Magazine article Newsweek

A Woman's Liberation

Magazine article Newsweek

A Woman's Liberation

Article excerpt

The first time I went to see "Titanic" was business. Like anyone who covers entertainment, I had to see it. My husband and I went to a late-night showing at the Loews Astor Plaza in New York--a theater named, coincidentally, for the family of John Jacob Astor, who went down with the Titanic in 1912. The crowd that night was steerage all the way. When Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) taught Rose (Kate Winslet) how to spit, the audience roared with approval. When the film cut from a rollicking jigs-and-ale hoe-down in third class to the killingly dull stogie-and-brandy session in first, everyone laughed. And during the nude-sketch scene, when the camera demurely cut away from Rose just as she was about to drop her clothes, every man in the theater groaned with disappointment. This wasn't just a movie, it was a communal experience: 1,400 strangers reacting in the same way at the same instant.

The second time I went to see "Titanic" was for me. I was infatuated with Rose's journey: her evolution from a stiffly attired pawn who does everything people tell her to do, to a fully realized woman who begins to live life on her own terms. I wanted to watch her character unfold. The clues--hey, "Titanic" isn't subtle--were all there. Writer-director James Cameron barely lets a scene go by without some sign of how Rose is shedding her constrictive upbringing. She steps on the ship's rail; the lace of her dress tears. At the party in steerage, she kicks off her red-satin shoes. Finally--whomp--she sheds her clothes altogether. Cameron didn't make Rose's transition too easy. In one scene, she talks back to her mother, then compliantly turns to have her corset tightened. Later, she gives Jack the brushoff and tries in vain to rejoin her social stratum. "I saw my whole life as if I'd already lived it," says Rose. A predictable, adventureless life: it's the worst, most common fate for a woman. …

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