Exploring Gender Roles and Stereotypes in the Film Titanic

With more than 130 million viewers worldwide, and eleven Oscars one of the most famous films in history was James Cameron`s 1997 film Titanic. Titanic is the love story of Jack and Rose, portrayed by the actors Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet told against the backdrop of he the sinking of the ship Titanic on April 14th, 1912 in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean. Edward John Smith, the captain of the ship, had said that “God himself could not sink this ship” but obviously this bost did not work out.

In the film the main character Rose is pressurized by the 20th century society to behave like a woman. The ideology of feminism is constructed in the film by illustrating Rose with her beauty as a sexual object, her role as a woman with the required ideals in the 20th century and the hypermasculinity of her fiancé Caledon Hockley she has to subjugate. Rose, an upper class woman, who is fascinated by the lower class man`s Jack`s drawings, wants him to draw her naked, as he did previously with a French woman, in pictures of the sketchbook Rose saw. Her nudity does not make her feel uncomfortable, because they have already built up a close relationship and feel passionate about each other. This action does not make her feel guilty or embarrassed at all, which is atypical for the conditions she lives in and the expectations from a woman by the society. On the other hand Jack acts respectfully and is overwhelmed by her beauty, while he is in front of a woman’s body and even falls in love with this sexual object. He does not care about her being engaged to Cal, even though later she gets humiliating reactions for what she is doing, rather protects her every time she is degraded by her fiancé Cal. This might be the reason for why she has developed feelings towards Jack and allowed him to see her naked. Rose is conscious of how Jack values her and tries to make her happier, which she appreciates a lot. The affection and fondness she gets from Jack she does not receive from Cal, who rather values wealth and status.

Rose overcomes her boundaries as a woman in the 20th century and rejects social expectations and norms. Even though she is engaged and Cal is at the same place, Rose still pursues her desires and refuses to be constrained by the limitations of her fiancé Cal. His strictness and possessiveness does not discourage her from spending time with a man she does not know for a lot of time. She rebels against the ideals and rules in the society a woman needs to stick to and rather enjoys her independence. Focusing against stereotypes and purity, Rose does not comply with the order and emphasizes her ambition. She is portrayed as a sexual symbol, that affects the whole plot in a way that gets her in trouble with her fiancé, but which she does not care about. Her construction as a sex object and put her on the same hierarchical order with those French woman from the sketchbook stresses her independence. Secondly, the scene where Rose proceeds to build up a relation to a person she barely knows, but who has saved her life, shapes the whole plot. Rose has felt the need to talk to Jack and thank him for rejecting her committing suicide. As their relationship progresses and they are getting deeper into conversation, Rose gets more open and starts talking about herself and her wedding, but she gets uncomfortable when Jack comes up with the question “Do you love him? “. She feels different talking to somebody this close because she does not even talk to her fiancé this way. Rose assumes that Jack should not ask her a question like this because this is not an appropriate conversation. She is aware of how a woman has to behave in public and that she is forbidden to talk to Jack. Rose is not used to having a dialogue with the opposite gender in public about those kind of topics and is not common in that time period. There is always a distance between a men and a woman, even if they are married. Nevertheless, Rose breaks the rules and does what she thinks of is right in her situation. The way she wants to try out something different and quit being the stereotypical woman, shows her braveness trying out something new.

Lastly, the scene, where Rose is subjected towards her fiancé, is when Cal slaps her face and asks her “Are you now a whore?“ after she has slept with Jack and meanwhile demonstrating his authority. While talking to her in a humiliating way and blaming Rose for her inappropriate and un-lady- like-behavior, she does not even react in shocked way, rather obeys him and does not even try to defend herself because she is aware of her unacceptable behavior as a woman and is powerless in front of him. By keeping her weak and powerless, he denies her social power and downgrades her human dignity to stress her gender role. While violently grabbing Rose`s arms, Cal stresses his superiority and position by the expression “Look at me when I am talking to you“ and clarifies that he has the right to talk to her the way he wants and demonstrates that she must adapt to her role as a woman. His dominant masculinity intimidates her and highlights the gender difference in the society. There is a severe problem in their conversation because Cal is talking in a very humiliating way and accuses her of being a whore. His biased attitude towards a woman’s sexuality can be identified in his use of language, which also stresses his position as a male. Rose is anxious about his hypermasculinity and overwhelmed by Cal´s obsession, highlighting that a woman is viewed stereotypically inferior to a man.

The film Titanic expresses the different issues of woman’s life in the 19th century and her duty to adapt to her role as woman. Even though the ideals of the period of time she lives in prescribes that she behaves like a decent and proper woman, Rose opposes her responsibilities and rebels against the system. Her fiancé demonstrates authority and wealth and expects her to behave stereotypically and is very impatient. Her affair with a lower class man, who is fascinated by her beauty and letting him draw her naked contradicts the way a woman should act in the 19th century. Rose is exposed to a lot of pressure by Cal but she still pursues things he is not in favor of and forbids her. In conclusion, Rose is not the representation of an ideal woman in the 19th century but gets a lot of critique for her unacceptable actions.

10 October 2020
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