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February 25, 2018 6:31 AM   Subscribe

The Much Better Movie Hiding In 'Titanic'; or, clues hinting at a far bolder direction James Cameron ultimately backed out of taking.
posted by acb (70 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a nice idea but it really sounds more like fan fiction than anything James Cameron might have actually had in mind.
posted by kyrademon at 6:43 AM on February 25 [13 favorites]


Fun reading. But James Cameron, master of coy subtlety? Uh. Hmmm. I think they've got hold of a simile, not a metaphor. We're a long way from Tony Curtis in Spartacus.
posted by Diablevert at 6:45 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


Cal: Hey Jack, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
Jack: No, have you?
posted by leotrotsky at 6:45 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


If we're going with alternate Titanics, I'd always thought the movie would've been much, much better had Jack and Rose been in their 40's. Rose has been married to, uh, Billy Zane, for years. She's had kids, the kids are terrible, Billy Zane is terrible, and Rose is being taken to America, away from the last few things in her life that made existence bearable. She's broken, and she's ready to to give up, finally. In steps Jack, who maybe at one point was that happy go lucky scamp, but happy go lucky doesn't last, and he's fallen on hard, hard times. He barely knows where his next meal will come from, let alone shelter. He's got a worrying cough that won't go away, that he worries might be something that gets him turned away at the docks. His luck is so bad, so terrible that he wins a ticket on the freaking Titanic. He's running away, from debts or something, and this is well and truly his last shot.

The thing is, Rose stops Jack from jumping. She's not really sure why, but she talks him down. They find something in each other. They talk, they listen to each other, and slowly they begin to break down the barriers they'd each built up against the cruelty of the world. For the first time in over a decade, Rose smiles, and it's here the audience realizes they hadn't actually seen her smile yet in the film. Slowly, Rose and Jack find happiness. They take walks, holding hands (they don't fuck in the back of a car in the hold because, well, they're adults, and it's whatever year it was. They actually start to enjoy their lives again, having found, if not love, someone that makes the pain of their failed lives less unbearable.


And then the ship hits the iceberg. Jack dies. Rose lives, haunted by the time she found happiness, and it was taken from her.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:02 AM on February 25 [76 favorites]


I feel like that movie wouldn’t have been as successful with 13 year olds.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:06 AM on February 25 [62 favorites]


Bridges of Titanic County?
posted by mochapickle at 7:08 AM on February 25 [22 favorites]


Possibly no. I'm thinking something along Remains of the Day, but with a boat, a bit more desperation, and an iceberg.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:09 AM on February 25 [8 favorites]


The girl in my 6th grade class who got the most into Titanic and had the biggest, most awkwardly public crush on Jack is married to a woman now so I'm guessing Cracked is using her as reference material.
posted by phunniemee at 7:10 AM on February 25 [34 favorites]


It's a thin premise and an entertaining article. Starts right out with Maybe it's because we've decided that anything teen girls like is terrible which is so very true, and you won't read anything like that anywhere else. Cracked is an undervalued site.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 AM on February 25 [16 favorites]


I’d watch the heck outta that, Ghidorah.
posted by mochapickle at 7:17 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Or, if you want to give him a little more credit, he may have simply written it so that a young woman in the theater could project herself as Rose or Jack, regardless of her orientation -- creating a fantasy that, on one level or another, appeals to literally everyone. If so, it's kind of genius.

Ding, ding, ding!

Sometimes an androgynous male lead is just an androgynous male lead, Sigmund.
posted by yhbc at 7:20 AM on February 25 [15 favorites]


Alternate screen test for Jack, from before they changed Titanic from a spaceship to a conventional oceanliner.
posted by Nelson at 7:30 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


This seems to me like the idea that Mac (Bill Duke) and Blaine (Jesse Ventura) in Predator were lovers. Nothing definitively contradicts it and you can point to the occasional filmmaker's choice that seems a bit odd unless that's true, but that's about it.

(Mac and Blaine were totally doin' it)
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:34 AM on February 25 [7 favorites]


Jack would have been legitimately afraid of Rose. She's high class, he's steerage. At any point she can decide that he's taken liberties and have him ... ship arrested?
He's taking his cues from her, which is an interesting enough switch to a romantic story I think?

(And Molly Brown took an interest in Jack because she was the low class person in the high class room. She knows the drill)

I apparently remember a lot more about that movie then I thought.
posted by right_then at 7:44 AM on February 25 [7 favorites]


This reading of the story also includes that well-known trope, "gay love interest dies tragically in the end."
posted by selfmedicating at 8:02 AM on February 25 [11 favorites]


Bridges of Titanic County?

The Titanic Crying Game?
posted by lagomorphius at 8:06 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


I'm thinking something along Remains of the Day, but with a boat, a bit more desperation, and an iceberg.


Joaquin Phoenix to play Jack, Kate Blanchett to play Rose, Sir Anthony Hopkins to play the iceberg.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:06 AM on February 25 [13 favorites]


James Cameron should play the iceberg.
posted by mochapickle at 8:09 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


This is a reading of the film that has never occurred to me, thanks for posting.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:13 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I’m okay with occulted identities finding a deeper meaning in titanic and pulling out a deeper meaning for themselves.

Like he’s totally a trans man and Zelda is the boy. It’s cool y’all, some of us are just on different reality rails...
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:22 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Shoot, is this gonna be the thing that finally gets me to see the movie?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:33 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


If nothing else, it makes the later movies of Martin Scorsese, who replaced De Niro with Dicaprio as his go-to male lead, a lot more interesting.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:36 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if we think of Leo as Lea hiding from society it makes a lot of his movies better, especially Gatsby and even Wolf of Wall Street.
posted by chavenet at 9:00 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


This reading does make the ending something interesting and meaningful, rather than just sad. Jack being turned away at the lifeboats because only women and children are allowed on? Simple. Jack being turned away as a choice to be true to his identity, even though he could save himself by fitting in with society's expectations? Noble and tragic, and thoroughly fitting in with the movie's major themes.
posted by meese at 9:01 AM on February 25 [14 favorites]


the better Titanic (by orders of magnitude) would have concerned a great ship that sank with catastrophic results due to a little bad luck and all manner of human failings ... and entirely skipped all the c-grade romantic crap and melodrama (a f***ing running gun battle below decks while the ship is sinking, are you f***ing kidding?), which, if you even half think about it, is an insult to the memory of all who died, and survived for that matter, because their stories are far more interesting (and well researched, it's worth noting) than Cameron's facile concoctions.
posted by philip-random at 9:05 AM on February 25 [23 favorites]


the better Titanic (by orders of magnitude)

About three million people would have watched Ken Burns's Titanic: An Ocean of Folly. Wait, I lie. I'm sure many more 8th graders would have napped through it in social studies for years to come.

The sinking of the Titanic is too big of a myth to get one kind of movie. This 'un was the full Busby Berkeley, and as that it seems to have worked well enough. The mere fact that billions of people liked it does not make it bad. Though it may well not be to your taste, Margaret Dumont.
posted by Diablevert at 9:18 AM on February 25 [11 favorites]


and entirely skipped all the c-grade romantic crap and melodrama (a f***ing running gun battle below decks while the ship is sinking, are you f***ing kidding?)

Conversely, Titanic wasn't made by Snyder or Bay, so if that's the extent of the absurdity, I think I got off easy.
posted by mikelieman at 10:45 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


The sinking of the Titanic is too big of a myth to get one kind of movie

A Night to Remember is on my video server.

Titanic is not.
posted by mikelieman at 10:47 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


> Ghidorah:
"They actually start to enjoy their lives again, having found, if not love, someone that makes the pain of their failed lives less unbearable."

Cassavete's Titanic.
posted by rhizome at 10:58 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Kazuo Ishiguro's Titanic, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:18 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Cracked has some pretty good articles. I like that they finally stopped breaking them up into multiple pages. I dislike the new system where they pile so many ads onto a page that my browser keeps crashing and my iPhone gets hot enough to fry an egg.
posted by rikschell at 11:29 AM on February 25 [7 favorites]


Cimino's Titanic.
posted by Sphinx at 11:30 AM on February 25


Whenever I see something talking about how Titanic could have been a better movie I think of this little factoid: Adjusted for inflation, James Cameron made two of the top ten all time highest grossing films. If you don't adjust for inflation, he's made the two highest grossing films of all time.

I suspect he knows what he's doing and why when he makes a movie. This is not to conflate economic success with quality. Just to say that I think when engaging critically with a work you have to start from the assumption of competence and intent, and that requirement is even greater when the movie as it exists is wildly successful.

meese: I agree with the sentiment about the nobility of staying true to your chosen identity. At the same time saying: "being told you're going to die because women and children first is simple" is vaguely insulting to all the other men aboard who calmly accepted that they were going to die as well.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:31 AM on February 25 [7 favorites]


Cracked is what happens when you pin a modicum of talent to a halfway-decent idea and milk it for everything you can think of.
posted by rhizome at 11:32 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I'm now totally imagining Leo as Leia, fighting her way through the guts of the Titanic. Rose is Chewbacca. It just explains so much, especially her awkward interactions with the male leads and why Leia enfolds Han and Luke with medals - a yonic symbol if I've ever seen one - while Chewie just gets a twinkle.

Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:40 AM on February 25


Interesting theory, but I still don't like Jar Jar.
posted by rokusan at 11:45 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


"being told you're going to die because women and children first is simple" is vaguely insulting to all the other men aboard who calmly accepted that they were going to die as well.

Yeah, sorry -- I can see that.

I just meant, in relation to this particular love story, given how Cameron set up all the domino pieces for the tragic end. There is most definitely a very interesting, and worthwhile, and meaningful story to be written about masculinity, love, compassion, and self-respect, related to the men who died due to this policy. It would be totally different from the story, as Cameron developed it, though.
posted by meese at 11:45 AM on February 25


Draw me like one of your Corellian girls.
posted by rhizome at 11:46 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


George: I saw "Titanic". So that old woman, she's just a liar, right?
Jerry: And a bit of a tramp if you ask me.
posted by rhizome at 11:47 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


The Titanic mania at the time, IIRC, seemed to be independent of this movie. I recall seeing a new Titanic musical on Broadway around the same time. It was highly awarded, and the performances were good -- I saw Michael Cerveris, and I think I choked up. But the show didn't last too long, and it never took on a huge following afterwards. At the time, I wondered why this was; teenage girls love a musical, and they loved Cameron's Titanic. But I think it's because the musical was more historically accurate (except for the bursting into song, of course). It tells many different stories, not all of them about simple yearning and romance. There's a lot going on.

In Cameron's film, there is, of course, also a lot going on, but it's all a backdrop for the one big tragic arc. Since I never liked Leo DiCaprio or bought him as a romantic lead, I considered it all a waste, but this movie wasn't made for me; it was made for millions of other people. And that is okay.

The movie about a trans Jack? That would be made for me. Of course, it would never have crossed anyone's mind in the '90s, and although it could be made now, it wouldn't get such a budget or make so much money. But if we all survive these next few years, I think that queer historical narratives could absolutely make it to the big screen.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:01 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


But I think it's because the musical was more historically accurate (except for the bursting into song, of course).

I keep hearing people say this. Do most families not burst into song at the slightest provocation? How do they fill their time?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:06 PM on February 25 [11 favorites]


I think it's nothing more complex than Cameron deliberately presenting a young-looking man as the lead. Teen girls generally much prefer young men that look close to their own ages over older-looking men with more pronounced secondary characteristics like 5 o'clock shadows and heavier builds. See every Teen Beat article about boys ever.

Cameron was smart enough to know that this story could draw a younger, teenage female audience and presented a male lead that they would most likely find attractive.

It's possible to read a trans story line in there, but I don't think it was intended. This was a commercial construction of the male lead as much as any boy band is. With a filmmaker like Cameron, the answer to most questions is "because that would make more money".
posted by bonehead at 12:12 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Well, if you take the "Jack is a Time Traveler" theory, mix in the Marxist interpretations of the class issues presented, and throw in this whole "Jack is Queer/Trans/Non-binary" twist, you've actually got a script for a Titanic remake I'd actually want to see!

*bonus points if you retain the Neil DeGrasse Tyson inspired accurate astronomy in the Blu-Ray remaster ;)
posted by ethical_caligula at 12:36 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


meese: I get where you're coming from, and I wasn't trying to call you out or anything. It's just the recent articles on Brendan Frasier, Troy Hurtubise, and Toxic Masculinity have got me thinking about how huge self-negation is in a lot of notions of what it means to be a man.

As Fraser said in the article: "they threw me into a pinball machine. I think I bruised a rib, but I was like: That's okay! I'll take it. I can do it again. If you want, I'll break it. You want me to do it again?"

Hell the entire Hurtubise article could be summed up as "Hurtubise believes that death is preferable to the failure to be what he feels he should be".

As I was thinking about it, it occurred that a scene where Jack gives up a place on a lifeboat to maintain his chosen identity could also be read in explicitly patriarchal terms. There's any number of examples in fiction where manhood is attained by calmly accepting danger, and where failure to do so is treated as a sign you're not a man. (And any number of examples in reality) Again, this is an patriarchial read, if Jack saves himself, he's not just abandoning his identity, he's proving himself unworthy of it. By accepting death, Jack proves he is what before he was just pretending to be.

The reason I went through that exercise is that it illustrates where I think a lot of the toxicity in toxic masculinity comes from. If your concept of identity derives from a set of expectations, is something you have to earn, and can loose, that insecurity drives not only horrible behaviors, but an inability to accept people who's concept of identity is something you choose and are free to revise. "You must suffer as I have suffered or my suffering has no meaning". I could go on a tangent here about TERFs but I'm already starting to feel like someone flicking matches in the oily rags and gunpowder warehouse.

So, drifting back onto topic, yeah, a Titanic with a trans Jack would be a hell of a thing. Because it would really have to deal with these questions. Also, this is why I don't denigrate people who write fanfic. Fanfic is so often people playing cultural Robinson Crusoe, salvaging tools and material to build something to help them cope with a culture that they find inhospitable. Wether or not I like it or understand a particular work, I get the impluse.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:46 PM on February 25 [18 favorites]


> rhizome:
"Cracked is what happens when you pin a modicum of talent to a halfway-decent idea and milk it for everything you can think of."

Well, it worked for "Titanic"
posted by chavenet at 1:07 PM on February 25 [8 favorites]


Starts right out with Maybe it's because we've decided that anything teen girls like is terrible which is so very true, and you won't read anything like that anywhere else. Cracked is an undervalued site.

Though there was this recent FPP on the Titanic and adolescent girls.
posted by Rumple at 1:14 PM on February 25


I'll just float my own idea for a Titanic sequel here. Two replica Titanics are build, one in North America and one in Europe. They set sail at the same time, and collide head-on in the middle of the Atlantic, sinking tragically.

It would be called... Titanic Two: Two Titanics
posted by lagomorphius at 1:26 PM on February 25 [26 favorites]


"… Sir Anthony Hopkins to play the iceberg."
Oooo, that's cold…
posted by Pinback at 1:56 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


A sequel from the point of view of the Iceberg would be cool - innocent victim of a hit and run, PTSD, long-term survivor guilt, melts into a puddle of guilt.

Or maybe a drama set on the Carpathian, in which picking up the survivors is an irritating distraction or just part of the scenery, in the manner of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead".

Could also do wonders for the careers of Peter Berg, Ice-T, LL Cool J, Floe Jo, and others.
posted by Rumple at 2:36 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Two replica Titanics are build

Dig it: three ships in the class were built--the Titanic, the Britannic, and the Olympic. The Britannic was put into service in WWI as a hospital ship and sank after hitting a mine (all but 30 of over a thousand people on board were saved); the Olympic also saw service (in spectacular dazzle camouflage) before finally being retired in 1935.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:46 PM on February 25 [8 favorites]


On the one hand, there's the desperation for representation to the point of making faces out of clouds. On the other, this version of Titanic leads to the Dead Lesbian trope. Which I'm not sure was generally recognized as a thing, when Titanic was filmed.

Unless of course we go all the way to making it the BEST version of the film where Rose says "Don't be stupid Jack, there's room on this for both of us." and then finishes up the movie with "And so kids, that's where I met my partner Jack."
posted by happyroach at 3:23 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I never watched Titanic because it was just such a schlocky part of pop culture at the time that I was already sick of it before I had a chance to see it.

But I did get dragged to Star Trek: First Contact and had a sudden wake-up moment partway through the film. We got to see Zephram Cochrane being dogged by the Enterprise D crew bringing him parts and designs and fanboying him and he just shrinks back under all their adoration like he's got some kind of impostor syndrome gone mad. And he never once talks about the project to build the warp drive.

But who did? Lily Sloane, the African-American woman they take up to the Enterprise to treat for radiation or something. She looks around the ship and talks about how it compares to her own experience of building the Phoenix.

I get it!! I thought to myself, paying more attention to the screen. It's about the black woman who had the credit for her invention stolen by a feckless white dude! Okay, this could be interesting!

But no, Cochrane was just shy. That was all there was to that plot line.

They could have made that movie not suck by simply playing out the thread I thought I'd picked up on!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:38 PM on February 25 [11 favorites]


Kind of far out speculation that serves little purpose other than giving an old movie a little more publicity, but I did enjoy this:

Entertainment Weekly said, "The shockingly androgynous DiCaprio looks barely old enough to be playing anyone with hormones.”
posted by TedW at 3:43 PM on February 25


Well, what do you mean Sir Anthony isn't available? Ask Kenny Branagh if he'll do it then. No...no...not Ben- too much of a malevolent energy. Wait- hold for a moment, would you? I'm going to call up Sir Pat.

Hello, Patrick, darling? I have a wonderful part for you! It's a bit of a walk-on, but there's a marvelous speech, and the plot absolutely hinges on your role!

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:03 PM on February 25


There was a much more interesting move in Titanic ... but as said above, it was the one without so silly a love-plot. Just like there was a far more interesting Avatar that didn't have a 100x recycled second and third act. Maybe Cameron just feels that when he's taking on a huge technical challenge he doesn't want to double down on his risk, and goes with extruded commercial screenplay content.
posted by MattD at 5:11 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Pro-anything that might support a trans Lou(ise) portrayal in a Gypsy remake.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:23 PM on February 25


Unless of course we go all the way to making it the BEST version of the film where Rose says "Don't be stupid Jack, there's room on this for both of us." and then finishes up the movie with "And so kids, that's where I met my partner Jack."

"Are you sure, Jack?"

"Fuck it. It's just a rock, dear."
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:26 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


The movie should have completely revolved around David Warner, badass sidekick.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:21 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I like this idea, but I always like the idea that in Atonement the James McAvoy character was a lesbian or maybe a trans man. It makes the love story more believable and his fate all the more tragic.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 6:46 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I feel like that movie wouldn’t have been as successful with 13 year olds.

Idk, according to the math where Old Rose is just about 100 years old in 1996, she would have been only sixteen in the film. Leo doesn't look much older, so it's a couple of 16-year-olds. Which makes all the abusive Billy Zane stuff extra-gross.

Another thing: I don't seem to hear or read a lot about how intensely traumatizing the second part of the movie can be. I saw it recently on the big screen and was horrified by all the violence and death at the end. It's really, really grim. And considering this comment about how the water should have looked in the other recent FPP about the movie, it's even more grim to consider that Cameron presented a sanitized version of what really happened. Titanic is a horror film.
posted by witchen at 8:42 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Ben Stiller pitches Titanic 2 to James Cameron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBiYyn-4_LA
posted by xammerboy at 10:34 AM on February 26


Anyway, does this theory have merit? I think it sort of does.... Similarly, I totally buy that Top Gun is a homoerotic film on some level. There are just waaaaay too many double-entendres. I think the last line of the film is something like "I'd ride your tail anytime!" by the recently won over "Ice Man".

Also, nice to see a thought provoking article by Cracked. I used to check in on that site all the time until it became so swamped with ads I found it impossible to browse.
posted by xammerboy at 10:44 AM on February 26


The final exchange in Top Gun goes like this.

Iceman: [to Maverick] You can be my wing man any time.
Maverick: Bullshit. You can be mine.

(The homoeroticism is mostly in the volleyball scene, though it bleeds through into the locker room scenes a bit as well.)
posted by tobascodagama at 11:01 AM on February 26


Richfront Trench?
posted by CheapB at 12:27 PM on February 26


As a femme who dates androgynous/soft butch I approve if this re-write. Jack would be a hot Wild Fang model.
posted by complaina at 2:44 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Another thing: I don't seem to hear or read a lot about how intensely traumatizing the second part of the movie can be.

Witchen, I was in seventh grade when I saw this movie in theaters, and the second half of the movie super duper fucked me up. I knew Jack wasn't going to make it and was actually angry when he escaped every close call because the suspense felt like James Cameron was fucking with the audience. Meanwhile, all the background people screaming and going into the water... I remember crying the whole time and then being kind of shocked afterward, Leo drowning didn't really register. I was also watching a ton of Holocaust documentaries at the time, so I think something about puberty not quite kicking in yet (one year away from the 13 year old girl target audience) and being acclimated to not seeing large groups of people dying as background noise made them more...there... than jack and rose. This dapper butch Jack interpretation messes me up in some similar way, I can't handle looking at it.

edit: found and watched the 'nearer my god to thee' scene on youtube and now I'm crying at my computer, why did I do this thing
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:07 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]


Dig it: three ships in the class were built--the Titanic, the Britannic, and the Olympic.

A cab driver in Belfast once recounted to me the theory that the Olympic was the one that sank; apparently, they switched two of the ships around, as part of an insurance scam.
posted by acb at 8:23 AM on February 27 [3 favorites]


A sequel from the point of view of the Iceberg would be cool - innocent victim of a hit and run, PTSD, long-term survivor guilt, melts into a puddle of guilt.

Posts like this make me wish I'd kept my "Next time I'm cheering for the Iceberg" shirt.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:03 AM on February 27


Posts like this make me wish I'd kept my "Next time I'm cheering for the Iceberg" shirt.

"Hooray, I'm for the other team!"

The sequel should be about all the crew and male passengers being enslaved by mermaids who teach them to breathe underwater and have their fishy way with them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:19 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


You joke, and yet . . .
posted by Countess Elena at 2:53 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


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