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Titanic: Girl Power Sleeps With the Fishes

[Sady is working on a giant Mystery Project. It entails watching a lot of "romantic" movies. You know, for the chicks! Here are some of her notes.]

One of the many things you come to appreciate about Titanic, when re-watching it as an adult, are the complexities of Billy Zane’s performance. Zane plays Caledon Hockley – steel magnate, loveless-arranged-marriage candidate, avowed hater of the poor – who, as you can probably guess from his preposterous name and the aforementioned list of qualifications, is the villain of the piece. Oh sure, you might think that in a movie entitled Titanic, the villain would be, I don’t know, an iceberg or something! Ah, but no. You would be wrong. The villain is Billy Zane. And what a villain he is, let me tell you!

I feel goofy explaining the plot of Titanic to you, since I assume that you have been alive for at least twelve years and have therefore seen it or at the very least heard about it, but, to be brief: Titanic is two movies. One of them is about a boat that sinks. The other movie, which prefaces, interpenetrates, and steals a really inordinate amount of focus from the sinking-boat movie, is about a girl named Rose (Kate Winslet! YAYYYY), and her various thinky thoughts, deep feelings, and meaningful once-in-a-lifetime discovery and embrace of Girl Power. Rose is rich, and as a rich person she is taking a journey aboard fancy rich-person vessel Titanic. But Rose hates being rich. It entails assorted Edwardian constraints on her Girl Power! Rose is so sad about being rich that she decides to jump off the ship in her fancy dress. A boy named Jack  (Leonardo DiCaprio! WHATEVERRRR) stops her from jumping. He is not rich. He is poor! Poor, and free! Now Rose wants to be poor, too! Jack approves of this. He teaches her to spit and give the finger to people because that is what Girl Power is all about. Also they fuck. Then the ship sinks and everyone dies, the end.

So far, so good. But don’t we need… CONFLICT??? Don’t we need… A VILLAIN??? (“What about man’s tragic hubris? Can that be the villain?” NO, God. What does man’s tragic hubris have to do with Rose’s feelings?) Yes, in order to convince us that being a rich Edwardian lady would be the worst, most stifling, least Girl Powerful fate in the entire world, we need a convincing cinematic shorthand for the evils of the rich in general and Rose’s life as a rich person specifically. Enter the Zane! Specifically, enter the Zane as Caledon Hockley, the snootiest, entitledest, cowardliest, connivingest, abusivest, potential-rapist-iest, most perpetually tuxedo-clad millionaire playboy in the entire world. Rose’s mother has determined that Rose shall marry the Zane, whether she will or no, because he is rich, and also because one thing I forgot to mention before is that Rose’s mother is an asshole. Actually, it is not hard to see why Rose’s mother and Cal get along so well; for one thing, they both just hate the ever-living fuck out of poor people, to the extent that they cannot stop talking about it. This is part of Titanic‘s Very Important Commentary on Class (short version: poor = fun-loving and awesome, rich = boring and evil) but it actually just sort of comes across as some disturbing and socially inappropriate obsession they’ve bonded over, like every time they see a person with even slightly less money than themselves it is all they can do not to stab him or her to death on the spot. Other rich people seem kind of disturbed by how much these two hate the poor, and are always sort of determinedly pleasant and uncomfortable-looking around them whilst they aim death glares at whatever unfortunate broke person happens to get in their way. Look, here are their Looking At The Poor faces:

997TNC_Billy_Zane_007

I TOLD YOU.

Anyway! Back to Zane! In early reviews of Titanic (which were not, as far as I can see, very good) he and his role were roundly panned. And, you know, I agree that the role of Caledon Hockley was not written very well. He says things like, “Go? TO HIM? And be a whore to a gutter rat?” Or, “Picasso? He’ll never amount to a thing! Trust me!” But it is possible to imagine any number of accomplished actors sort of embarrassedly slogging their way through these scenes, imbuing them with the bare minimum of superciliousness necessary for the job, and quietly cursing the series of life decisions that brought them to this impasse. That is not the path of the Zane. Oh, no. The Zane bites down on this role as if it were a delicious jerky, and he savors it, my friends. He savors it immensely. It is as if Billy Zane received his script, flipped ahead to the shipwreck portion, and saw that his character (a) bribes a ship’s officer to let him on to a lifeboat (whilst brandishing a fistful of money in clear view of the rioting mob, perhaps just to remind them of how poor and terrible they are), (b) calls that plan off so that he can run around a crowded stairwell firing a revolver in the vague direction of his girlfriend and the dude she’s boning, (c) realizes he still needs to get off the ship, and (d) steals a baby so that someone will let him onto a lifeboat, because the guy he bribed belatedly realized that he was going to die in a shipwreck and that he really couldn’t use the money as a corpse at the bottom of the ocean and then he shot himself, whoops. We’ll miss you, Slow-On-The-Uptake Lifeboat Guy! What I am saying is, Billy Zane, alone among all Titanic’s many acclaimed cast members, seems to have realized what a ridiculous movie he was making, and he apparently decided to go full-on cartoon villain for the occasion. For though Billy Zane may not be the most able of actors, he possesses the essential quality of enthusiasm. Specifically, enthusiasm for unhinged, hilarious overacting. Tragically deprived of a cape and/or moustache to twirl, he nevertheless fills out the character with a pseudo-British old-timey American accent (all of the American characters have these, actually, but Zane’s is the worst/best) and a dazzling array of snickers, smirks, dramatic eyebrow-raises and, on more than one occasion, high-pitched girlish squeals of frustration. Zane is wildly over-the-top, which is probably why he didn’t get good reviews. Also, Zane is wildly over-the-top, which is why he is the most entertaining thing in the movie.

Or maybe he just seems that way because Jack is such a dud. A confession, reader: when I saw this movie, as a teener, I kind of liked it. I even liked Jack! In spite of the fact that he was Leonardo DiCaprio! Yes, when I was a teen, Jack seemed like a perfectly reasonable love interest. And now, he seems slightly less interesting than the wood paneling in Rose’s cabin. What changed?

Oh, right: I’ve actually dated some boys, in the years since Titanic’s release. Whereas, in the years leading up to and coinciding with Titanic’s release… yeah. Late bloomer. ANYWAY. My more or less total ignorance of the sexy side of the male gender allowed me to buy into the fantasy of Jack. And it is quite a fantasy indeed.

For, you see, Jack has exactly three things to do, in this movie. The first is to stand around looking adorable as the wind tousles his already-artfully-tousled hair. The second is to get really, extremely, catchphrasily enthused about the fact that he is on the Titanic. (Although, to be fair, everyone is really enthused to be on the Titanic in this movie. All you need to do, to recreate the early scenes of Titanic at home, is to gather a bunch of friends together and make all of them run around going OMG WOOOO TITANIC BEST SHIP EVER TOTALLY NOT GONNA DIE ON IT TITANIC 4-EVER YEEE-HAAAAAAA. Then, have somebody say something about how poor people are awful and women shouldn’t be allowed to do stuff.) The third, and most important task, is to enable Rose’s Girl Power. This is literally all he does in their relationship. He has no other goals. He just endlessly tells Rose what to do in order to be happy. She’s going to jump off a ship? He tells her not to jump off the ship. She’s going to marry Cal and enter a life of soulless richery? He tells her not to marry Cal and to embrace the joys of poordom. She’s going to die on the ship that is sinking? He tells her – in really, unexpectedly graphic and scientifically accurate detail – how not to die on the ship. After, of course, he’s liberated her kundalini with fucking and artistic nude sketches, and taught her to dance the jig, and given her the opportunity to chug her first beer, and informed her that she is possessed of a “fire that he loves about her” (although it really seems, at this point, that it’s not so much a “fire” as an “uncanny ability to follow Jack’s many instructions because she did not have the TINIEST FUCKING IDEA AS TO WHAT SHE WANTED BEFORE JACK SHOWED UP, JESUS.”). And then? After he’s delivered his final sermon about how she must go and live a fulfilling life and have lots of babies and under no circumstances die in the aftermath of the shipwreck? Like sweet Teen Beat Jesus, he gives up his life for her. Basically, what I learned from this movie is that if a boy likes you, he should show up, fix all your problems, get you off, and leave. Or die, if that’s more convenient for you!

Which is not actually how it happens, and which might be an objectively terrible lesson that I can blame for all of my many failures in life. Because it’s still what I want from boys, sometimes! And they tend not to be happy about that! But that is a speech for another day and another Giant Mystery project, my friends. For now, I leave you with one of the many sermons of our Reedeemer, Jack (“he saved me, in all the ways a person can be saved”) as delivered by the old lady who apparently used to be Kate Winslet: a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets. And one of those secrets may or may not be a desire to be bossed around by a well-intentioned hobo. 

Oh, and also, there is an old lady who used to be Kate Winslet in this movie. Whatever. IT’S LONG. Can’t cover all of it!

44 Comments

  1. jfruh wrote:

    I came to a not dissimilar conclusion to yours about Billy Zane when watching the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The only people in that film who are at all bearable to watch are Christopher Lee and evil emperor Ian McDairmand, because they are Hams Of The Old School, and are well aware that they are in the midst of claptrap which can only be saved by copious scenery chewing. All the “serious actors” (Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, even Samuel Jackson) wander around vaguely in a doomed attempt to find their motivation or something, never realizing the joys of trash.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
  2. Adrianna wrote:

    That’s it.

    I’m re-watching all my childhood favorites. I’m sure the key to my complete social failures in life are some how linked to my devotion to such classics as “ferngully” and “star wars”

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink
  3. Jean wrote:

    “Liberated her kundalini” is henceforth my go-to euphemism for sexin’. Zane brings the hilarious OTT to all his roles in crappy movies, which include the character of John Rolfe in Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World.

    Titanic seems like some kind of mass hallucination now, doesn’t it? I was a 13-year-old Catholic school girl when it came out, so, you know…”target audience” and all that. I had to be physically led out of the theater by my friends the first time I saw it; I was crying so hard I couldn’t see.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm | Permalink
  4. Beth wrote:

    JFRU, I’m with you.

    Also, this post is pure gold Sady! I found you on stumble and now you will never be rid of me mwah ah ah ah ah

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  5. Ashley wrote:

    Fabulous post. Given the ridiculously heavy-handed, simplistic, and anachronistic way in which Cameron handles class and gender in Titanic, the apparently heavy-handed and simplistic way in which the previews suggest that Avatar will deal with issues of disability, race, and imperialism leaves me simultaneously bored and disgusted. It seems like both films are really just Michael Bay-esque vehicles for nifty high-tech filmmaking, but Cameron tacks a whole bunch of Important Social Issues onto his shitty scripts and thus gets nominated for Oscars.

    This is veering off topic, but in a film class I took a while back, my professor made some excellent points about the way gender is handled in Ridley Scott’s Alien–where the roles were specifically written to be gender neutral and Sigourney Weaver’s character was arguably pretty subversive–and James Cameron’s Aliens–where Weaver spends much of her time playing Mommy to Newt. Interestingly, it’s the latter film that got the better reviews and won all the awards, iirc.

    Perhaps my point is that while making fun of Titanic was and is practically an industry unto itself, precisely for the reasons Sady describes above, Cameron is still consistently rewarded as a true auteur in Hollywood despite (maybe actually because of) the fact that his narratives are essentially pabulum with alot of neat visuals and middle-of-the-road nods to social consciousness.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:04 pm | Permalink
  6. julian wrote:

    As much sense as my brain tells me you make, my heart (and um nether regions) WILL NOT STAND FOR THE INSULT OF LEONARDO DICAPRIO IN ANY CONTEXT EVER OMFG. %&)#*$&#)$*

    You better WATCH YOURSELF, or…something bad will happen. I would threaten you with Billy Zane but what we learned from Titanic is that he is a terrible shot.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink
  7. Bethany wrote:

    This movie came out when I was in eighth grade, and for our English class short-story project, I wrote a story about two star-crossed alien lovers who were hitching a ride on the Titanic to avert GALACTIC WAR. The Zane appeared at one point and “hoisted an ironic brow” at my lovers.

    Who knows what schlock lurks in the heart of James Cameron? THE ZANE KNOWS.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  8. THIS WAS THE BEST REVIEW EVER OK

    I DO NOT THINK I HAVE LAUGHED THIS HARD I A LONG TIME LIKE SERIOUSLY

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  9. also maybe i have been drinking

    STILL

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  10. Sara wrote:

    Heh. I blame Sweet Valley High for all my cracked out personality conflicts. But OMG to “Like sweet Teen Beat Jesus.” I almost peed myself.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink
  11. Nila wrote:

    OH MY GOODNESS, Jack is a Magic Pixie Dream Boy! I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before. Ohhhh thank you for this post.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:54 pm | Permalink
  12. Roxie wrote:

    I’ve only seen Titanic once in its entirety.
    This makes me want to see it again!

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 12:37 am | Permalink
  13. Soirore wrote:

    This review encompasses exactly what I felt about Titanic at the time. It can be enjoyable if you allow yourself to laugh at how outrageously silly it is.

    It takes me back to when a friend and I would re-enact Cal and Rose’s scenes as if we were in panto. Especially the one when they have breakfast together after her night of jollies with Oirish steerage.

    Still, I can’t force myself to watch it again. A little camp villain entertainment goes a long way.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 5:26 am | Permalink
  14. Joanna NY wrote:

    I’ve never ever SEEN Titanic (I was having a baby when it came out) so thank you for this lovely exegesis, which means I will never HAVE to see it i order to have something to say about it.
    But, I have to say, I don’t think Cameron gets his Oscars for his stupid social commentary, it’s stupid social commentary mated with OMG SFC NEW CAMERAS HE’S INVENTED. Movie-making is as much a technology as an art ;-)

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:34 am | Permalink
  15. C.L. Minou wrote:

    When I saw Titanic (as an adult, alas, although one only about as old as our esteemed Sady is now) I was surprised at how it didn’t suck nearly as badly as I thought it would. Of course, I was younger then, and the wrong gender, which might influence my thinking.

    Later I reviewed it in my head (and caught about half an hour on HBO) and got pissed off at how manipulative the whole thing was: that, and how the only way Cameron could make the deaths of hundreds and hundreds of people emotionally relevant was to tack on a teenage love story. But at least, I thought, it was halfway original, which made it a first: with the exception of “The Terminator”, all his movies are either sequels, or remakes, or both*.

    Then I saw “A Night to Remember” and realized that he had just remade that, only with worse dialogue, better special effects, and the stupid teenage kids subplot.

    So about my only question about Cameron is, What movie will he be remaking in “Avatar”? My money right now is on “The Mission”, only without Jesuits.

    *Except for “The Abyss.” Which indicates that maybe his lack of originality is a good thing.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  16. I had to lie my head down on my desk and giggle when I read this. I always loved Billy Zane’s character, just because he was actually more fun than the two main characters.

    And, as terrible as it may be, I’d probably have married him, because being poor sucks. Mind you, they punish him by making him lose everything in the Crash, and committing suicide, because he was too rich and evil to buy gold.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  17. snobographer wrote:

    Jean:

    I was a 13-year-old Catholic school girl when it came out, so, you know…”target audience” and all that. I had to be physically led out of the theater by my friends the first time I saw it; I was crying so hard I couldn’t see.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    ROFL! Awesome!

    Anyway, I never really understood the general disdain for DiCaprio. I liked him in The Basketball Diaries and some of his other non-Titanic 90s movies.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  18. Sady wrote:

    @Jfruh: Oh, HI AGAIN, Mister! And: villains are always the best source of classic, fun overacting. In those prequels, Ewan McGregor just looks concerned and vaguely constipated all the time, and Natalie Portman looks like someone anesthetized her face. But Christopher Lee knew what he was up to. Probably because he learned early on that he would be playing a villain named “Count Dooku,” and therefore might be starring in some heavy-grade Dooku himself.

    Also, can I say that I love this comment thread and all of the assorted Titanic reminiscing? Because I do! I love it! Titanic hysterics! (I, uh, may have also cried. At this movie. A little.) Hot teen Zane fiction! Zane-based mime theater! These are the things Titanic inflicted on a nation of ’90s tweens. We share our stories, that we may NEVER FORGET.

    Also, snobographer, I think the problem is not that DiCaprio is a bad ACTOR, but that he becomes a lot less convincing as a romantic lead once you’ve passed the age where you think high school boys are dreamy. Still! How old is he now, 67? And yet he is still a delicate-boned, tousle-haired blonde pixie of a boy.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  19. snobographer wrote:

    He’s not that old. He grew up before our eyes. Remember This Boy’s Life? He was just a wee lad of (checks IMDB) holy crap he was 19 years old when he did that? He looked 12.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  20. Level Best wrote:

    Sady, you are truly QUEEN OF THE WORLD!!!!

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  21. Abigail wrote:

    C.L. Minou: even its own production staff is calling Avatar “Dances With Wolves in space.” That said, I do like Cameron. The man gave us Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley in a heavy loader, and even Lindsay Brigman, who doesn’t get nearly enough respect if you ask me. That buys him no small amount of indulgence from me. Maybe not enough that I’m looking forward to Avatar, but still.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  22. Jean wrote:

    Sady, I know you’re crazy-busy these days, but any more analysis of classic lady-focused movies would be greatly appreciated. Because it’s fucking hysterical.

    I may or may not have done the following things during my Leo phase: 1)Worked out exactly how much older than me he was, in order to calculate at what future date we could be legally married. 2)Sold drawings of him to my peers. 3)Tracked down every one of his movies, in the days before youtube, ebay, or netflix; got A BIG LESSON ABOUT GAY SEX from the film Total Eclipse.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink
  23. Kathleen wrote:

    I was not in the target audience of this movie, but I saw it with my bf at the time and after we broke up I did have an actual sentimental attachment to that Celine Dion song (my heart will go ONNNNNNNNNNN) for several years. Which is really embarrassing as I was 26, not 13.

    Anyway. If your secret project is a BOOK (hope hope hope hope fingers crossed, feets of rabbits), back in the day Katha Pollitt had an column in the Nation about the whole Titanic phenom and how it looked like pandering to female fantasy (the boy conveniently dies at the end, leaving the girl to get it on with the world but with an experience of true love intact for life — it’s like upside-down Hemingway!) was evidently an under-mined source of profit & huh, weird, how little it got catered to vs. cinematic pandering to male fantasy …. anyway, you might like it. now that I think about it it was a little bit like what you said about Twilight, and also funny, though sort of more that feminist being funny when she’s the only one writing for a lefty boys’ club magazine than the kind of emerging generation of funny on the feminist internets & of which you are a brilliant example and which I have to say is so exhilarating and hilarious and HOORAY and hope-giving. and, yeah, really funny.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  24. megnut wrote:

    You’re missing a critical detail about Rose’s marriage to Cal: it’s because she and her mom are broke. Something about dad dying and leaving them a good name and lots of bad debts. So basically mom hates poor people, and the thought of being poor, so much, she’s prostituting poor Rose.

    Also: “You can be blasé about something’s Rose, but not about Titanic!” is an early indication of just how great Zane will be in the film. Excellent review!

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  25. Eli wrote:

    This was TEH FUNNY.

    I saw Titanic in my mid-20s, and while I did not go on and on about Leo DiCaprio (I used to watch him on Growing Pains with Kirk Cameron … WHEE!), I had fun at the film and I used to defend it to my friends as follows:

    a) The sinking of the Titanic was a tragedy and while there’s a complex web of causation that led to such loss of life, hubris by the White Star Line is definitely part of the equation;

    b) Humans like tales of hubris and woe (see The Greeks) but watching hundreds of people die over 3 hours at $9 a pop … it’s a statistic, not a story;

    c) you need a story! A story to tie the elements together … a love story to make people care about the archetypes being presented;

    d) Behold the story of Rose and Jack! Yes, it’s craptastic and is the work of a hack, but you know, Romeo and Juliet is a pretty hack story, too, though not craptastic;

    e) MY TEARS WERE FOR THE MANY WHO DIED, NOT ROSE AND JACK! AND YOU CAN’T PROVE ANY DIFFERENT!

    f) And really, my favorite character was the architect, played by Victor Garber. Because while Leo was magic pixie boy, Victor’s a man, and what a man (even if he bats solely for the other team, as it were).

    g) Ye gads, I hate that song.

    h) In summation:
    Great tragedy, with class conflict, underscored by institutional hubris and a lack of preparation and vigilance, leavened by hack love story with pretty people, despicably lovely villains (David Warner was THE Majordomo of Evil) and lots of corn to fill you up before, during and after the ship sinks.

    My codicil nowadays would be, could you imagine what Roland Emmerich would have done with the same story? Someone would have been taken out with a fireball, is all I’m saying …

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  26. Thessa Mercury wrote:

    Coming out of my Lair of Lurking to say I have never seen Titantic. (Every time I say this, I get the kind of reaction you would expect from someone who had just said “I enjoy eating live puppies.”) Thanks to you, Sady, I feel no need to “remedy” this and will continue in my blissfully ignorant state.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  27. Lily wrote:

    “my fiance? my fiance? MY FIANCE??!” is right up there with HOWDITGETBURNED?!?!?!?!

    I LOVED Titanic. It is one of the few movies in the world that includes a mother tying a corset onto her daughter while preaching of her fine things AND blue screen bungee special effects.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  28. Gnatalby wrote:

    I’ve never ever SEEN Titanic (I was having a baby when it came out) so thank you for this lovely exegesis, which means I will never HAVE to see it i order to have something to say about it.

    Good lord, get granny her walker. Someone who was a baby when Titanic came out is old enough to use the word exegesis. I am one thousand years old.

    My sister LOVED this movie, though I was contrarian and above it all, too much to enjoy the Zane-iness.

    So basically mom hates poor people, and the thought of being poor, so much, she’s prostituting poor Rose.

    I liked this story better when Reba told it:

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  29. Gnatalby wrote:

    There should have been a video in that comment…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K6Y-YGZUec

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  30. Marste wrote:

    My favorite part is when Rose breaks off Jack’s frozen hand at the end. Really. I swear. He’s floating in the water, and she’s muttering, “I’ll never let go, Jack.” And then she looks alarmed and they cut to Jack sinking. But the way it’s cut, she looks alarmed, and you can see that she is holding his hand. Then suddenly he’s sinking – but he looks like he’s already about 10 feet down. The disparity makes it look like she broke off his frozen hand!!!

    My sister and I noticed it when we first watched it. Creepy.

    Also, it led to much hilarity at a subsequent lobster boil when the same sister and I picked up lobsters whose claws were entangled. We kept cracking up and hollering, “I’ll never let go, Jack!” as we tried to pull the lobsters apart. (Um, yeah. We’re warped in my family.)

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  31. Nomie wrote:

    “Listen to your friend Billy Zane! He’s a cool dude!”

    Yes he is, Owen Wilson. Yes he is.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  32. Ronnie wrote:

    You missed the pictures! The only point of the Titanic movie was Rose’s pictures at the end, as they pan over her body. She went on to act. She went on to ride horses. She went on to fly planes. She went on to have great kids. And she LET GO of the diamond. Everyone misses that. Its the real message.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 3:14 am | Permalink
  33. GATECREWGIRL wrote:

    I cried from the time LDC convinced KW not to jump until the end of the movie. And I was 19 when this movie came out. (So I guess I need a walker, too…) Sady – I love this review! I never EVER understood the general female obsession with LDC. To me he’s the only 40 year old who probably still gets IDed at the liquor store. However, at 13 I was obsessed with Wiley Wiggins and his stringy hair. So perhaps I should leave the LDC fans be.

    @GNATALBY I miss Big-Haired Reba. Fancy!

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  34. GATECREWGIRL wrote:

    Ok, 35, but same point.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  35. Davey wrote:

    Nice piece, you nailed the weird class supertext(there is no subtext) in the movie. As Paul Rudnick pointed out, Cameron felt so deeply about the poor that he moved production to Mexico so he wouldn’t have to pay union wages.

    The Rifftrax of Titanic is worth listening to if you can endure another viewing, if just for the porcupines squeaking “Death to the Titanic!”

    Not that I don’t appreciate some good snark, but you owe it to yourself to see some better films. Why not examine to oeuvre of Cameron’s ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, whose work, even at its worst, is full of interesting thoughts about gender politics. I can’t say that Strange Days, which Cameron co-wrote, is good, but it’s more fascinating than anything he ever did.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  36. tinfoil hattie wrote:

    I can’t stop laughing.

    Also: Billy Zane in Dead Calm. A must-see.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 6:10 am | Permalink
  37. al_zorra wrote:

    Inquiry: What about all those rich people who really and truly loathed and hated and despised and hurt poor people of that period in which the Unsinkable Titanic sunk? They really existed then. I can give you citations to their expressions in the houses of government, in ball rooms and in newspapers and books they wrote.

    Also there are very many obscenely rich people this very day who feel, act and say the same things.

    Thus this doesn’t seem worth making fun of, so much.

    Also, in that era there were wealthy people who in disgust at the actions of those other wealthy people, turned their backs upon them and tried to help the truly downtrodden and oppressed. They funded newspapers, settlement houses, prison reform, labor rights, etc. Some of them, even many of them, were women.

    Alas that we have so few men and women like this now. Without them, you know, its not so likely that you’d be in a position to write hilarious essays about blockbuster movies, devoid of any sense of history.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  38. Sady wrote:

    @al_zorra: It’s not that I doubt poor-haters existed (or, for that matter, that they exist today). It’s that I seriously fucking doubt “Titanic” is the most accurate, realistic, responsible, and intelligent portrayal of early-20th-century class dynamics in existence. “Titanic” is many things, but Upton Sinclair it ain’t.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  39. orlando wrote:

    If you can’t resist liking Billy Zane for this you triple-super-must watch Sally Potter’s film Orlando. Zane plays the Byronic hero, who incidentally used to be a woman, who falls in love with Tilda Swinton, who used to be a man. The bit where they meet is the most perfect (both small and large R) Romantic scene ever committed to celluloid, and I will watch it over and over until the day I die.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  40. orlando wrote:

    P.S. Sorry about the hyperbole, but I needed to impress upon you how important it is that you watch this, and get back to me. Especially if you’re doing romantic movies right now.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  41. Nina wrote:

    Oh, how I love you. EXCELLENT notes on Titanic. :)

    Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink
  42. Anna wrote:

    omg. your writing is hilarious!!! please do more pop culture critiques like this!

    Monday, December 14, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink
  43. Lacey wrote:

    I read this review whenever I am feeling down. It makes my tummy hurt from laughing. Goes without saying that it’s brilliant and astute as well as hilarious.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  44. David wrote:

    Every time I think I’m clever I read Sady and realize the absurdity of the thought. This was spot on. Her kung fu is strong.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. uberVU - social comments on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 10:37 pm

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    This post was mentioned on Twitter by dorianisms: Sady Doyle is awesome. Were y’all aware of this? Here’s her takedown of Titanic: http://is.gd/592UQ...

  2. [...] steady diet of rom-coms—a purely professional endeavor, I am assured! (check out Sady’s eerily fascinating examination of Billy Zane’s work in Titanic for proof). But enough exposition: On to us using the word [...]

  3. Twitted by exsequar on Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7:49 am

    [...] This post was Twitted by exsequar [...]

  4. Guest Post: Titanic « Reconcile on Monday, December 28, 2009 at 11:47 am

    [...] Long post ahead, riddled with TVtropes bombs. If you haven’t read Sady’s post, you should read it now, because I am disagreeing with her and you’ll want the context! Also, if for some reason you [...]