They hold crying parties and jump into ice-filled bathtubs
while the soundtrack plays. Others leap onstage during the film to
reenact key scenes. Still more sit adoringly through the three-hour
epic as many times as their purses permit and flood the Internet
with odes to Leonardo DiCaprio.
Just call them "titaniacs."
Together, these fans are helping to drive the $200 million
disaster epic through the $1 billion mark worldwide, to surpass
"Star Wars" as the biggest-selling film of all time.
While the movie is based on fact and framed by a fictional
love story, neither politics nor romance can explain why teens to
grandparents are flocking to the film - not one, but in some cases
10 and 20 times.
"It's the first big historical epic of the TV generation,
like 'Doctor Zhivago' and 'Gone With the Wind'," observes Pamela
Ezell, who teaches film studies at Chapman University in Orange,
Calif. "It's a great crossover movie that includes something for
everybody," and is bringing the commitment of the cult-film devotee
to the mainstream moviegoer.
First and foremost, the movie is Hollywood's answer to the
complete destruction of romantic love in American life, says writer
and scholar Mike Davis.
"This is a culture starved for something other than the
reality of politics and sexual harassment," says Mr. Davis.
"Americans are in a sense living off iron rations when it comes to
any real vision of romantic utopia."
Davis, a social critic known for his ability to wrest
political meaning from virtually any scenario, adds that the movie
finally tells the story of "crimes of the rich against the poor."
Indeed, the film graphically shows that a disproportionate
number of third-class passengers died because they were locked
below decks as the ship sank, then kept from the few lifeboats with
space left after the first-class passengers had boarded.
The film hits a deep political chord today, muses Martha
Bayles, a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute,
Brentwood, Calif. Noting Wall Street nervousness over the longest
peacetime expansion in modern US history, she says "Titanic" speaks
to the anxieties people have in good times. "The ship of state has
always been a metaphor for society, floating over who knows what
deep, into what void, and for how long?"
The fate of the lower classes is a reminder that despite the
good times, there are a lot of people still below the waterline.
"When the bad times come, they'll be the first to go. …