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Brooke, Titanic

The romance drama Titanic released in 1997, stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack), and Kate Winslet (Rose) as characters from different social classes who fall in love aboard the RMS Titanic.Providing a love story interspersed with human loss was a medium to express the emotional impact of the RMS Titanic disaster in 1912. Characters Jack and Rose portray a fictional account of the sinking,and chart the events of the crash. This film did an excellent job of appealing to a broad audience as it is esteemed for critical, and commercial success. Titanicwas nominated for fourteen Academy Awards, taking home eleven Oscars, and four Golden Globes. Titanic was the first film to reach profits of one billion, and it remained the highest earning film until 2010’s Avatar. Apart from the love story that is amassed in the film, its historiography is amazingly accurate. At the beginning of the movie a young boy is seen spinning in a tweed jacket, and cap while being watched by two adults. This scene is a re-creation of one of the only photos taken aboard the titanic that is known to have survived to the sinking.[1]The two adults captured in the movie were Titanic Historical Societies member’s whom were advising director James Cameron on the film. The mere success of Titanic shows that the director James Cameron was able to appeal to a broad audience while balancing love, tragedy, and history. Because of this, Titanic is an example of how the film industry can be an exceptional form of historiography that appeals to a comprehensive audience unlike its books, video-game, and television counterparts. I’m sure this comprehensive audience is majority women, enjoying a glass of wine at ladies night. However, its sheer success does display that the film goes beyond a typical women’s romantic drama picture, and has influenced a wider demographic of people.

As far as entertainment industries go, romance films provides a unique form of historiography, its advantaged lies in its broad reach in audience, and engagement of viewers on an emotional level. The film industry attracts audiences for a variety of reasons, whether it is your favourite actor such as the young Leonardo DiCaprio, a historical interest, or simply spending an evening relaxing, and watching Netflix. Titanic combined the effects of props, set design, computer- generated imagery, and reconstruction of the Titanic to replicate the sinking. The authenticity of the film is not only found in the way the historical events unfold, but the combination of the sets details which allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the 1900’s. In written historical works setting the scene, and placing an audience in a time cohort can be challenging. Visual depictions have the opportunity to portray the architecture, linguistics, cultural customs, and physical attire seamlessly, and without a sense of imagination.

Typically film faces constraints in developing a story over the course of an hour and a half, to two hours. Titanicis over three hours long allowing the directors to include minute but integral aspects of the historiography into the film. Because the film is focused on one incident it is well suited for a movie, whereas a historical era would benefit from a television series to allows the producers to include important historical aspects into the narrative.

Despite the romance driven narrative,Titanicconveys many historical accuracies: the lack of life boats for all the passengers to safely leave, the sheer panic expressed by travellers jumping off the boat, and the efforts to avoid the iceberg by the ship mates. [2]When the RMS Titaniccollided with the iceberg and began sinking, violinist Wallance Henry Hartly instructed his band members to go from the first class lounge, to the boat deck to play, in attempt to leaven the sense of panic of the passengers. James Cameron regeneration of Hartly’s act of service is displayed flawlessly, of the eight band members none survived the sinking. The film also portrays an distinct prosperity gap between the first and third class passengers. The class distinction is chiefly evident when Jack, takes Rose, to a real party. After attending a ritzy dinner where conversations revolved around money over a flute of champagne, the two went to the lower deck with a blue collar pub atmosphere, outfitted with beer, dancing and arm wrestling.

[3]Director James Cameron’s goal was to produce a film to honor the facts without compromise, his vision was for an audience to experience the film as if you were standing on the deck of the Titanic. The reality of the film from its deck plans to the tableware were a replica of the RMS Titanic. [4]Unbeknownst of the realistic portrayal the 1997 film expressed, the citizens of Southampton were taken aback. The sensitivity of those from Southampton was apparent even eighty-five years after the sinking. A critique of the film could be the generated romantic narrative which gives an inaccurate representation of the tragedy. However, in Titanic’s case, the most inapt and irrelevant historical references are used for the purpose of creating an emotional romantic narrative that is not over bearing the historiography. The use of Jack and Rose helps to engage the audience on an emotional level, and the impact of the tragedy hits closer to home as the audience can relate to the love and lust expressed between Jack and Rose. The inclusion of a romance also aids in providing a continuous narrative throughout the film for a sense of consistency.

Film has an edge on telling history in a way that appeals to many. Television requires a large time commitment over several weeks to enjoy a series and create a narrative, video games require personal agency and the players own interest, and lastly books are faced with a challenge of accurately describing a time period where its audience has a clear mental image of the context. The mere success of Titanic in the box office is a tell-tale of how film is an affective medium for expressing historiography. Equally providing an accurate historiography in a romantic drama rather an a documentary is also attractive to a greater proportion of spectators, and a broader message can be conveyed. The films artistic license was expressed by using Jack and Rose to increase the allure which some critics may say make its portrayal inaccurate, compromises are made in order to appeal a diverse audience, without these compromises there is a strong chance the audience would lose interest and engagement. There is a responsibility attached to the creation of a film established in history, especially those historiographies that are related to disaster. Titanichas helped to shape the societal memory of a historical tragedy, the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The shipsunk over one hundred years ago, meaning we are forced to admit that for many people their history and knowledge of the disaster is drawn from the film. A genuine historical understanding is one that comes from a variety of sources. Directors in the historical film industry can try their best to display factual information, but there is an onus on the listener to take historical depictions with a grain of salt, and use multiple sources to gain a clear understanding.


Secondary Resources

Howells, Richard. “One Hundred Years of the Titanic on Film.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 32, no. 1 (2012): 73-93.

Titanic Facts: How Historically Accurate Was the Movie?” 30 James Street. March 06, 2019. Accessed April 07, 2019.

Wells, Andrew. “Sinking Feelings: Representing and Resisting the Titanic Disaster in Britain, 1914-ca. 1960.” The Journal of British Studies 52, no. 02 (2013): 464-90

[1]Howells, Richard. “One Hundred Years of the Titanic on Film.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 32, no.1 (2012): 73-93.

[2]Howells, Richard. “One Hundred Years of the Titanic on Film.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 32, no. 1 (2012): 73-93.

[3]Howells, Richard. “One Hundred Years of the Titanic on Film.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 32, no. 1 (2012): 73-93.

[4]Southampton is known as the cruise capital of Europe. The White Star Dock in Southampton is where the Titanic’s maiden voyage started on April 10, 1912. The Disaster made headlines across the world and had a shattering effect on the people of Southampton. Wells, Andrew. “Sinking Feelings: Representing and Resisting the Titanic Disaster in Britain, 1914-ca. 1960.” The Journal of British Studies 52, no. 02 (2013): 464-90.

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