Near, Far, Wherever You Are: Titanic, 15 Years Later

Titanic is a film that inspires major reactions in people, from love and downright obsession to sarcasm and ridicule. While one of the writers over at Jezebel was less that excited about the 3-D re-release to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking, I have to say I’ve been completely ecstatic. Titanic is a time warp of sorts, and I was ready to go back.

Unlike many other girls my age, my journey with Titanic did not start with Leonardo DiCaprio. It started at the elementary school book fair. I remember there was a glossy picture book showcasing photos and diagrams of the famous shipwreck and I remember being completely taken in by this haunting and beautiful images. I was also intrigued by the idea that so many adults had made unwise decisions that cost thousands of people their lives, such as speeding up, not hitting the iceberg head on, and not having enough lifeboats for all aboard. Those sort of split second decisions have always intrigued me–would I make the right choice if it were me?

Fast forward to 1997. Leonardo DiCarprio is breaking hearts with his amazing performance in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and then here comes Titanic, where he’s starring with some British actress named Kate Winslet. I am intrigued by the project. I read any article I can find on it–many say the movie will be the next Waterworld–but I still get excited about seeing the ship and passengers in full period detail and the fact that Winslet’s character will be a strong heroine.

The day is now December 19, 1997. Me and my best friend, Courtney, go see Titanic. I am transported back in time and swept away by the star-crossed lovers that are Rose Dewitt Bukater and Jack Dawson. By the time the iceberg hits, I am wishing I had some sort of way to transport these young lovers to another ship or to shore. Because the ship is going to sink.

And sink it does. I do something I’d never done in a movie before–I cry. Nay, I sob. Freely and openly with complete strangers while Courtney throws ice at the iceberg and M&Ms at the evil characters (Billy Zane, I’m talking about you.)

By the time it’s over, I’m emotionally shipwrecked and completely in love with everyone involved with the movie. So I go see it six more times in theaters.

Wooed by Winslet

And while I’m going to see Jack’s carefree approach to life and Leonardo’s gorgeous face, secretly I’m going to see Rose’s transformation from a bird in a gilded cage to a strong-willed, opinionated woman. Kate Winslet’s performance was iconic of the struggle all teenage girls go through. Yes, there’s a fair bit of whining and woe-is-me, but she comes out on the other side stronger and ready to enjoy everything life has to offer.

After seeing Titanic, I rented every Kate Winslet movie I could find at Blockbuster and I am instantly attracted to her talent and her tenacity to get a good role. For example:

  • She had her agent give her James Cameron’s cell phone number so she could personally tell him that she was Rose and he shouldn’t look at anyone else.
  •  She told Kenneth Branagh to throw her around and bruise her up during the “Get thee to a nunnery scene” in Hamlet.
  • And there’s her stardom story: she was working in a deli and found out she landed the role in Heavenly Creatures and couldn’t finish making a customer’s sandwich because she was so excited.

There was also her size. With 90s actresses constantly shrinking in size, Kate Winslet had curves and she wouldn’t apologize for them. This is a fairly important fact, considering how uncomfortable I was in my own skin during high school, even though I was probably at my smallest weight. I admired her confidence. She also smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, wore combat boots, cursed like a sailor, and made fun of people ordering non-fat lattes. She was beauty, talent, and sparks, all it one package.

I became active in messageboards and helping out with various Kate Winslet fan sites (KWFC forever, people). I met wonderful people, and while some have disappeared, many I still talk to thanks to Facebook. I can honestly say that Kate Winslet changed my life in a lot of ways. Following her career and her projects throughout the years has been quite interesting and frustrating. Every year, I’d wait for her to win an Oscar only to see her be passed over time and time again.

Then the 2009 Golden Globes happened and she won TWO in one night and she declared her love for Leo and it’s like you could hear the fangirls across America squeeling and crying. I know I was.

She went on to win the Oscar that year and I cried. The Academy finally got it right. Now I’m just waiting on Leo to win. (But that’s another blog entirely.)

Fashion From a Forgotten Era

So, throughout all this madness, I become known to many of my friends as Titanic Girl for the last two years of high school. While other girls wore delicate gold filagree chains or pearls in their senior pictures, I rocked the  R.J. Graziano Heart of the Ocean necklace my mother purchased for me off of HSN. At prom, while girls sported updos and two-piece prom dresses, I had mine custom made to look like Rose’s sinking and jump dresses, picking out the fabric and working with a seamstress. Looking back, this was probably what got me into costuming today.

I had posters and books, Titanic-era style jewelry, t-shirts, soundtracks, VHS, DVD, you name it. My parents even took me to a special Titanic costuming exhibit at King’s Island, where I could see Kate Winslet’s costumes in person. (They were tiny and so beautiful.) I got to stand next to the 40-foot model they built for the CGI shots. I have the best parents in the world.

Then life–mainly college and family sickness and death, and work–happened, and I forgot about Titanic.

It wasn’t until I took a road trip with some girlfriends to Pigeon Forge that my love of Titanic came back full force. I half jokingly said, let’s go to the Titanic museum. So we did.

And then I bought the Heart of the Ocean. Because I always wanted it. I was at a place where I was looking back at my life, and what was on my bucket list. Yes, the Heart of the Ocean was on there. Don’t judge.

Of course, I had to get a snapshot with the damn iceberg.

The nostalgia continued when my mother-in-law bought me the butterfly comb, which I wore with my Heart of the Ocean to my cousin’s wedding this past December.

Back to 2012. Specifically April 4, 2012. Me, my best friend, and another friend (also a shipwreck nerd) return to the theaters to see Titanic in 3-D.

When the main title came up on the screen, I literally gasped. Watching Titanic is like coming home in a lot of ways. I watched in so much when I was in high school, it makes me remember who I was then.

The Age of Innocence

And much like James Cameron has said Titanic was the end of the age of innocence so many people had been living in–with the oncoming of the World Wars and social change–I look at Titanic as the end of my age of innocence, of my wishful thinking and silly girlish dreaming. The girl I was then is not who I am now, but if I could return to her for a moment, to forget all I’ve experienced in my life up to this point–why not? When Titanic came out, all of my grandparents were alive, my father had never had cancer, my mother had only been hospitalized once, and I had never been sick.

This time when old Rose dropped the priceless necklace in the ocean, I understood and cried.  It was an offering, a remembrance. She did everything she wanted in her life on her own, without Cal’s help. And she had brought it back to show Jack that this is where her heart had always been. With him, on that cold night where he told her to never say her goodbyes.

Maybe I never said goodbye to Titanic in the first place.

In 3-D, the film still feels timeless and the only thing that detracts is Cameron’s bad ear for dialogue, which is lessened by Kate and Leo’s moving performances. The 3-D elevates many of the already suspenseful scenes and heightens the romance between Jack and Rose. Just like 15 years ago, I was moved, and as Rose walks up to the staircase to meet Jack one last time, I wept.

Good show, James Cameron.

If a midnight showing had been available, I would have gone all out with my outfit, but since I had to work, I tried to keep it classy and low-key, a mix of 90s meets Edwardian fashion.

Denim jacket : Vintage purchase from Ebay / Dress: Forever21 / Heart of the Ocean necklace: R. J. Graziano piece, gift from my mother 15 years ago / Anchor necklace: Forever 21 / Shoes: Pierre Cardin Espace, thrifted / Tokyo purse : Loungefly / Butterfly comb: vintage Byrd Designs comb, purchased 15 years ago [they still sell them!]


6 thoughts on “Near, Far, Wherever You Are: Titanic, 15 Years Later

  1. I really enjoyed reading this! You described how I feel about some movies, books and television shows in such an honest way. It’s interesting how yes, Titanic was just a movie that came out and made a lot of money and won a ton of awards, but to you, it represents your life at the time and how it’s changed since then. It’s really powerful.


    • Thanks, Hope! I think that’s how it is with a lot of things related to pop culture for me. Especially books I read in high school, or albums I purchased.

      Movies evoke such strong emotions. Otherwise, why would grown men get upset with George Lucas about changing who shot first–these kids remember Han Solo shooting first and wanting to be him. So, of course, when they put their Blu-Ray in, that’s what they want to see. They want to be transported back in time. 😉

  2. Awww I remember your Jump dress and that Heart of the Ocean is awesome!!!!! Wow!!! I want one and they appear to not have that size on their online store. Grr.

    I felt the same way seeing the movie again and it made me kind of sad that Kate has lost some of her “real girl” charms. 😦

    • I just wish I could fit back in my jump dress. I swear, I spent more time and attention on my prom dresses than I did my wedding dress. I don’t think that’s normal.

      She’s older, for sure. I definitely miss how free and careless she was. But she has two kids now. I think that’s probably changed her a bit.

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