It’s time for another installment of Victorian Snark Theatre 3000! And this time we’ll be discussing Titanic (1997). As you guys know, I watch a lot of shitty long nineteenth century-inspired films with my good friend @VictorianMasculinity (whose blog can be found here) and we decided to turn them into blog posts.
Previous posts on VST3K include:
–Vanity Fair (2004)
–The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
–The Raven (2012)
Our reason for picking this film is two-fold: 1.) This is the 105th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, so the timing is appropriate. 2.) Our good friend and colleague, Dr Douglas Small, rather stupidly revealed to us that he’s managed to avoid this film for 20 years.
WELL, YOU CAN’T AVOID IT ANY LONGER, FUCKO
SNARK-BERG, RIGHT AHEAD!
Also, I changed the lyrics to the Gilligan’s Island theme song in an attempt to lure him into 3 hours and 15 minutes of glossy, Celine Dion-scored nautical porn about class warfare:
♫ Just sit right back you’ll hear a tale–a tale of a fateful trip–that started from this British port, aboard this huge-ass ship ♫
♫ Jack Dawson was a baby face ♫
♫ The captain brave and sure ♫
♫ 2,224 passengers set sail that, for a three-day tour (a three day tour). ♫
♫ Some rich dudes said, “Let’s speed her up, we’ll totally make bank” ♫
♫ And despite the courage of the fearless crew, the Titanic fucking sank (the Titanic fucking sank). ♫
♫ The ship’s aground on the seabed floor and Bill Paxton is obsessed ♫
♫ With Jack Dawson ♫
♫ The captain, too. ♫
♫ The millionaire and his wife* ♫
(*in practice if not by law)
♫ That Ismay shit ♫
♫ The ship-builder and Molly Brown! ♫
♫ Here . . . at the bottom . . . of the fucking Atlantic!!!!! ♫
Unsurprisingly, my re-imagined theme song did very little to reassure Douglas, so we just strapped him to a chair and hit play.
WARNING FOR SPOILERS (obviously), MILD NUDITY, AND EXCESSIVE SWEARING
(I would also like to say that I really, really like Titanic and saw it 5 times in theatres when it came out. This is a good-natured ribbing, not a criticism of the film.)
We open with old-timey footage of people waving at the Titanic before its maiden voyage, before we’re instantly plunged to an image of the ship wrecked at the bottom of the ocean.
VictorianMasculinity: I don’t know about you, but it’s no Mary Rose, is it?”
Jesus, film, way to spoil your plot in the first five seconds. This is all to the sound of someone crooning Irishly.
Douglas: If a vagina had a noise, it would be these opening credits–sad, dangerous, and yet vaguely comforting.
And then we get this, because James Cameron was clearly not done with sci-fi:
Douglas: Is this when the aliens show up?
But these are not alien spaceships, oh no, indeed! They are ultra high-tech submarine thingums, and they are full of TREASURE HUNTERS, and they are led by Bill Paxton and his douchebag earring.
He starts filming himself and talking poetic nonsense about the Titanic–sad ruin, ghost ship, emotions emotions, whatever. Bill Paxton is clearly the stand-in for James Cameron, and I know of nothing that channels James Cameron’s directorial wankery more effectively than this scene.
After what feels like an eternity, Bill Paxton turns the camera off and says, “Enough of that bullshit.”
Douglas: Hey, you said it, not me.
The submarine thingums float creepily over the ship’s prow and lurk through all the staterooms.
We are treated to shots of human ephemera: a shoe, a pair of glasses, and this creepy doll face, which shows us that children died here.
VictorianMasculinity: Because a shot of a teddy bear on fire would be too subtle. And he probably already did that in The Terminator.
We finally get to the stateroom that belonged to some dude named Hockley:
Douglas: Ooh! Is that a hagfish?
VictorianMasculinity: That’s the most excited you’ve sounded about this film so far.
Douglas: *dignified* I happen to like deep sea fauna. Oooh, look, there’s a crab!
But the treasure hunters are excited about things other than crabs. Namely, they have found a safe.
Douglas: Lewis is already my favorite character. I want him to steal all the money and get away with it. Like Wild Things.
They bring the safe up from the briny depths and everyone celebrates because WE HAVE FOUND TREASURE
AND ALSO THE SOUNDTRACK
First catch of the day, and it’s a doozy!
They break out the power saw and slice into that sucker without wasting any time, while Lewis kisses people and pours champagne on them.
Unfortunately, Bill Paxton only finds sludgy paper inside. His earring starts crying.
They manage to salvage one of the papers in the safe and see 1.) some mild porn, and 2.) a clue! The chick in the drawing is wearing this famous diamond necklace they’re searching for!
Douglas: I thought Leo was supposed to paint her like a French girl? That quote is from this movie, right? But that’s just a drawing. Cheap bastard.
A little old lady turns on the news and sees a report on the Titanic treasure hunters, who have found this drawing.
She says, “I’ll be goddamned.”
VictorianMasculinity: *deadpan* And she was.
Also, I’m 90% sure that Betty White was sitting there in 1997 taking notes: “People love it when old ladies swear. I’m going to ride this until the fucking wheels fall off.”
Also also, I really like that her earrings are the exact same shape and size as the diamond. Nice visual cue to indicate that this old lady is the young woman in the picture.
But Old Lady must have serious wealth or connections or something, because she has Bill Paxton on the phone at sea on his Russian freighter within, like, 5 minutes.
She’s like, “Hey, buddy. I know that diamond. I know the name of it. Which you haven’t released to the press.”
Bill Paxton gets all bug-eyed and says, “You have my attention, Rose”.
Uhh, that’s “Mrs. Calvert” to you, asshole.
(OMG HER MARRIED LAST NAME STARTS WITH “CAL”! She can’t escape!–but we’ll get to this later.)
Rose says that she’s the woman in the drawing, so Bill Paxton flies her out there immediately. She shows up with literally every possession in her house, including her goddamned goldfish:
But I suppose if you’re 100 years old and could die at any minute, you probably want all your stuff with you. Like the ancient Egyptians.
Lewis is really unhappy with this turn of events. He says that Old Lady is probably a liar seeking publicity–she worked as an actress in the 1920s under the name “Rose Dawson”–and the woman she’s claiming to be, Rose DeWitt Bukater, died on the Titanic when she was 17. No way it’s the same woman.
Bill Paxton says that every single person who knew about the diamond should be dead, but she somehow knows about it. Brain cells, Lewis. Get some.
Continuing to fulfill his James Cameron stand-in role, Bill Paxton pervs on Rose’s granddaughter, Lizzie; the actress who played Lizzie ended up having an affair with James Cameron when they were making Titanic. He eventually left his wife for her and James Cameron and Lizzie are still married to this day.
Bill Paxton gets Old Rose all comfortable in her room on their freighter and asks if there’s anything he can get her, or if there’s anything she’d like.
Douglas: “Yes! I’d like you got get a haircut, ya beatnik.”
Old Rose would like to see her drawing.
Bill Paxton then lectures them all about the history of the diamond. It belonged to Louis XVI and was recut after he was executed, only to disappear for years thereafter, at which point it (with thematic appropriateness for the film) was called “The Heart of the Ocean”.
VictorianMasculinity: Thank you, Exposition Barry.
Rose is like, “Yeah, my asshole fiance named Cal Hockley bought me that ugly, heavy fucker as an engagement present.”
Rose’s granddaughter, Lizzie, doubts that the woman in the drawing is her grandmother, because maybe grandma’s gone a little scatty, and also grandmothers can never be sexy! Except ROSE VERY CLEARLY HAS PHOTOGRAPHS OF HERSELF AS A YOUNG WOMAN, WHICH OBVIOUSLY MATCH THE WOMAN IN THE DRAWING.
Lizzie, you’re just an ageist shit.
Rose looks at some of her old stuff recovered from the ship, including this shattered-ass old mirror.
Rose: It looks the same as it did the last time I saw it!
Me: Except for the kelp and the shattering?
Douglas: Nah, barnacles were big in 1912.
Rose gets a bit emotional over her old things, so the treasure hunters decide to cheer her up by showing her some CGI of the Titanic sinking, while Lewis narrates the Michael Bay version with EXPLOSIONS AND CRASHES AND FIRES AND GUNSHOTS.
VictorianMasculinity: Jesus, dude, take a sensitivity training workshop! PTSD is a thing.
Douglas: Hey, she’s 100. If she hasn’t dealt with it by now, she’s not going to.
Rose is like, “Yeah, the reality was far more harrowing. Allow me to tell you the REAL STORY”, and suddenly we’re plunged down memory lane, which has never been so shiny. Or loud.
Rose: Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams.
VictorianMasculinity: By whom? Citation needed.
The rich people caravan arrives:
And we are introduced to Young Rose, who is FUCKING FABULOUS.
I am convinced this film won all those Oscars purely on the strength of this outfit. We could stop the movie here, and I would be satisfied.
We are also introduced to Rose’s sour-faced mother, Ruth:
and Rose’s fiance, Cal, who is young, extremely attractive, and a millionaire many, many times over.
He’s also an entitled, arrogant prick.
♫ AS A SPECIMEN, YES, I’M INTIMIDAAAATING ♫
And finally, we get a brief shot of Cal’s number one goon, Lovejoy (who’s got a face like a slapped ass), and Rose’s maid, Trudy.
They all stop to marvel at the ship for a moment, but Rose is a sulky teenager who is unimpressed by anything.
Cal throws out the world’s stupidest challenge–“God himself cannot sink this ship!“–and, presumably an iceberg in the mid-Atlantic hears this and cracks its knuckles menacingly, because everyone knows that icebergs fucking hate hubris.
Old Rose: It was the Ship of Dreams to everyone else. To me, it was a slave ship taking me back to America in chains.
Actual Slaves Everywhere: uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
In short, Rose was as sad as her hat was huge.
MEANWHILE, ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS
We are introduced to our plucky young hero, Jack Dawson, who is playing poker with his Italian friend, Fabrizio, and two Swedish dudes who have bet their tickets on Titanic. It’s Poker: the UN edition.
Fabrizio’s pissed because Jack bet everything they have. Jack responds with, “When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.”
VictorianMasculinity: Look, if you’re in a poker game, you can’t have “nothing”. You’ve misunderstood the basics of poker.
Jack, of course, wins the poker game and he and Fabrizio frolic to the Titanic, where they use Anglo-centric nationalism to skip the health inspection. “We don’t have any lice. We’re Americans.”
And so Titanic sets sail.
Jack and Fabrizio find their way to their bunk in steerage, where they tickle and wrestle each other playfully on a bed in front of some tall blonde dudes who are sharing their room.
Douglas: Just to be clear, he’s banging Fabrizio, right?
While all the poor people are engaged in homoerotic horseplay or are up on deck waving and being generally vulgar, Rose and Cal bask in their wealth.
Steward: Can I get you anything else, sir?
Douglas: Get a poor person to lick my shoe!
Cal and Rose have clearly just gone on a massive shopping spree in Paris and, in addition to her bomb-ass giant hat, have picked up a ton of modern art.
Rose is all like, “My sensibility is so modern. Like in that other film I was in. Sense and Sensibility.” Cal is all like, “Who’s that finger-painter? Something Picasso? What a talentless slob!”
THIS IS HOW WE ESTABLISH THAT THEY ARE A POORLY MATCHED COUPLE
Old Rose narrates that when the ship docked at Cherbourg, a positively vulgar woman named Molly Brown boarded the ship.
She speaks in a southern twang, wears a ridiculous feather hat, and carries her own Louis Vuitton. She’s tacky and loud and “new money”, and I love her.
We are then introduced to the ship’s captain who–like the ornery police chief destined to get shot in every buddy-cop movie–is only three days from retirement.
Captain: Let’s stretch her legs.
Douglas: . . . you . . . you know she’s a boat, right, Captain?
There is plenty of piston, cog, lever, and gauge porn, which all indicate that Titanic Goes Fast.
Jack and Fabrizio go up to the ship’s bow and gawk like they’ve never been on a fast thing before which, in fairness, they probably haven’t.
Douglas: Oooh! Dolphins!
Jack starts whoopin’ and hollerin’ and acting himself a damn fool.
VictorianMasculinity: This is why we don’t let the riffraff up from steerage.
The music is relentlessly optimistic to lull us into a false sense of security and make us think that nothing terrible could ever happen again. I know what you’re doing, you choral Judases, and I shan’t fall for it.
Meanwhile, at a rather excruciating brunch, Rose is hella rude to a bunch of strangers.
You already know Cal, Rose, Ruth, and Molly Brown, but now we’re introduced to Mr. Andrews, the master shipbuilder, and that fuckface with the mustache on the left, Mr. Ismay, the founder of the ship line.
Cal orders Rose’s food for her, like she’s a child, which clearly thrills her,
and she lights up a ciggie at the brunch table and blows smoke directly into her uptight mother’s face,
which is pretty fucking rude no matter how you slice it.
Ismay can’t stop talking about the grandeur of the ship and is like, “Stronger, faster, harder, longer! Pistons pumping, the prow plowing through the water!”
And Rose is like, “Compensating for something, old boy?”
Ruth hisses to Rose, “What’s the matter with you?” and Rose is all like, “THE PATRIARCHY IS WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH ME, MOTHER” before leaving the table to go sulk in the way that only a seventeen-year old can sulk.
She just happens to be sulking right in front of Jack, Fabrizio, and their new friend, Tommy O’Irish.
Tommy laments that first-class dogs come down to their part of the ship to take a shit, and it lets them know where they rank in the scheme of things.
Douglas, who is actually Irish, was quick to say, “Aye, Tommy. Aye, it does.”
Uh oh. The Irish have closed ranks on us. But let’s wait and see how he feels about Tommy a bit later on, when he discovers that Tommy is not going to be the nuanced depiction of an Irish person that Douglas is so clearly hoping for.
Anyway, Jack spots Rose and instantly falls head-over-penis in love with her.
Later that night, Rose reaches her breaking point. Old Rose narrates that she saw her whole life stretched out before her, a gaping chasm of boring people, relentless manners, and endless parties, balls and cotillions.
VictorianMasculinity: OH NO, NOT THE COTILLIONS!
But because Rose literally doesn’t realize that you can RSVP “no” to a cotillion, her only answer is suicide.
We can tell she’s lost it, because her Hair Has Come Down And Is Unruly.
She climbs over the railing and throws herself to a watery death. Cal moves on and marries someone else. Old Rose is revealed to be an imposter, is sent to jail for the rest of her life, and the film ends.
In reality, Jack is up on deck for a sneaky cig and comes to investigate the case of Hot Girl In Peril. He manages to get close to her by pretending he wants to throw his cigarette overboard.
Smoking: it saves lives.
Rose tells him, “Stay back!” (or . . . literally what?) but Jack manages to talk her down like she’s a toddler by saying, “Brrr, that water is so cold! Have you ever been to Wisconsin?”
Douglas: *as Rose* Wisconsin? Oh god, no. How dreadful!
Jack says he lives in Wisconsin and the winters fucking suck. They introduce themselves.
Rose: My name is Rose Dewitt Bukater. There was a third part to my last name, but daddy’s debt collectors repossessed it.
Because rich chicks hate the cold (it’s science), Rose decides not to kill herself. But to give the cheap seats in the back an extra thrill, Rose of course slips on her dangly shawl:
Douglas: Does she fall? Is Old Rose a ghost?
VictorianMasculinity: Nah, this is all an elaborate metaphor for the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the bourgeoisie. Pull yourself up, Rose! You’ll learn a valuable lesson from this!
Jack pulls Rose back over the railing, but they collapse in a heap and it looks like Nothing Good is happening:
Rose doesn’t bother speaking up for ages–long enough for Cal to be summoned and for the Master at Arms to slap some handcuffs on Jack.
It’s only when Cal is like, “How dare you rape my fiancee, you filth! Only I’m allowed to do that! Rape women of your own class!” that she goes, “Erm, I was looking at the propellers and I slipped and he rescued me, please don’t arrest him. Also, nothing suicidal was happening, I swear.”
Cal originally goes to slip Jack $20, but then he decides that a poor person doesn’t need money! No, the far greater reward would be for Jack to have the luxury of eating in their presence. Jack is invited to dine with the first class passengers the next night.
Cal leers at his delightful idea, which will in no way humiliate the third-class Jack, who does not have the attire or manners to fit in.
VictorianMasculinity: Someone needs to tell the makeup department to lighten up on Billy Zane’s eyeliner. It’s getting slightly ridiculous. He looks like Ramses.
As a side note, when we recapped The Man in the Iron Mask, King Leo’s backup mistress at the ball, seen here:
ended up being Billy Zane’s fiancee a few years later. HOW MANY WOMEN WILL HE AND LEO SHARE?
Cal comes to Rose’s bedroom that night to give her his engagement present (and there’s more where that came from, baby!):
Come on, Rose. I know Leo does a better line in floppy ’90s hair, but Cal is so rich . . . . Honestly, just marry Cal, hire Jack as your pool boy (what’s the Edwardian equivalent of a pool boy–the children’s drawing master?), and then hope that Cal has an unfortunate grouse hunting accident.
The next day, Rose and Jack meet on deck to talk about Life and other Serious Subjects.
Rose confides in him that she feels trapped by the marriage, that everything is happening so fast, they’ve sent out 500 invitations, and no one seems to care that she’s not really on board with it.
VictorianMasculinity: 500 invitations? No wonder you want to kill yourself.
Jack shows Rose his drawings, which let us know that they are an infinitely more compatible couple than she and Cal, because she and Jack have one shared interest and have managed a real conversation of medium depth.
Turns out, Jack likes to draw a lot of prostitutes and mentally ill old women:
Rose notices one naked woman whom Jack’s drawn a lot. She says, “I think you must have had a love affair with her.” Jack responds, “No, just with her hands.”
It was at this point that we had to pause the film so Douglas could laugh hysterically for a few minutes. I had the remote ready and waiting to go.
VictorianMasculinity: Hey, Jack’s poor! Maybe that’s all he could afford!
Jack clarifies: the woman had beautiful hands and he loved drawing them. He couldn’t have possibly had an affair with her because she was a one-legged prostitute. Sex workers and the disabled are GROSS. Rose gags a bit and concurs.
Rose concludes with, “You have a gift, Jack.”
Douglas: Yeah, for exploiting the mentally and physically disabled.
Having fully bonded over artwork, Jack and Rose make plans to be BFFs. They’re going to ride horses and drink cheap beer and go on a roller coaster until they throw up. Jack also teaches Rose how to spit (because he’s never flirted with anyone before in his life and has no idea what he’s doing), but they are interrupted by Rose’s disapproving mother, who glowers at him with her cold, undead, White Walker eyes:
Molly Brown, who is used to having people sneer at her, is like, “Welcome to my fucking world, son. Let me help you out.” She lets Jack borrow her son’s formal wear, and personally dresses him.
Douglas: Where is your son? Why are you traveling with only his clothes? There’s some creepy backstory here that I’m not sure I want to know about.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ismay is still going, “HARDER, FASTER, LONGER” and tells the Captain to speed up the ship as fast as she will go. He needs to make headlines! And this won’t in any way be desperately ironic in another hour and twenty minutes!
That night at dinner, Rose–who is wearing the absolute height of glamorous ’90s evening wear–meets Jack on the grand staircase.
He rather smolderingly kisses her hand and sent an entire generation of young girls RICOCHETING into puberty:
At dinner, to Cal and Ruth’s intense displeasure, Jack makes a fucking smash. He talks about the freedom of being poor–“I love waking up in the morning and not knowing what’s going to happen or–”
Me: –whose tits I’m going to draw!
As it turns out, plebes can tell amusing stories. How novel!!! Jack manages not to spill wine down his front or eat his food with his toes, so at the end of the night he gets invited by some of the rich dudes to go drink brandy in the Rich Dudes’ Club. Jack says no thanks, to which the man says, “You don’t want to stay out here with the women, do you?”
Douglas: Me, out here alone, with all the boobs on the ship and no one else around to draw them? Can you imagine anything worse?
Jack says goodnight to Rose but slips her some paper:
VictorianMasculinity: I would laugh so hard if she unfolded the note and he hadn’t written anything–he’d just drawn a pair of boobs.
Douglas: I’d laugh so hard if she met him at the clock and he said, “I’m a plebe and can’t tell time. Teach me?”
Jack invites Rose to a “real party” in steerage. And the “real party” (which is all black beer and arm wrestling and loud jigs) hurts Douglas’s Irish:
If this were a more realistic film, that kid would puke all over Rose’s shoes. But it’s not, so I guess we just have to settle for the death-glare she gives Rose when Jack runs off to dance with her.
“You better sleep with one eye open, ginger bint. Your time is coming.”
Jack and Rose improv some soft shoe, Jack marvels at Rose’s drinking tolerance (he has clearly never met a rich person before), and then Rose does what I have done too many times to count: drunken ballet.
This is the point where I lost my fucking rag, because I’ve done ballet for about 20 years and this is NOT A THING YOU CAN DO WITHOUT POINTE SHOES. It would shatter the bones in your feet. No.
But then one of the Irish women crosses herself and says “Jaysus, Mary and Joseph,” and this was the point where Douglas lost his fucking rag.
Douglas: JAYSUS MARY AND JOSEPH! She rose up on te fookin’ paints of her feet! I naiver seen sooch an impressive ting! Strike up te band again with anoter identical jig, Brendan, and we shall deedly deedly dee some mair!!!
Cal’s henchman, Lovejoy, stalks Rose down to steerage. He is not happy with what he sees:
Cal, buddy, I gotta tell you, if you’re already having your woman stalked and spied on before you’re even married, maybe this isn’t the sign of a healthy relationship.
The next morning, Cal and Rose have the world’s most civilized brunch. They even paid the sun extra to give a gentle golden sparkle.
Cal’s like, “I was hoping to have some of that fine booty last night,” and Rose says sorry, she was tired. Cal reveals that he knows she was romping around with poor people last night and he will not stand for it.
When Rose goes, “Uhhhh, are you having me followed? That’s . . . fucking creepy,” Cal responds with a totally nuanced and reasoned argument:
He gives the sort of clunky misogynistic speech I absolutely hate in movies: you are my property, you will obey me, etc. etc.
We have more orange juice and, by God, Rose, I will break ALL OF IT
But as that mimosa was the only good thing Rose had going for her morning, she agrees to be a good girl. Cal leaves her alone, terrified, and to deal with the servants accordingly.
WE HAD A LITTLE ACCIDENT TRUDY
AND MAYBE ONE DAY CAL WILL HAVE A LITTLE ACCIDENT WHILST GROUSE SHOOTING.
Just in case we didn’t understand that gender oppression is happening, CUT TO
Rose’s mother is like, “Your father left us with nothing but debts. If you don’t marry Cal, I’ll have to get a job. A job, Rose. DO YOU THINK THIS IS A FUCKING GAME?”
Ruth continues, “We’re women, we have no options, resign yourself to the symbolic and literal restraints of this corset.”
Rose resigns herself to the corset.
Jack tries to hunt Rose down the next day, but he’s cock-blocked at every turn. The stewards won’t let him in because he’s wearing corduroy. You know, corduroy? We don’t see it much around this part of the ship, but it’s like ermine for poor people.
Rose, Cal, and Ruth go for a stroll with Mr. Andrews and discuss the make of the ship. Rose says she’s pretty sure there aren’t enough life boats for everyone. Mr. Andrews is impressed she noticed and tells her not to worry about it. He wanted to make sure that the ship met all health and safety regulations, but was overruled by bureacratic fuckwits.
It was at this point that VictorianMasculinity and I paused the film to have a long discussion about how Rose should have ditched both Jack and Cal, and hooked up with Mr. Andrews instead. He’s good looking, has a great sense of humor, and earns an impressive living without being a total twat-waffle.
Jack, meanwhile, uses his amazing parkour tricks to infiltrate the first-class deck.
He steals a dude’s bowler hat and coat, and slicks his hair back.
Douglas: Yes, Jack. Slicking back your hair will definitely keep people from knowing you’re third class.
Jack corners Rose and tells her she’s no picnic and is a spoiled little brat, but hey, he loves her and they should definitely run away together.
Douglas: Yoooou’ve . . . you’ve never seduced anyone before, have you?
Rose, who is bordering on Stockholm Syndrome after her talk with her mother, goes, “Nope. See ya.”
However, fifteen minutes later, as she’s taking afternoon tea with the Countess, Rose has an epiphany as she watches a mother nearby straighten up her little daughter’s posture:
THIS IS ALL A CONTROL MECHANISM
FUCK THIS NOISE
So she does what every well-bred young rebel does: goes to find some trashy guy to bang to get back at her parents.
“I’m not King of the World at all, am I?”
“…or maybe I am.”
While Jack and Rose behave incredibly indiscreetly, we are given the Irish flutes of sensitivity. Jack makes Rose stand up on the railing and spread out her arms while he sings to her:
Douglas: I would laugh if Jack is still pissed at her for rejecting him, so he pushes her in. “Yep. I’ll return to right where I found you.”
He does not push her in. Instead he gets to, like, maybe second base?
Also, can we PLEASE discuss what that gaping labial hole is on the front of the ship?
Is that an actual thing in ship building, or did they just put in a boat ‘gina to help represent the sexual tension happening? Boat people, I implore you!
VictorianMasculinity: I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I read somewhere that the ship in this film is heading in the wrong direction.
Douglas: Ooh, where’s the captain taking them? Helm’s Deep?
Rose takes Jack back to her pad, all alone. She says, “This is quite proper, I assure you.”
Victorian Masculinity: No it’s not! This is why Whosie-Whatsit from House of Mirth died!!!
They look at paintings for a while, and then Rose makes a request: draw me like one of your French girls.
Jack: Hmm, okay, but I’m going to have to take one of your legs.
And, as the world’s biggest ‘fuck you’ to Cal, she wants Jack to draw her naked, wearing only her engagement necklace from Cal.
Jack prepares his metaphorical penis
while Rose comes out wearing something that would make Myrna Loy green with envy:
Picasso’s women and Monet’s waterlilies look on with approval. Rose gets naked and her breasts defy gravity in a way that had me yelling “HOW?” at the TV. Jack gets flustered, but becomes very professional once he starts drawing.
We cut to Old Rose, telling her story in the present day, and her captive audience:
Bill Paxton stands up, slaps Old Rose across the face and says, “NO! Stop with the romance plot! I am only fucking interested in the location of the diamond! I TOLD YOU THIS WHEN YOU STARTED SPEAKING SIX HOURS AGO!”
Fade back to Young Rose, who has put on a daytime summer chiffon . . . for nighttime winter weather in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
She tells Jack to put the diamond back in the safe, while she writes a breakup letter to Cal.
VictorianMasculinity: Meanwhile, in the patriarchy. . . .
Lovejoy tells Cal he can’t find Rose. Why the shit he didn’t check her bedroom first, I’m sure I don’t know. Cal says, “FIND HER.” When Lovejoy looks in the number one spot where she’d be, Rose and Jack attempt to slip out the back:
This leads to a chase scene, scored by IRISH ANTICS MUSIC.
Douglas: *sigh* Right, here we go. It’s time to deedly deedly dee some more.
They deedly deedly dee down to the furnaces, where Lovejoy won’t think to look for them. Probably because Rose is wearing extremely flammable chiffon and he doesn’t think she’s stupid enough to go near so much open flame. He is wrong.
I gotta say, guys, Rose might be hot, but she’s not much in the brains department, is she?
Jack: *to a guy shoveling coal* Keep up the good work!
Guy Shoveling Coal: Don’t patronize me.
Then they deedly deedly dee to the cargo deck, where they get in a car and do some sub-dom foreplay with Jack acting as Rose’s chauffeur.
Rose is not fucking around, though, because she wrestles him like a gator into the back seat where they become a total cliche: teenagers banging in the back seat of a car.
Something else is going on in this scene, though. Rose–for a well-bred Edwardian seventeen year old–is, uhh, skilled in this department. I appreciate that she’s clearly had sex with Cal by this point (they all but spell that out), but I think there’s more to the story. And not just because Cal is almost guaranteed to be a selfish and unimaginative lover, leading to many pubescent daydreams about what she’d do if she ever banged a better dude.
I think Ruth had been making Rose work as a courtesan (very quietly) in order to keep them in their wealthy lifestyle and to help them find Rose a rich husband. This was actually a very common practice in impoverished aristocratic circles, and it would probably help to explain Rose’s bitterness and how deeply unimpressed she is by Cal’s money and good looks. He ain’t her first rodeo.
She must be doing something very right (or very wrong), because everyone is DRENCHED in sweat, they have totally ruined the car seats, and someone is clawing at the windows like they’re trying to escape a slasher flick.
Douglas: Oh my. That is a whole new level of sweaty. I don’t know what they were doing in there and, frankly, I don’t want to know.
Jack is either a virgin, or Rose has done something magical with her vagina so he never thinks about his one-legged prostitute with the beautiful hands ever again. He trembles for about three hours and is like, “whaaaaaaa?”
Rose: You’re trembling.
Jack: I’ll be alright.
VictorianMasculinity: It’s just the scurvy acting up.
As a side note, is no one else bothered that they’re having sex in a car . . . on a boat?
Not many women can boast to rock two men’s worlds at the exact same time while several hundred feet apart, but Rose manages it:
So while Cal plots his revenge, Jack and Rose go on being as unsubtle as humanly possible, shrieking and dancing up on the main deck.
Rose says when the ship docks, she’s getting off with Jack.
Douglas: YOU ALREADY HAVE.
Look, the mid-Atlantic is not the time to elope. If you have any brain cells at all, you would pretend everything is normal, leave with your mother and Cal, plan to meet Jack somewhere on dry land, steal a bunch of Cal’s money and the diamond, and fuck off to a happy new life together.
Rose and Jack carry on so much that they distract the look-outs, who don’t notice an iceberg sneaking up on them like a thief in the night.
Old Rose is going to have some serious goddamn explaining to do.
“Hey there, ass-wipes. Did I hear somebody say that nothing could sink your ship?”
The look-outs call down to a very disgruntled officer, who all but answers the phone with, “I am British and you have made me rush while holding a cup of tea. WHAT?”
Shit gets all kinds of frantic as they try to turn the ship.
Unfortunately, the Titanic is a lot like Zoolander, in that it has difficulty turning. Eventually, after some rather agonizing piston dread, the ship starts to turn. But it’s not enough:
Below decks, people get flooded and killed instantly, while upstairs, the rich people notice their chandeliers gently trembling. If that ain’t a metaphor for the entire film, I don’t know what is.
The iceberg says, “Maybe that’ll learn ya,” and gives a sage nod as the Titanic floats on toward its fate.
The captain says to his first mate, “I LEAVE YOU ALONE FOR FIVE MINUTES”
Cal summons the master at arms AGAIN, because he’s “been robbed”.
Lovejoy finds Jack and Rose, and plants the Heart of the Ocean in Jack’s pocket.
They search Jack, find the necklace, and discover he’s wearing that coat that he stole from that dude on deck earlier today. It has its real owner’s name stitched inside.
Cal: He stole my necklace.
Lovejoy: He stole this coat.
Rose: And he stole my heart! Oh no, he is a thief!
Jack is dragged off in handcuffs, while Rose is returned to the warm embrace of Cal and her pimp mother.
Meanwhile, Mr. Andrews meets with the captain and Mr. Ismay to discuss how to save the ship.
Douglas: Uhhh, why is the ship’s designer carrying blueprints? I hope that’s for the audience’s benefit, not for his. Buddy, surely you should know the design of the ship by now.
VictorianMasculinity: I’m telling you, Rose should have gotten with Mr. Andrews. He knows where the hidden lifeboats are. They could row away to a new life together.
The short version is, there’s nothing they can do: the Titanic is going to sink. Mr. Ismay is OUTRAGED. This ship can’t sink! Everybody says so!
Mr. Andrews throws some physics in Ismay’s fucking face, but Ismay is incensed by physics and is going to write a formal complaint. The captain says, “Looks like you’ll get your headline after all, you jackass.”
And if you had the double-box VHS edition that I did in 1998, this is where tape one stopped and tape two had to be put in.
Now, before we start tape two, I’d like to announce that I’m going to shorthand the SHIT out of this section, because there is a lot of running around in wide-eyed peril for the next hour and a half. Y’all don’t need too much of that.
Cal is busy slapping Rose’s head clean off her body, because she made him feel kinda bad about himself.
A steward comes in to tell them to put on their life belts. NOW.
Douglas: Stop interrupting our domestic abuse, goddamn it!
The telegraph operators start blasting the news far and wide, but, y’all . . . they don’t even have a telephone installed at Downton Abbey yet. There’s no way another ship’s going to respond to a telegraph in time.
This was also the point where VictorianMasculinity and I started playing “spot the Downton Abbey cousin“, because all the rich people are trussed up in their life jackets and fur coats, drinking brandy, going, “Oh, how fun! A life jacket party!” They strike up the band to keep people from panicking.
Rose isn’t having a good time at the life jacket party, though. She meets Mr. Andrews, who tells her, “REMEMBER THE THING ABOUT THE LIFE BOATS. GET TO ONE. NOW.”
Jack gets handcuffed to a pole, while Lovejoy watches over him with a gun. Frankly, I’m not sure it’s possible to instill more peril into Jack’s storyline.
The officers start loading only women and children into the lifeboats, and VictorianMasculinity and I started gloating that we would totally survive, and Douglas wouldn’t. This movie really brings out the worst in us.
Everything on the Titanic is a fucking shambles. Boats are sent off only half full, boats are sent down all wonky, and the third-class passengers are locked behind gates so they don’t swarm the decks. Tommy O’Irish is NOT. HAPPY.
Ruth is like, “Will we be seated according to class? I hope the boats aren’t too crowded”, and Rose tries to shake some humanity into her, but it doesn’t take.
Cal says that at least the better half of the passengers will live, and that Jack’s going to die on the boat. Thank god Rose had that one spittin’ lesson, because she spits a truly impressive gob right in his smug face and runs off to rescue Jack.
Ruth laments the loss of her gravy train–*ahem*, I mean “the probable death of her only child.”
Water starts creeping down the hallway where Jack is locked up, and it’s sinister as shit.
Now, I was on my umpteenth gin and tonic by this point in the film, so I apparently started arguing very violently that this film wasn’t a drama or a romance or even an action film: it’s a straight up horror. And apparently I continued to say this every 5 minutes until the film ended. You know what? I’ll stand by that argument, thoroughly pickled though it was.
Rose manages to find Jack just in time, mostly by haranguing Mr. Andrews and then beating up a lift operator until he does what she says and ignores his basic instinct for self-preservation.
Douglas: *tisk* Cannot get good service nowadays.
Then Rose runs down all the hallways that ever existed, screaming for Jack.
They, of course, can’t find the key to Jack’s handcuffs, so Rose has to go find an ax. She finds one, and becomes a hatchet-wielding Amazon, and I love her.
Jack has to talk her through actually swinging the ax, though, and the practice session doesn’t go well.
But this is a film, so she manages to get her shit together and chop through his handcuffs without any loss of limb.
VictorianMasculinity: Bill Paxton’s up there in the present day, like, “Holy crap, we found a giant cabinet with ax marks in it! So this explains it!
Jack submerges himself in the water for the first time and gasps, which led to a very spirited debate about balls vs. tits in cold water. The tits won the debate, purely because there were more of them in the room.
They make their escape and run into Tommy and Fabrizio. Tommy’s busy putting an Irish curse on the steward who’s keeping the third-class passengers locked behind a gate
while Fabrizio continues to do his bad Italian accent. “There is-a no-a way out, Jack! I shoulda listened to mamma when she said-a not to gamble! Mamma mia, is this-a the end of Fabrizio?”
So Jack and the boys, through the power of persuasion and benches (mostly benches), find a way to get through the gates, and may or may not start the People’s Revolution in doing so.
Up on deck, the band is kinda pissy that no one is listening to them.
Douglas: Poor people should consider themselves lucky to die to our music!
One officer starts to lose his damn mind over the lack of law and order, and pulls a gun on the crowd:
Officer: Order, I say, or I’ll shoot you all down like dogs!
And Cal bribes another officer to let him board a lifeboat as soon as he finds Rose. Buddy, she’s a lost cause. Just get on your boat and go. Ismay also sneaks on a lifeboat and the look the officer gives him could curdle milk from 500 paces.
Cal finds Jack and Rose and attempts to win her back by being a vaguely decent human being. Surely that will make up for months of entitlement and domestic assault!
He says, 1.) Here, take my coat, you must be freezing, 2.) Get on the boat, 3.) I have an arrangement with an officer to get Jack and me to safety on another boat.
As Rose is lowered, Cal mutters to Jack, “Sucker.” But Rose can smell Cal’s bullshit from a mile away, so her response?
A FLYING SQUIRREL LEAP
She and Jack run and find each other again and, in between them furiously making out, Jack just keeps telling her how stupid she is.
VictorianMasculinity: You are stupid, Rose! Like, impressively stupid! The boat is sinking! And here we see some conflicting Darwinism at work: the desire to mate overrides the desire for self-preservation.
Cal, unfortunately, has reached his limit:
Like, honestly, James Cameron. Was there not enough drama as it was?
And thus the whoooole dreaded cycle starts again. Step 1: escape the bad guys. Step 2: find a way to the top. Step 3: figure out how to get both of them on a lifeboat.
If they were really smart about this, Rose would have nipped over to their state room as soon as she rescued Jack with the fire ax, dressed him as a woman, and both gotten on a boat looooong ago.
Cal stops shooting for two seconds to have a good, grim snigger with Lovejoy, who’s like, “WTF are you laughing about.”
“I put the diamond in the coat. I PUT THE COAT ON HER.”
Cal goes up to catch his sweet ride, only to find that the officer he bribed has had a change of heart after seeing Mr. Ismay sneak aboard that other boat. He throws Cal’s money back in his face, which Cal didn’t even think was something a person could do.
Shitty day all ’round for Cal.
He finds a convenient squalling child, makes puppy eyes at another officer, claims that “I’m all she has in the world”, and manages to make his escape on another lifeboat.
Cal must be new money. If he were old money, like the Guggenheims aboard the ship, he’d do what they do:
Get dressed in their finest clothes, refuse life jackets because they are “prepared to go down as gentlemen”, and order brandy. ALL THE BRANDY.
There’s a bunch more scuffling and struggling and suffering. Tommy O’Irish tries to get on a boat near the officer who’s brandishing a gun at people. Fabrizio accidentally jostles him, the officer thinks Tommy is trying to rush the boat, and he gets shot.
RIP Tommy. We’ll pour one out for ye and see ye in the promised land, begorrah.
The band strikes up its final melancholy tune, a mother puts her children to bed so they can escape the last few moments of horror, an old couple cry in bed in each other’s arms as water pours in to their bedroom, all the Picassos and Degas and Monets float to the bottom of the ocean, and the captain stands at his helm in stunned astonishment.
Douglas turned to us with wide eyes and said, “Does James Cameron hate the human race?”
Yes, little padawan. I think he must.
Rose and Jack find Mr. Andrews, who’s not even going to bother making an escape attempt. He must go down with his ship.
Although at this point, after he’s told Rose about 12 times to get to a boat ASAP, he must be thinking, “What, you guys are still running around? Fucking teenagers.”
Everything gets all kinds of bleak, and the captain dies at his helm, as water bursts through the windows.
As Cleolinda Jones once wrote in her “Movies in 15 Minutes” recap of Titanic, I probably could make a joke about all of this if I thought hard enough, but I kinda don’t want to go to hell, so . . .
This brings us back to Jack and Rose. Jack says they have to stay on the ship as long as possible, but I’m not entirely sure why, when the ship looks like this:
Surely it would make more sense to swim for the lifeboats now, while they’re a bit closer, and avoid being sucked down with the ship. But what do I know.
And then, because James Cameron is a wrathful god, one of the smokestacks collapses. Directly on top of Fabrizio.
Christ, man, did you have to fridge all of the “ethnic” friends? Couldn’t you let even one of them escape? No?
The back of the ship starts to rise out of the water, everything inside the ship is torn apart violently, everyone dies horrible deaths, and nothing was good ever again.
Jack and Rose manage to make it to the very back of the boat, where they climb over the railing. Meanwhile, everyone else slides down the ship, on the worst toboggan ride of their lives.
Rose is all like, “Hey, Jack, this is where we first met! Remember? When I wanted to die?”
Well, wish granted, I guess.
Trudy, Rose’s maid, slides to her death, but at least Lovejoy also dies when the ship breaks in two, so there’s that.
As the ship goes down, Jack tells her to kick for the surface and DON’T LET GO OF HIS HAND.
And what happens?
But it’s okay, because they both surface! AND they find a giant chunk of door to float on!
Oh, god, the scandal of the door. It seems to buckle under the weight of both Jack and Rose, but they are so exhausted they don’t try very hard to fit both of them. Rose goes on the door (because rich chicks hate the cold, remember?) and Jack floats next to her. People have actually worked out, given the dimensions of the door and the estimated weights of the actors, if the door could have supported both of them or not. Apparently it could have.
They have Deep Talks about Death and Things while icicles form in their hair.
VictorianMasculinity: At what point does the coldness of the water affect them? They’ve been sloshing around the water inside the boat for more than an hour, but they can only catch hypothermia outside the boat?
Me: If I were Rose, it’s not the cold that would bother me right now. It’s the fact that it’s about 2 a.m. and she hasn’t eaten since that wretched tea with her mother. She must be lying there thinking, “I am so fucking hungry right now. Maybe I can eat Jack.”
The lifeboats finally come back to recuse the people in the water. But everyone is dead, and it is creepy as hell. This is some Hitchcock shit right here.
Rose sings her own little ghost ditty on her door, which is the sign that surely she is about to be transformed into one of the undead herself.
She tries to rouse Jack when she hears the lifeboats, but Jack has become Jack Frost.
(I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself)
(I’ll just show myself out)
She gives a tearful goodbye, sends him to his watery grave, and gets rescued by a lifeboat.
Jack died as he lived: wearing handcuffs.
This brings us back to Old Rose, who marvels at the staggering loss of life. Everyone in the room is sobbing at her story, except Bill Paxton, whose earring is probably whispering impatiently to him, “Jesus, will this old bag ever shut up and tell us where the diamond is?”
The lifeboats were eventually rescued by the Carpathia, while being menaced by the iceberg’s six closest friends, who tell them that they don’t take too kindly to their type, and maybe they should get the hell outta town right quick.
Cal comes looking for Rose among the rescued passengers, but Rose plays dead.
I don’t mean she rolled over like a possum or anything. I just mean she doesn’t draw attention to herself and lets Cal think she died on the ship.
When someone comes around to take her name, she says she’s “Rose Dawson.” Surely Cal and Ruth are going to check the list of survivors and get suspicious over someone with Rose’s first name and Jack’s last name. But we’re 5 minutes from the end, so let’s just suspend our disbelief for a moment longer.
Old Rose says that Cal married someone else eventually, he survived WWI (probably by not signing up), and survived the Spanish flu (probably by locking himself in an airtight vault made of gold), but he didn’t survive the market crash of ’29. He lost his millions and shot himself (not in a grouse hunting accident, though). C’est la vie.
Old Rose gets choked up about Jack and says she doesn’t even have a picture of him.
Well, if Leonardo Dicaprio will insist on going in hard and heavy with rich girls he’s only known for three days, then this sort of thing is going to keep happening to him.
Bill Paxton gives up his quest for the diamond, convinced that it sank to the bottom of the ocean in all the hoopla.
Old Rose throws the necklace in the ocean, so her heart can go be with Jack, or as one last “fuck you” to Cal, or because Bill Paxton looks like a beatnik and ain’t no way she’s letting him profit off her necklace. Hell, I don’t know why. Maybe Rose hates humanity, not James Cameron.
Douglas: What?! Rose! NO! IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!
Then Old Rose, free from her cursed diamond, goes off to die in her sleep, where her spirit is brought back to Titanic with all the people she saw die horribly–THE LAST GODDAMN PLACE SHE SHOULD WANT TO BE.
So . . . maybe she was a bad person? Maybe this is hell for her?
Douglas: Good god, have all these people been in purgatory for 86 years waiting for her Methuselah ass to die? Ah, Rose. Selfish to the end.
“I told you I’d see you in hell.”
She and Jack make out for all of their shared afterlife. Thank god Rose had a super bitter divorce from Lizzie’s granddad in the ’70s, otherwise his ghost would be pissed.
Douglas’s verdict: Titanic was surprisingly competent and he did not need to be strapped to his chair to finish it.
Dear god, that was a long post.
Some ever so slightly bad news, my lovely readers: I have recently moved about 4 hours away from VictorianMasculinity and Douglas so I can start my new job. We therefore won’t be doing any new Victorian Snark Theatre 3000 posts for a while.
HOWEVER, VictorianMasculinity will be moving about 2 hours closer to me in a few months (to start her new job), so I can absolutely promise you that there will be more of these posts. They’ll just be a short while in coming.
For our next post, we’ll be watching Fievel Goes West.