Appreciating Titanic for the First Time — 25 Years Later
Top 5 things I missed as a teenager
Happy October, Friends! I hope your September was spectacular.
Mine was eye-opening on so many accounts. I found myself rewatching James Cameron’s Titanic for the first time in decades — since the double-VHS days — and subsequently watched it twice more in the span of a few weeks.
This was fairly shocking. Not only is it rare for me to watch a movie thrice in one month, but I also thought I didn’t like Titanic. It’s a divisive film, and I was on the hater side of the fence.
Titanic came out when I was 14. I saw it many times in the theater but quickly got bored of my girlfriends gushing about how cute Leo —who looked 14 until he was in his 30s — was. Between feeling trapped in peak Leo-mania and just being an angsty teen, I totally failed to appreciate the brilliant work of art that is James Cameron’s Titanic.
But watching Titanic at 40 has led me to appreciate everything I missed 25 years ago. To share it all would be an obnoxiously long post, so I narrowed it down to the top 5:
1. Strong Female Lead
Titanic is a story about a woman. The ship and everyone else are just supporting characters in Rose’s story.
In Titanic we watch Rose transform from feeling so powerless over her own life that she considers ending it to courageously standing up for and saving herself.
One of the reasons I can’t watch certain 90s movies is because of the way they portray women. Maybe 14-year-old Lauren didn’t realize how blatantly bigoted TV and film were back then, but now I know.
As far as choosing an actress to portray such a strong and complex woman, I can’t think of anyone better than Kate Winslet.
2. Consent Is Sexy
Titanic was pretty progressive for its time. Not only does Rose choose to save herself instead of waiting to be saved, but the film is rich with examples of consent.
When Rose says, “Put your hands on me, Jack” in the car scene is probably the most obvious. Another that comes to mind is the “Third Class Party” scene where Fabrizio asks permission to put his hand on his dance partner.
Good work, James Cameron. Love to see it.
3. The Score
My Goddess. I could go on for hours about how amazing Titanic’s film score is, but I won’t. What I will say is that the movie wouldn’t be a tenth of what it is without James Horner (Rest in Peace). I’ve been listening to the soundtrack — specifically “Titanic Suite” — multiple times a day.
Please don’t listen on your phone or laptop speakers. Take a second and grab some good quality headphones.
I also love “The Portrait,” especially since learning it’s just James Horner on piano, playing out a raw rough draft of a piece he intended to have another musician perform for the final track. He never meant for anyone but James Cameron to hear it. Perfect for such an intimate scene!
4. Keep Your $8 Million, I Just Want to Make This Movie
Another fun fact I’ve learned since diving in (bad pun) to Titanic is that it almost didn’t get finished because it went so far over budget. To prevent his movie from getting axed, James Cameron offered up his $8M salary.
I get that Jam Cam is the second-highest-grossing director in Hollywood, anyway. But his fiery, “I don’t care about your money, just let me make art, goddammit” passion really shows through the finished product.
5. Make It Count
Saving the best for last here. The thing I loved the most about Titanic was the overarching theme that our time on earth is limited, tomorrow’s promised for no one, and all we can do is make each moment count.
This is what made me sob uncontrollably at the movie’s end.
It’s a concept my 14-year-old mind couldn’t grasp. But between the major losses and growing pains in my personal life and the many ways in which this has played out on the global stage (pandemic, OceanGate tragedy, etc.), my 40-year-old self never fails to consider it.
Your entire life can change at any moment. Your money can’t save you. All you have at the end are the memories you created and the decisions you made.
I wanted to write this before Titanic left Netflix, but I’ve been too busy obsessing over the movie and the history of the ship itself. It’s a popular obsession! If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend the podcast, James Cameron’s Titanic: Scene by Scene
Thank you for reading!
PS - If you enjoyed this post and want to support my work, you can buy me a coffee or become a paid subscriber. I appreciate you!
The Write Lauren is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.