Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Why Titanic’s Jack and Rose couldn’t both fit on the door

Everyone pretty much knows that Jack dies at the end of James Cameron’s famed Titanic. More or less, this fact has been accepted by fans and viewers -- but not without a fight. Titanic has been my favorite movie since the tender age of 9-years-old. So for 11 years (it feels like 84, to be honest), I’ve listened to friends and people on the Internet go on and on about how Jack could have fit on that wooden door with Rose, and that she was just being a snooty door-hogger. 

Well. 

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From 20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans. 

Not saying that Rose wasn’t a total snob for a majority of the movie, but in the case of the door, it wasn’t really her fault. 

So now, after 11 long years of nodding and laughing while people talk about the whole Jack, Rose and the infamous door situation, I’m finally going to put in my two cents on the issue. Buckle up, readers. This Titanic fanatic is going to the heart of the debate, armed with metaphors, symbolism and perhaps a bit of an unchecked obsession.

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20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans

In my mind, the issue isn’t whether or not Jack could have been on the door with Rose, but rather if he should have been. Of course, I’m not saying that death is ever a good thing or should be encouraged, but in the case of the fictional Titanic, Jack’s passing was an important plot point.

To first address the most basic part of the argument: Jack couldn’t have been on that door, because science.

Science  

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20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans

I may be a measly accounting major who hasn’t taken physics since the eighth grade, but have no fear, MythBusters has the answers. Unless Jack and Rose had the wherewithal, time and materials to tie Rose’s life vest to the bottom of the door, it wouldn’t have been buoyant enough to hold both of them. So in the end, blame science for Jack’s chilly demise, not Rose. (Though, I guess she could have insisted that Jack take the door…that’s a debate for another time). One last point on the surface level argument: they both clearly tried to fit on the door (evidenced by the gif above), but alas to no avail. So you can’t say they never tried.    

I could leave the argument at that, and let the MythBusters do all of the talking. But I think there are some deeper implications that stem from the door debate. Writers and directors do everything in a film for a reason. Now sometimes that reason is purely for dramatic purposes or to stir up a heated conversation and get some Oscars buzz surrounding their film. But when someone has the power to do virtually anything to the plot and characters, it’s hard to think they’d choose something for no reason.

“God Himself could not sink this ship”

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20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans

Villain Cal has a very ominous line early in the movie, that does more than just obviously hint to the plot twist that hasn’t been a plot twist since April 15, 1912: the Titanic sinks. Telling Rose that “God Himself could not sink this ship” not only hints to the audience that, in fact, God can sink this ship, it also implies that James Cameron (director/God) can indeed kill off heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jack. Usually main characters have plot armor, or at least I’m hopeful that they do. So maybe I was a little too naive and trusting that Jack wouldn’t sink into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, but the tragic twist certainly put you in the same boat as Rose (no pun intended… okay, maybe a little pun intended). Just as Rose wanted to start a life with Jack when the ship docked in New York (though they’d literally only known each other for like 5 days, angry sighs), most audience members were excited to watch the beginnings of their new life together. So when he instead died, you could at least sympathize a bit more with Rose. Maybe that was Cameron’s intention. Or maybe he had an even bigger reason:

“Life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it” 

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20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans

This might not be the most shocking of lessons to be learned, but I still think it’s one that’s easily overlooked and forgotten about. When tragedy strikes, reflecting back on everything you did up to that point and how you can make it better is easy. You really do start to understand that life is a gift, and it shouldn’t be wasted. As the shock of the tragedy dissipates, it’s easy to fall back into routine. Jack’s death teaches us not to get to the dissipation point. In his words, we have to “make each day count.” But even if you don’t believe in the whole treat every day like your last philosophy, I hope you can at least respect what Jack’s death does within the confines of the film itself. When we first meet Rose, she’s as rigid and unlikeable as a character can get without chance at redemption (cough, cough I’m looking at you, Cal). But then by the end, she’s done a complete 180°.

“I’m flying!”

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20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans

I have this theory that the Titanic is a metaphor for Jack. With the clear goal of getting to New York City, you really want to root for both the ship and the man, but because of misguided people leading their fates (the captain of the ship ordering more speed and Rose guiding Jack into the clutches of the man who gets him arrested), they’re blown off course and into treacherous waters. These new courses take them from having a clear goal to being the stepping stones for other people. The sinking of the Titanic led to mandatory reform to put enough lifeboats on ships, and Jack changed Rose forever. 

Rose went from a woman feeling like her fate was sealed, and that she would never be happy, to someone who had the whole world in front of her, and she could do whatever she wanted. But to get to that point, she needed a little push. In no way am I saying that Rose needed a man to get her there. But rather the life experiences that Jack showed her were necessary to her breaking free. The entire film can be summed up as Rose being exposed to new things, and that as she is, she becomes everything she wanted to be. (This growth can also be tracked by her hairstyles throughout the film. At the beginning, everything was tight and in a bun, and by the end, it’s completely natural and free). 

And what is important to note is that Rose didn’t discover the world with anyone but herself. Jack may have been an inspiration, and his death may have been her catalyst for starting new, but in the end, it was all her. Evidenced by the photo montage at the end of the film, we see Rose flying airplanes, riding a horse bareback, riding roller coasters until she throws up (in the world of Jack) and being her own inspiration. 

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20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans

So in the end, Jack’s death was important for Rose to finally understand that her life could be anything she wanted it to be, and men and society didn’t have to dictate what she chose to do. To get there though, she needed Jack to not fit on the door with her and die. It was her first real taste of total autonomy, and she survived and thrived. By the end of her life at the end of the film, she had made each day count. So Rose needed to let Jack go. When he and the Titanic sank, she floated back up to the surface and became her own person. And that’s what’s important, and that’s why James Cameron made the creative decision to only have Rose be on that wooden door. 

Thanks for reading, and go make each day count!

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20th Century Fox. GIF by Jenny Evans

jevans@theeagleonline.com


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