Doomed From The Start

I Rewatched Titanic & The Love Story Is Totally Overrated

Sorry, but my heart won't go on for this naive couple.

The 'Titanic' movie came out in 1997, and was heralded as one of the greatest cinematic love stories...
Paramount Pictures

Ask any child of the ‘90s, and they’ll tell you that the Titanic movie was an absolute cultural phenomenon. It’s been 84 years, I mean, 25 years since the film made its grand debut in theaters, and while it took place before the age of social media and Twitter trends, it was still all anyone could talk about at the time. Starring a very baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson and a then-lesser-known Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, the movie centers around the passionate — yet very, very brief — love story between their characters and the looming tragedy that brought it so abruptly to an end. I’m referring, of course, to the infamous sinking of the actual Titanic ship, which existed in real life and was thought to be unsinkable. Unfortunately, as we all know, that was quickly proven not to be the case.

The movie provides a detailed account of fictional passengers during the days leading up to the sinking as well as the immediate aftermath and all the horror that came with it. Yet as heartbreaking as all of that was to watch unfold, it was the love story between Jack and Rose that stood at the forefront of the film. Their romance quickly became an iconic symbol of true love, and as a young girl at the time of the film’s release, I ate it all up. Seriously, I could not stop swooning over these two and would blast Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on repeat more times than I could count.

It was a love for the ages — and yet, after recently rewatching Titanic many, many, many years later, I found Jack and Rose’s relationship to be somewhat… lacking. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that their love story is overrated.

This is by no means an insult to Winslet or DiCaprio’s performances. They have undeniable chemistry and did a great job humanizing those roles. But while it’s easy to initially glorify the romance of their characters and put it on a pedestal, if you really think about their time together and what it all entailed, you start to realize their love (if we choose to call it that) wasn’t the be-all, end-all you once thought.

Love... or trauma response?

I mean, take how they initially met, for example. Rose felt as if she had no control over her own life, almost as if she was a prisoner — albeit, a very privileged prisoner. But she felt so trapped that she was contemplating ending her life. That is, until she met Jack, who talked her out of it and saved her life when she accidentally slipped and almost went overboard.

Right from the jump, their relationship kicked off under complicated, traumatic, adrenaline-fueled circumstances, which continued to happen throughout their time together. Here’s Rose, a 17-year-old girl, who sees her whole life mapped out for her, and then along comes Jack. He’s handsome and charming and completely unexpected. Of course, she finds him intriguing! Everyone is drawn to what they shouldn’t have and he is the ultimate forbidden fruit. But lust, infatuation, fantasy, even boredom can quite easily be mistaken for love.

Let’s be real: They were still strangers.

The simple fact of the matter is that neither Jack or Rose had time to truly fall in love with each other. Despite how long the movie itself is (a two VHS box set, folks!), these are two people who only knew each other for a few days. That’s right, days. Then Jack dies, and so does any future they may or may not have shared together.

Sure, many viewers want to believe that had Jack lived, they would’ve lived happily ever after — but I honestly have a hard time buying into that idea. I dated my husband for seven years before we decided to get married, so this whirlwind courtship of, again, mere days, hits differently now as an adult.

Rose and Jack weren’t given the time needed to see if they really would have been a good long-term fit together. Could it have been love? Sure, it’s possible, I guess. But could it also have been two horny kids getting caught up in the heat of the moment? To me, that seems like the more likely option. And don’t even get me started on their whole “you jump, I jump” mantra. We are literally told during childhood that just because someone does something, doesn’t mean you should do it too. So, no. No jumping at all, please!

They came from different worlds.

Let’s also not forget that Jack had literally nothing but the clothes on his back. That may not have mattered or seemed all that important to Rose on the ship, but she may have felt a bit differently had they run away together in the United States. She claimed to be tired of high society life, but based on a trunk full of evidence, this girl liked her material possessions. Rose did not know how to travel light as a young girl or a 100-year-old woman.

The truth of the matter is that disparity could’ve become a significant roadblock for them down the line, with Rose resenting Jack for taking her from the lifestyle to which she was so accustomed. It’s nice to believe that love conquers all, but in reality, the sentiment can feel somewhat naive. Having no money would’ve been a factor. Perhaps one that they could’ve overcome, but maybe not.

Rose did have the Heart of the Ocean diamond in her possession. Would she have sold it to make a fortune had Jack survived? We’ll never know. Then again, she did proceed to throw said diamond into the ocean 84 years later for really no reason at all — a decision that still haunts me to this day. If anything, I take this now as further proof that Rose doesn’t always have the best judgment.

This final reunion is... questionable.

Then, of course, there’s the final scene of the film that shows Rose dying as an older woman warm in bed, just as Jack wanted. Her spirit then goes to the Titanic to reunite with the fallen passengers, including Jack. I remember my young, innocent heart swelling with happiness to see these two back together again in the afterlife. But now? I can’t help but think about Rose’s husband, whom she met in America and built a family with. She barely talks about him, but I assume they were in love and happily married. Would she really not be with him instead after dying? It makes more sense for her to spend eternity with a dude she knew a few days back when she was 17?!?! Make it make sense!

Jack and Rose were there for each other through a genuinely traumatic experience no one should have to endure. But does it equate to love? Is this truly the greatest love story of all time? Call me a skeptic if you want, but this is one romanticized notion that, unlike Rose, I find I must let go of.