cal tries to stop them. But then the ship hits the iceberg, and they are all in grave danger. In the end, Jack and Rose can only survive by floating on a wooden board. But the board is only big enough for one person, and Jack valiantly chooses to die so that Rose can live.
Titanic is one of the most celebrated and successful movies ever made. It broke the record for the highest-grossing film ever made, and it remains one of the top five most financially successful films of all time. It won a whopping eleven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, tying the record for most Oscars won by a single film.
The film also has a reputation for making people cry, because it is (supposedly) so beautiful and sad. And I had heard numerous references to the movie in pop culture long before I actually got around to watching it.
Given the film’s reputation, I was expecting that I would enjoy it. I didn’t expect it to be the greatest movie ever made, or anything like that, but I did expect that I would like it. But I didn’t. In fact, I couldn’t stand it. I found the movie to be so cringeworthy that I felt compelled to write this little blog post about it.
I disliked Titanic for two reasons: 1. I was annoyed by the fact that every character is either good or bad, with nothing in between, and 2. I don’t like the trope of the romantic young hero who sacrifices his life to save the love of his life (whom he met less than a week earlier, LOL).
Every character in Titanic is either good or bad, with nothing in between. Jack and Rose are the two main good guys, and Cal is the main bad guy. But it doesn’t stop there: even the minor characters are divided into good and bad. All of the rich characters except Rose and Molly are bad. Ruth is bad. Lovejoy is bad. Molly is good. All of Jack’s poor friends are good. Among the crew, Thomas Andrews is good, while J. Bruce Ismay is bad. Such subtlety.
In real life, of course, most people are somewhere in between good and bad. For example, if I look at my own life, am I a good guy or a bad guy? Well, I’m somewhere in between. I have done some things that were right and some things that were wrong. But after most of the bad things that I’ve done, I eventually realized that they were wrong, and I apologized for them, and I was forgiven. That’s the saving grace of life.
But in Titanic, there is no such saving grace. All the characters are either good or bad. The good characters do only good things, and the bad characters do only bad things.
In particular, I was bothered by how the character of Cal goes to such drastic lengths to get revenge on Jack, especially when he tries to murder Jack. But of course: Cal is the villain, so he has to do everything that a stereotypical villain does. Titanic is a very primitive movie, because its characters are so one-dimensional.
(By the way, it’s amazing how in movies, when the villain shoots the hero, the bullets always miraculously miss. I guess heroes are just so good that they grow force fields that deflect bullets.)
Titanic also involves a trope that I find irritating: the noble, romantic young hero who sacrifices his life to save his beautiful young love.
Titanic’s usage of this trope is all the more unrealistic, because Jack and Rose had only met each other four days earlier. After knowing her for only four days, Jack gladly welcomes death for Rose’s sake. That’s not even healthy.
The most cringeworthy line in the movie comes at the very end, when Jack is hanging on to the board, knowing that he will soon die but feeling nothing but ecstatic love for Rose. In his final moments, Jack declares, “Winning that ticket*, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me. It brought me to you, and I’m thankful for that, Rose, I’m thankful.” He goes on to beseech Rose to never give up in life and to be happy.
*(meaning, the ticket to board the Titanic, which Jack had won in a poker game)
Take a step back and think about what Jack said. He essentially said, “I welcome death, because I would rather die young and tragically than to have never met you.” That’s awful. That’s an awful sentiment. That would be like if a passenger on one of the airplanes on 9/11 declared, “Boarding this plane was the best thing that ever happened to me,” right before it crashed.
No one should ever welcome a premature death, for any reason. In fact, it reminds me of an old quote: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” (I’m getting this quote from The Catcher in the Rye. I generally don’t like that book, but I do like that quote.)
If you are so madly in love that you would prefer a premature death over never having met, then that means you’re immature. A mature person might be willing to die for his lover if necessary, but he would not desire it.
In real life, people love each other as humans, not as noble heroes who sacrifice their lives. For example, consider my parents. My parents have been happily married for thirty years. They love each other. But neither of them has ever risked their life to save the other. Neither of them has ever slain a dragon on behalf of the other. Neither of them has ever had to fight off an evil villain in order to defend their love. And they don’t need to, because this is real life, not some corny movie. They love each other not as valiant, self-sacrificial heroes, but as real people. And that’s the way it should be.
In real life, you don’t have to sacrifice your life to save your love. You just have to accept them and love them for the flawed human being that they are, just as they accept and love you for the flawed human being that you are.
In conclusion, Titanic is a cheesy, melodramatic movie. All the characters are one-dimensional, and it presents an unrealistic portrayal of love, in which the hero welcomes death in order to save his love. That’s not how it works in the real world.