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Titanic: Idealized Romance Plus Consent

by Lee Conderacci

Titanic was a massive Blockbuster hit in 1997, and its heartthrob leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio, made it particularly popular among young women. The love story between Jack and Rose, the lead characters, plays upon a number of traditional romantic tropes: the privileged but unhappy heroine (poor little rich girl); the dashing and handsome hero who is rough around the edges but has a heart of gold; a class difference that draws the lovers from different worlds, making a connection that transcends boundaries; a love affair that must be kept secret due to oppressive social and familial constraints; compressed spatial and temporal boundaries intensifying the relationship; impending doom and disaster that render the love story as heartbreaking as it is beautiful, with a sense of loss and tragedy heightening each moment of connection between the lovers. In short, this is a love story that is idealized in nearly every way. The encounter in this scene is also dripping with romance, as well as sensuality and erotic tension, and ultimately, it is a fully consensual interaction. In this scene, Jack and Rose sneak down to the ship's hold and find a car (which looks much lovelier and more romantic than a modern-day car because it is a 1912 Coup de Ville). Playfully underscoring their class difference, Jack slides into the driver's seat and pretends to be Rose's chauffeur. Class difference can often contribute to a power differential between partners, which may complicate the issue of consent. The film emphasizes and romanticizes this class difference, but it does not fully explore its relationship within sexual power dynamics. Within their interpersonal relationship, Jack and Rose are presented as equals. In this scene, Rose slips into the backseat of the Coupe de Ville and physically pulls Jack from the driver’s seat to sit beside her. Jack is surprised and amused at this move on her part, but ultimately pleased. They hold each other and make intense eye contact. Jack asks, "Are you nervous?" Rose looks him straight in the eye and says, "No." There seems to be a mutual understanding here about what is about to happen. Though Jack and Rose have not had sex yet before this moment, essentially the entirety of their interactions up until now have been flirting and foreplay. This includes a scene in which Rose asks Jack (who is an artist) to "Draw [her] like one of [his] French girls"-- meaning naked and sexualized through his gaze. He does so, with her reclining on a sofa completely nude except for a diamond necklace. Years later, Rose reflects upon this moment, saying, "My heart was pounding the whole time. It was the most erotic moment of my life. Up until then, at least." It is clear to the audience that Rose is attracted to Jack, and that she is sexually aroused by him. Because the story is told through Rose's perspective, we do not hear Jack's explicit thoughts about Rose, but all of his interactions with her indicate that he is attracted to her as well. In this scene, in the car, Rose tenderly and sensually kisses Jack's fingertips before looking at him and saying, "Put your hands on me, Jack." She places his hand on her breast, and they begin to kiss. The camera pans out and we see the ship charging steadily through the quiet, black, icy waters of the North Atlantic. Then we cut back to the car, this time from the outside. The window is steamed up, and we see a hand press against it for a moment before swiping away, leaving its print on the glass. This scene is a fully-consensual, and also highly-romanticized, representation of a first sexual encounter between a mutually-interested couple. Although their romance does not survive the sinking of the Titanic, Jack and Rose set the bar in this scene for consensual and erotic car sex.

Titanic: Put Your Hands on Me, Jack

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In this Blockbuster film, the two lead characters have an idealized romantic affair onboard the ill-fated ship Titanic. In this scene, they consummate their relationship.

from Titanic (1997)
Creator: James Cameron
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox/Paramount Pictures
Posted by Lee Conderacci