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I remember back in 1997 when I’d seen James Cameron's Titanic in theaters; not once, but twice. Even before writing this, I found myself asking, Why? Why would a ten-year old want to see historical fiction told through a three-hour love story? I'll get to the answer later, but trust me, it's nothing shocking.
After the first viewing, other than hearing "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion at least twice a day on the bus to and from school, I didn't have a problem with the movie. By the way, Dion still sings this song at her shows claiming when writing, it reminds her of a time she loves to relive. Yeah, I bet. Considering, it was written by Will Jennings, and had initially been turned down by Dion. I would love reliving a time when I made $19 million for singing someone else's song. Nevertheless, I don't know anyone else who could've belted out those key changes, besides Whitney Houston.
Anyway, I'd thought it a decent enough movie; that is, until the second viewing. It must have been a result of hearing that damn song so much, I walked into the theater for a second viewing with annoyance and negativity. The only reason I agreed to go was for one scene—more on that later.
At ten years old, not only could I see the clear separation of the upper and lower classes, but how little the upper cared for those of the lower. Billy Zane, who plays Kate Winslet, or Rose's, fiancé, is a perfect embodiment of the egocentric, cowardly upper class. I also couldn't figure out why Rose promises Jack, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, that she will never let go, as she let's go of him.
Over twenty years later, and after becoming aware of myself and the things around me, such as the many ideologies we just can't seem to escape, I now love the film. Being able to see beyond the love story and the rising tension of an imminent threat, I'm able to answer my own questions and have a new appreciation for a film I saw a second time only to see Kate Winslet's wonderful pair on a big screen.
Titanic is a perfect example of how the upper class reaches down to the lower for stolen vitality, how fake our ideology of eternal love is and how it works, and how what appears to be a tragic catastrophe is actually something else entirely.
Rose, a young woman feels lost within her world of upper class. With an arrangement to marry the asshole played by Zane and nobody who seems to understand her predicament, she suffers a loss of who she is, resulting in a shattered ego. Until, she discovers the vitality she's unwittingly missing in an artistic nobody from the bottom of the barrel, Jack.
The shattered ego within Rose is temporarily fixed by Jack's free spirit. Her self-image is even drawn by Jack before they express their lust for each other in sexy time. This affair is fine, so long as it stays on the ship. The next scene when both are together on the deck and Rose states that she will run away with Jack when the ship docks is where we have a problem.
Both even agree how crazy the idea is of them staying together. And I believe the audience knows too. We know whatever they'd felt for each other would eventually fade away after a week or two of great sex in New York. Then what? This would have been the real tragedy. Thank God for an iceberg to save them—and us—from that pain.
What appears to be a tragic catastrophe and deterrent of the love story, is actually the savior that sheds light on how evil and selfish the upper class can be when shit hits the fan and keeps us from the pain of realizing the ideological belief of eternal love. But it's near the very end of the film where the idea of the stolen life force from the lower class becomes apparent.
With frozen bodies floating around the dark and frigid water, Rose holds onto Jack and promised that she will never let go. Until, she see's that he is dead and pushes him away while still stating, "I'll never let go." When the rich lose their sense of self, like vampires they will suck the life energy out of those of the lower class.
Of course Céline Dion's heart will go on, she's definitely rose out of the poor after this film.
*Dedicated to none other than S. Žižek.
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