is Cameron's Titanic really about the catastrophe of the ship hitting the ice-berg?

And the same goes for the most successful film of all times: is Cameron's Titanic really about the catastrophe of the ship hitting the ice-berg? One should be attentive to the precise moment of the catastrophe: it takes place when the two young lovers (Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslett), immediately after consummating their amorous link in the sexual act, return to the ship's deck. This, however, is not all: if this were all, then the catastrophe would have been simply the punishment of Fate for the double transgression (illegitimate sexual act; crossing the class divisions). What is more crucial is that, on the deck, Kate passionately says to her lover that, when the ship will reach New York the next morning, she will leave with him, preferring poor life with her true love to the false corrupted life among the rich; at THIS moment the ship hits the ice-berg, in order to PREVENT what would undoubtedly have been the TRUE catastrophe, namely the couple's life in New York - one can safely guess that soon, the misery of everyday life would destroy their love. The catastrophe thus occurs in order to safe their love, in order to sustain the illusion that, if it were not to happen, they would have lived "happily forever after"...



But even this is not all; a further clue is provided by the final moments of di Caprio. He is freezing in the cold water, dying, while Winslet is safely floating on a large piece of wood; aware that she is losing him, she cries: "I'll never let you go!", and, while saying this, she pushes him away with her hands - why? Beneath the story of a love couple, Titanic tells another story, the story of a spoiled high-society girl in an identity-crisis: she is confused, doesn't know what to do with herself, and, much more than her love partner, di Caprio is a kind of "vanishing mediator" whose function is to restore her sense of identity and purpose in life, her self-image (quite literally, also: he draws her image); once his job is done, he can disappear. This is why his last words, before he disappears in freezing North Atlantic, are not the words of a departing lover's, but, rather, the last message of a preacher, telling her how to lead her life, to be honest and faithful to herself, etc. What this means is that Cameron's superficial Hollywood-Marxism (his all too obvious privileging of the lower classes and caricatural depiction of the cruel egotism and opportunism of the rich) should not deceive us: beneath this sympathy for the poor, there is another narrative, the profoundly reactionary myth, first fully deployed by Kipling's Captain Courageous, of a young rich person in crisis who gets his (or her) vitality restored by a brief intimate contact with the full-blooded life of the poor. What lurks behind the compassion for the poor is their vampiric exploitation.

Slavoj Zizek, A Pervert's Guide to Family




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