Late Capitalism Film Reboots: Titanic
What would the iconic romance look like filmed with today's values?
Titanic! We all love it. It’ll never let us go. But what would happen if we rebooted the film with today’s late capitalism ethics rather than the dreamlike world of 1997? Let’s find out.
Late Capitalism Titanic Opening Credits
Brock Lovett and his team are aboard the research vessel the Keldysh. They are searching the wreck of the Titanic for valuables or other notable historic finds. They find a safe. They open it. Nothing is inside.
Behind them, an old woman, Rose, raises her hands and then drops them in a gesture that says, “I tried to tell you.”
The crew nevertheless asks Rose to tell them her story. Again. Even though they already know it, which is why they asked her to be on the ship in the first place. Weary, she relents.
We flash back to Rose and her mother Ruth boarding the Titanic. Ruth emphasizes to Rose that marrying her jackass fiancé Cal is the answer to all their financial problems.
Still on shore in a dockside bar, a penniless artist, Jack Dawson, wins a third-class ticket on the Titanic in a poker game. But Jack and his friend are stopped before they can board by a sailor who asks if they’ve been through the inspection queue.
Jack tells the sailor that he and his friend are both American and thus, do not have lice. The sailor, much like modern day authorities refusing to require masks, vaccines, or even a negative COVID test, shrugs. He doesn’t give a shit. He just had to ask. Jack and his friend board.
They both have lice.
Later, Rose, who is depressed about her lot in life, is having thoughts of suicide. She climbs over the ship’s rail. No one stops her. She does not meet Jack at this point, because he and his lice are in the parts of the ship where he’s allowed to be. This is exactly like a modern-day airplane where the goings on in first class are utterly unknown to the traveler in the rear of the plane.
Still, Rose can’t bring herself to end her life. Though only 17, she realizes she is by no means the first woman to have to put up with a jackass. She doesn’t want to disappoint her mother, let alone break her mother’s heart over the loss of a child. Maybe, Rose thinks, she can be married to Cal but also have extramarital affairs, thus solving her family’s wealth problem and to some degree meeting her own needs? She climbs back over the rail.
She goes to her stateroom and puts on an expensive necklace, symbolizing that she has accepted the fact that she will be unhappy. But at least she’ll be rich.
Cal later finds Rose wandering the first class decks. She is radiant. Other gentlemen are eyeballing her. Women are jealous of her youth, her beauty, and her necklace. Cal, wishing to demonstrate his power over Rose and wishing to make himself seem powerful in front of the other rich pricks, demands she take off the necklace. He slips it into his overcoat pocket.
Rose returns to her stateroom and cries.
Alarm! Commotion! Rose awakens to find the ship is sinking. Cal bursts in to tell Rose they have to get to the lifeboats because the ship is going down. Rose and Cal run to the lifeboats.
Rose is still in her evening dress. She fell asleep in it. She’s woefully unprepared for cold. Cal gives her his overcoat. Rose asks, perfunctorily, what he will do in the freezing cold. Cal says he has to go back to their stateroom anyway to get the necklace. He will grab more clothes. She nods. She doesn’t question the necklace’s location. If she does, she thinks Cal must have put the necklace back in the safe while she was asleep.
Cal stalks away. The sailor helping rich people into the lifeboat beckons to Rose. She hesitates. Shouldn’t she wait for Cal?
Cal is a prick but she doesn’t want to be accused of leaving him behind. The lifeboat is about to leave. Rose looks over the railing at the lifeboat and sees her mother inside. There is one seat left. She can also see the Titanic is starting to tilt crazily. It is going to sink. Her mother, tearful, begs her to get in.
The whole point of marrying Cal is to serve her family and her mother. It would be pointless to die here, now, engaged but not married. Her mother would get nothing and lose a child.
The sailors manning the lifeboat assure Rose her fiancé will get the next lifeboat. They will wait for all the rich people to get in the lifeboats even if it means drowning themselves. If any common folk come and try to get in the rich people’s lifeboat they’ll be shot and then invoiced for the bullet.
Rose relents. She gets in the boat. As it floats away on the surface of the seas she slips her hand into the coat pocket and finds the necklace. Oh fuck!
Cal returns to the stateroom and finds it underwater. He demands someone help him find his necklace. Nobody listens. Cal grabs a passing sailor, demands that he help.
The sailor begs him to let go. “It’s too late, sir. The ship is going down!”
Cal explodes at this, and beats the sailor. Just as Cal grabs the sailor’s coat once more to better deliver another blow, he remembers: the necklace is in his overcoat pocket. He’s beating this idiot for nothing!
He drops the man and dashes for the lifeboats, but when he gets to the spot where he last saw Rose she is gone.
He runs to another part of the ship where there are still lifeboats loading. But when he gets there he sees the last boat floating away from the sinking ship. He screams to the sailors aboard the lifeboat to come back and get him, but they are the very ones who just saw him beating the younger sailor. The younger sailor, face bloody but hard as stone, is there.
Cal is the picture of impotent rage. He thrashes about. But then he gets control of himself. Fuck it. He will survive this ordeal through force of upper class will alone.
Rose and her mom sell the necklace when they get to America, which sets them up financially. Cal’s estate is not happy about it since he and Rose weren’t married yet and she would have inherited nothing, but there’s not much they can do because Rose, as a gorgeous young upper-class survivor of tragedy, is a media darling. She is politically unsinkable.
Time passes. It’s a new day. We see Rose and her mother attending a horse race where Rose meets a new rich gentleman. He marvels at what a trial it must have been to be on the Titanic. He is charming. He and Rose smile at one another. Maybe things won’t be so bad after all.