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April 10, 2012

Base Humanity

I went to see Titanic in 3D last night.  I took Sarah and we went with a friend who has a daughter in Sarah's class.  I had not seen this movie since the time I saw it in the theater in 1997.  I might not have thought to take Sarah if my friend hadn't mentioned taking her daughter. 

Watching the movie in 3D was an interesting experience.  You really do get the feeling you are right there.  There were some parts I could have lived my whole life without seeing in 3D, though...the part where someone falls from the tip of the ship and bounces off one of the ship's propellers is definitely one of them.  The view, however, of Rose standing on the tip where all she sees in front of her is the ocean was definitely worth it.  Very cool.

Anyway, Titanic is a great movie.  The love story is well done.  Jack Dawson is so likeable.  Rose's fiancee is so unlikable.  I think even today, lots of women can relate to the options and choices Rose was faced with as far as her future, the marriage she was set to enter into, and society were concerned.  The contrast between "first class" and "third class" on the ship is understood and abhorrent at the same time; understood because that was "just the way it was" and abhorrent because...really, why is any one group of people treated with more dignity than another based solely on societal status and net worth?

Titanic is the kind of movie that keeps you thinking for awhile after you see it.  I kind of like those types of movies and there aren't that many that hit me that way.  Ghandi was kind of like that.  So was Hotel Rwanda.  And The Passion of The Christ was like that, too.  Titanic displayed some of the best parts of our human existence with some of the worst.  And I know the movie is James Cameron's interpretation of the historical event, but it is an interpretation borne in our realities of human existence.

Even today, there are those who deem themselves worthy of declaring one class of people inferior to another.  Even today, there are marriages "arranged" of a sort among people of high society and immense wealth to maintain that status.  Even today, there are Jack Dawson's who are simply thankful for a chance to do something interesting.  And today, there are parents imposing their will on their children as Rose's mother attempts to do and guilt or manipulate their children into living a life for the benefit of the parent.

One of the more emotionally wrenching experiences is watching this snapshot of humanity at its base, as depicted in a movie like Titanic.  It wears me out to see self-serving natures like that of Cal, Rose's fiancee, and his police-type-enforcer guy as well as the guy who took a spot on the lifeboat that was intended for women and children. 

And it was horrible watching Rose's mother belittle and manipulate her and explain that Rose MUST marry Cal because if she didn't, she (the mother) would be a "pauper" and lose all her "precious things."  So interesting to see what is important to her, but these days, is it really so different?  As horrible as it is, it's understandable..even to me.  Because it's clear that we still live in a world where a woman's livelihood is sometimes only as good as the man to whom she is married.  And a woman without that, with no prospect, herself, of marrying, is left to rely on her children's fortunes. 

And then I ask myself...which is the bigger horror:  the fact that it exists or the fact that I can understand it?

Watching the captain, realizing the fate, lock himself in the navigation room and "go down with his ship" was interesting.  My first thought was, "he appears to be in shock."  And who wouldn't be, when faced with the reality of impending death? 

And the string quartet continued to play song after song.  One of them said, "No one is listening," and another of them answered, "They never listen at dinner either...yet we play on" and so they played.  And as the ship was about to split, they expressed the honor they felt in playing with each other and went on to their deaths.

It struck the mother's nerve in me to watch the mother with her two children who had been in third class.  Once the realization hit that they wouldn't get to the upper deck to a lifeboat, she simply tucked her children into bed, and our last view of them is her singing to them as they drift off to sleep.  She knew they had virtually no chance to survive, so she simply calmed her children as best she could. 

And Cal...I really grew to dislike him all the way throughout the movie.  But it was so interesting.  I found myself wondering when he still went back to the ship's interior to "fight" for his bride-to-be what he was fighting for?  Ah...the diamond that had been in the pocket of the coat on Rose.  Was that what he was going back after?  Or did he love her in his sick twisted way and it hurt him knowing she didn't prefer him?  And even at the end on the rescue ship, when he looked for her and she avoided him.  Was he looking for her only to be able to retrieve the diamond?  Or would he have honored the engagement and married her after all? 

And then...the self-preservation...that basest of human instincts, to protect ourselves from harm, to survive, to not die...so crazy to watch.  I can understand where some of the people are coming from in that they don't want to turn back and see if anyone else needed to be saved because they simply wanted to be rescued and didn't want to endanger that possibility.  But at the same time, I was horrified to realize they couldn't care less about all those people freezing to death out in the ocean. 

Titanic sank in 1912. 

It's 2012. 

Are we simply the same society with more sophisticated ways of behaving like self-serving jerks, with less than life-threatening consequences?

What do you think?


  1. This is a really interesting post! Titanic is one of my favorite movies, but I am not a big fan of 3D, so I haven't gone to see it again.

  2. Have not seen it since it was first released, but that moment of the mother tucking her children in has stayed with me through the years, that and the old people 'spooning' together.

  3. I saw Titanic with my husband (before we were married).. it was our first "movie date". It seems like ages ago.

    And, speaking of the Titanic, yesterday, James read me this article about the "unsung hero", a Catholic priest, who perished on the real Titanic. He gave up his spot on a lifeboat to stay and hear confessions of those that were left behind on the boat. I actually started tearing up, while he was reading it to me.

    Here is a link to the article, you should check it out:


Thank you for reading. I enjoy reading other perspectives, please feel free to share yours. :)