Why America's teenage girls can't get enough of 'Titanic'

The boat may sink, but a new feminist role model has risen on the silver screen

Share
Related Topics
AS AWARD after award speeds towards James Cameron for his epic blockbuster and Oscar-favourite, Titanic, a handful of critics are professing surprise. Not because of the scale of its success, nor because of the records it notches up week after week for takings and audiences. Nor yet because of the contrast between the dire warnings of failure and the glorious reality.

Almost three months after the film's release, the surprise comes from the complexion of the audiences. In front of cinemas across America, the winding queues comprise not laggardly first-time viewers curious to see if what everyone else says about the film is true, but second, third, fourth and fifth-timers, the vast majority of them teenage girls.

Now the easy explanation is that they have come for the sole purpose of drooling over the gorgeous looks and eerily natural charm of Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Jack, the doomed hero from the lower orders. In other words, feminism - in terms of self-assertion - is dead; long live romance.

Having belatedly joined the titanic queues myself, I would like to venture that the explanation is more complicated, and perhaps more heartening for those of us on the distaff side in the late Nineties. My bet, borne out subsequently by some gentle inquiry, is that all these girls are not frequenting the cinema only, or even mainly, for the sake of the luscious Leonardo. They are there quite as much for the leading lady, the lonely, stubborn Rose, torn between duty to family, class and convention, and her contempt for the whole charade.

Rose (played by Oscar-nominee Kate Winslet), with her mixture of self- doubt and forwardness, sense of responsibility and lust to break free, holds a particular appeal for America's young women, so many of whom find themselves stranded between aggressive self-assertion and wistful longing for romance. Rose is even a little more plump than your average American girl would like to be, but she seems comfortable with her body - another consoling thought for angst-ridden dieters for whom Barbie was the model.

The director, James Cameron, describes Rose as "muscle plus striking femininity". Her women fans are less abstract about it. "She was a daredevil. She went on to have adventures; she didn't waste her life," says Karen Schoemer in Time magazine. "She's so romantic, so real," says a young friend who recently saw the film for the sixth time. For America's teenage girls, Rose is the next century's woman in the making.

Something similar goes for the developing relationship between Jack and Rose. By turns conspiratorial and reckless, respectful and teasing, sexual (but always equal), it offers a fully acceptable road map in girl-boy relations to emotionally confused and sexually hung-up Americans. And Jack is the ideal partner: encouraging adventure and self-reliance, displaying leadership and resourcefulness but also restraint and need. His last words to Rose, as he sinks into a watery Liebestod: Tell her never to let go, to make something of herself.

Would not every Nineties American girl want a mate like that? A mate who combines chivalry and romance with unforced political correctness and pushes her to make the best of herself? No wonder the girls are out in force for Titanic. It's just a pity that the boys are not there too. They might learn about the sort of companionable devotion their girlfriends will now expect.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone