I saw Titanic in 3-D with a friend last week. More specifically, we saw Titanic in 3-D on the 100th anniversary of the ship sinking. I wish I could say that we were big enough nerds that we planned this ahead of time, but sadly, it was a coincidence that we discovered after we picked a date.
The 3-D was very well done and enhanced the viewing experience of the film. The sequences of the ship sinking were even more effective than they were the first time around, and at one point I almost leaped out of my seat when it felt like the ship’s furniture was floating towards me. And of course, I cried when the band played “Nearer My God to Thee” over the sequence of the elderly couple, the mom and children, Guggenheim, Victor Garber, and King Theoden preparing to die – my favorite part of the movie by far.
Of course, the movie is not without its flaws. The dialogue is bad, and Billy Zane is terrible, and some of the movie is way too sentimental. I had all of these criticisms when I first saw Titanic as a thirteen-year-old. In fact, I was one of those insufferable snots who loudly talked about how much I HATED that movie, because I thought I was so above liking anything that was commercially popular. (I was a lonely child.)
Eventually, I grew out of that junior hipster phase and admitted that I liked Titanic and not only because Kate Winslet is so beautiful in that movie that I can hardly stand it and I want her hair and all of her dresses! (The flying dress is my favorite, though the jump dress is a very close second.) But as an adult who writes about feminism and social justice issues, I was struck by two cringe-worthy scenes that didn’t cross my mind as a thirteen-year-old.
First, there is a scene where Rose boards the Titanic with her mother and her Cartoon Villain fiance. Old Rose narrates:
“It was the ship of dreams to everyone else. To me it was a slave ship, taking me back to America in chains. Outwardly, I was everything a well brought up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming.”
When watching this scene, my friend and I both cringed and had to stifle awkward, disbelieving laughter. We’ve joked about Rose’s White Girl Problems before, but for some reason, this particular line had never stuck out to me. This time? It was all I could do to not send James Cameron a card with this quote on it and a hand-written “Are you kidding me? Sincerely, Lady T.”
I don’t want to minimize how stifling and horrible it can be for a woman to have to marry an abusive man. Even rich women in the early twentieth century didn’t have a wealth of options for their lives. But to compare it to a slave ship? A SLAVE SHIP? Coming back to America in chains?! Old Rose, you know who was actually brought to America in a slave ship?Slaves.
The other problematic aspect I want to address has to do with David Warner’s character. David Warner plays Billy Zane’s right-hand man who follows Rose around. As written, His character is as much of a Cartoon Villain as Zane’s, except he’s a much better actor and comes across as more genuinely threatening than cartoonish. (On a side note, I’ve always wondered where I’ve seen David Warner before, and I finally looked it up and saw that he was Lysander in this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream!)
Anyway, his character is wholly irredeemable. He’s mean to Rose and helps frame Jack. But don’t worry – he gets his just desserts. When the ship splits down the middle, he falls into the cracks between the two halves of the ship and is electrocuted to death! Yay!
Maybe it’s just me, but I find it wildly inappropriate to create a scene where you’re supposed to cheer for a villain’s death in a film that depicts a real-life tragedy that ended the lives of fifteen hundred people.