Titanic’s Jack and Rose: NOT True Love

So I recently saw Titanic for the first time– my mom finally said I was old enough to go see it.

I was blown away by the story, the special effects, and the overall amazing-factor of the movie. The old couple hugging in the bed! The Irish mom tucking her kids in! Jack! After I wiped away my tears at the end of the movie, I left the theatre feeling a bit forlorn about the lack of a Jack Dawson figure in my life. I sighed to myself, wishing that one day I could experience a love like Jack and Rose.

Then I actually thought about it.

Do I really want a love like Jack and Rose? To be honest, Rose was a bit of a floozy.

I know this seems rather harsh, considering that Jack died a frozen death in the North Atlantic after surviving a shipwreck, but hear me out:

a) Rose was only 17 years old.

b) Rose was already engaged to another man.

c) Rose was clearly mentally unstable, considering she nearly flung herself off of the Titanic when it wasn’t sinking, and she threw herself back on when it actually was.

d) Rose and Jack had sex two days after they met each other, after only a post-suicide-attempt conversation, a dinner together, and a romantic nude drawing session.

Two days is definitely not long enough to establish a life-long true love relationship.

Parents: if your 17 or 18 year-old daughter went on a cruise and slept with a random boy two days after she met him, would you be pleased? Rose couldn’t have been sure that his name was actually Jack Dawson; he didn’t exist anywhere else but on the Titanic. He was essentially a vagrant, with no roots anywhere.

The movie’s distortion of what we consider to be “true love” is most troubling. Jack and Rose’s “relationship” is the furthest thing from true love. It was a short burst of passion that peaked with a romantic meeting in an automobile in a cargo hold of a passenger ship.

Sure, it’s tragic that Jack died in the end, but what are the chances that their relationship was actually going to last after the boat docked? Plenty of college students go on spring break cruises, meet someone cute, have sex with said person (most likely not in a cargo hold), and make “plans” to “keep in touch” that usually fall through and they never see the person again. Would you call that relationship true love? Rose’s relationship with Jack was no different, except that it was set to a Celine Dion soundtrack.

Girls my age shouldn’t be wishing for a love relationship like Rose and Jack’s. They deserve better. Although movie theaters pass off these intense, brief, passion-filled romances as “true love,” they’re not. For instance, take this gem of a scene:

Rose: When the ship docks, I’m getting off with you.

Jack: This is crazy.

Yeah, that’s what true love looks like right there.

People’s distortion of true love has bad consequences for culture as a whole. What Jack and Rose had was not a real relationship, and we shouldn’t strive for something similar because it’s simply not possible. Movies like Titanic and books like Twilight paint images for women about what “perfect relationships” should be like, and they simply don’t exist in the real world. That passion is not everyday life.

Not to say that true love isn’t real— it most certainly is. It just wasn’t present in this particular case, and we shouldn’t be tricked into thinking this way. There are better relationships to emulate than Jack and Rose, the so-called “greatest love story of our time.”

And there definitely wasn’t room for two on the piece of floating wall. Watch the movie again; it started sinking when Jack climbed on.

Christine Rousselle | Providence College | @CRousselle

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38 Responses

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  1. Tracy
    Oct 15, 2014 - 10:25 PM

    While I do agree with some of your points–like the speed of the relationship–I think you’re missing the part of the message that speaks to their love. Rose was being forced into an engagement with a narcissistic, borderline abusive man just so that her almost-broke family could retain their wealth and keep their lifestyle. She felt as though none of the decisions in her life were her own to have, so she considered committing suicide. She didn’t, and when Jack saved her, she got to know him and appreciated the free spirit and positive outlook that she so desperately wished she could feel herself, but wasn’t allowed to because of her upbringing. Not to mention, he saw the artistic innovation in the “fingerpaintings” that she collected and so connected with her on that level as well.

    The risky relationship that she had with Jack, hidden from her fiance, was probably thrilling, but not as thrilling as when she finally decided to make a choice for herself and decide to be with Jack before the ship began to sink. The point is that his appreciation for her as a person and not a status symbol combined with his belief in her spurred her to start thinking for herself. Who wouldn’t be taken aback by having those feelings inspired within oneself, even if you didn’t know the person very well yet?

    Furthermore, the rest of the movie shows their ability to work with each other as a team to conquer a sinking ship! It was pretty crazy for Rose to abandon the life boat, but if she returned to the life she had before, the one she hated, what would she really have had anyway? So she chooses, again on her own, to stick with Jack and try for them BOTH to survive instead of herself, even though he’s more concerned with her survival. In the end, it was her adventure in actually finding someone that loved her for who she was that inspired her to live her life on her own terms and actually have a life worth living. BAM, LOVE.

    If the timeline of this story had played out for a month or so, it would easily be accepted by many as a testament of true love, but the timeline and the fact that she was already engaged seems to muddle the implied message behind why two people from completely different upbringings could still come to care for each other.

  2. Kate
    Aug 22, 2014 - 07:25 PM

    I think you’re very naïve.
    When college kids go away on spring break & have a one night stand, they are at least 12 shots deep in tequila & don’t know where they are the next morning, let alone who’s lying next to them.
    If you ask me, you’ve either A.) Been dumped recently, B.) Been cheated on recently, or C.) Are a virgin struggling to get rid of your card.

    Love is so very real & it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. When it’s the real thing, one day with that person is worth more than one year with anyone else.

    Find yourself, love yourself, & let it happen.
    Good luck!

  3. Jamie
    May 27, 2014 - 01:26 AM

    to me it was more like a metaphor for life. If you allowed yourself to be wed to someone you weren’t sure you loved were as if you had died regardless. She was afraid of losing herself if she married Cal. Whether he denied her of anything or not, she would spend her life in censorship. Who’s to say with the stock market crash he still wouldn’t have killed himself not being able to handle the financial pressures? Do I believe you can fall in love in 2 days? no…
    As for Cal.. he becomes a stereotypical dickhead. Given the chance, you can see that he truly loves her despite the bs appearances and financial gain. But Jack is young and emits the gumption and frivolity that she wishes she had.
    If I were Rose, unfortunately, I would run about with Jack on deck and leave it where it may end on deck. Cal ultimately knows she is young and a bit of a wild hearted girl which is why he is so apt to keep her in line after hearing of her crazing endeavors with someone near her age. The scenario (other than the arranged marriage) is quite erratic. She is always following dictation with both men. She would have fared better to stay with Cal.

  4. Lerato
    May 26, 2014 - 02:09 AM

    Marriage happend earlier in those times. But i think u r missing the whole point of the movie by applying ur mental limitations to it. Instead, think about why u cried; What jack had that her future husband ddnt, also dont forget that she was virtually forcd into marring dat guy. Rose wasnt a floozy she was in love or atleast taken by a search of freedom; hence jack. Also, try to outline some characteristics that differ betwn jack nd said hubby. In my opinion, Jack was her honest freedom. In a liberal reply i would say the film is about power… (thats all i want to say for now…)
    F*ck it, i think im gonna continue.
    Oh nd jack seems to bring out the kid in Rose.
    When last has that feeling come to you? At the end of the day we r all looking for someone who can tell us its alright to f*ck up sometimes nd still be happy.

  5. Elizabeth
    Mar 07, 2014 - 08:33 PM

    So Jack and Rose only had one passion filled sexual encounter? Then she never forgot him. Sounds very familiar to me. This does happen in real life because it happened to me. I meet a very handsome, sweet, kind, humble Argentine and it was instant attraction and a strong connection. Long story short. We had the best night ever together and all that it involved was naked making out. All night of this. We went our separate ways in the AM. I never ever forgot this man and I heard three years later he was looking for me. We never were able to get back in touch with each other for reasons too complicated to discuss here. But he knew I had looked for him after and I knew he had looked for me. I found out last month that he had passed away. Again I never ever forgot him even after one long passion filled night together with lots of laughs we had an instant caring for each other. It was a one night stand that went so damn good we never forgot each other.

  6. Ali
    Feb 13, 2014 - 02:25 PM

    Another thing is that the movie is about a lot more. they keep talking about TRUST….I trust you ….it does not make sense, so I trust it…etc etc.I think Cameron believes in a higher power were ….’it just is true’….no explanation necessary. I think he was also trying to convey that in the movie…and it worked in my opinion.

  7. Ali
    Feb 13, 2014 - 02:22 PM

    what is true love. A lifelong marriage?? most long term marriages are actually a marriage of convenience….not your romantic ‘I love you for life’ type of thing.

    most people never experience what those two experienced (in the movie) and that is special.

    This is a movie, a story ….enjoy it for what it offers.

  8. Nova
    Nov 17, 2013 - 01:27 AM

    I see your point but so what, love is true. Yes not everyone falls in love like this but their love was ment for the movie. I believe in love at first sight my grandpa fell in love with my grandma their first conversation and my mom and my uncle so absolutely I want a relationship like jack and rose. No not in the being engaged and having sex but that’s not the point. The point was she found true love, someone who loved her for her, was willing to die for her. She was forced to be engaged so she didn’t consider herself to be. It was just a piece of jewelry on her finger he treated her like she was nothing. The movie is excellent and I think a great example of true love which people don’t think can happen anymore. I’ve wanted a relationship like theirs since I saw the movie and I still do.

    • Amber Marie
      Dec 09, 2013 - 07:06 AM

      I understand your points but I disagree.I for one think that what Jack and Rose had was true love and here’s why: Firstly let me just ask where is it written that a person can’t fall in love in such a short amount of time? You talk about love as if its supposed to follow a certain set of guidelines and rules. You base Jack and Rose’s relationship on rules that you as well as most of society have set on what love should be. According to you theres no way Jack and Rose can be in love after only knowing eachother for two days. And therefore I say this is where you’re wrong. Love is impetuous it does not follow the rules it rarely follows reason. What Jack and Rose have is an impetuous love a bursting moment of passion. Its the kind of love that practically blinds you to all else, you don’t see the big picture, its the kind of love where you kind of just realize that you love this person rather than anything about this person. Let’s be honest Rose knows little next to nothing about Jack she only knows that she loves him and loves what he’s done for her. She doesn’t know him. The same thing goes for Jack, he doesn’t know her either. Jack could very well be a serial killer of french prostitutes and Rose could possibly be real hoe who gets her kicks from hooking up with random strangers in the back seat of cars. Maybe Jack wasn’t her first maybe he was her tenth. I’m one of those people that honestly believe that if Jack had lived it wouldn’t have worked out between them and they would’ve eventually have probably grown to hate eachother.But regardless if the relationship turned sour or not does not matter because at the moment they are in love and at the moment it is a beautiful thing. Does it make it less real because it does not follow reason? Of course not. All that matters is what they feel now.

  9. Wynterr
    Nov 12, 2013 - 02:00 AM

    So glad to see a young woman with a brain! I think it is disgusting how our culture paints “true love’ in movies like Titanic. Actually, there was one romantic moment in Titanic – when that older couple just hold onto each other in bed as the ship was sinking – that was romantic.

    • shemya
      Mar 15, 2014 - 12:15 PM

      I do disagree with you because you should not be thinking stuff like that .IS love that movie,in fact I wach it every weekend.and I have to tell you it is exquiset and every ounce of their time together I romantic.

  10. alinatifanic
    Apr 27, 2013 - 05:00 PM

    The thing is, yes it was really fast they barely knew each other, but the thing is that Jack made Rose to open herself up. Not let Cal and her mother destroy her. He gave her freedom with his love, chances to fullfil her dreams of going into the world , free. Rose had never experienced that before. It might have been a fast passionate affair, but she never felt that for anyone else but jack. Jack believed in her, trusted her, he believed that women have rights too, he treated her as his equal. And gave her freedom. After all, isn’t that all we womens want? Love and freedom. To be happy with the person we love. Rose never loved cal, she was dusgust by him, And Rose hated her life. Jack saved Rose from a life she hated. And She never ever forgot him. She loved him until the very end.

  11. Olivia
    Apr 05, 2013 - 07:12 PM

    Ironically enough, I think the reason no one believes in romance or love anymore is just because we just don’t have enough great literature, film, music etc. Maybe we can bring aspects of what we learn from these forms of art into our lives, maybe we can make the effort instead of sitting back and saying its all too unrealistic, an impossibility.

    Stop defining and settling for what is considered realistic. We DEFINE our own reality. Learn, read, gesture, act upon what you feel and most importantly find someone to share it with, just like Jack and Rose did, and that will be your reality.

  12. Donnie Wilhite
    Feb 14, 2013 - 07:42 PM

    I was recently at the 12-year wedding anniversary party of a church member of mine who married a woman I thought he had no chance of ever getting. Out of curiosity, I walked up to his wife and ask, “Mary, there were so many guys trying to get at you…what did Michael do that won your heart?” She replied, “He came at me with an extraordinary amount of passion! Every day I spent with him was an adventure…books, events, ideas, debates, and excitement! It was a phenomenal courtship! In other words, he “Titanic-ed” me! He made me feel like I was capable of anything and that I was the most desirable woman in the world. I’d do anything for a man like that, so I knew very quickly that God had sent me my husband!”

    Her testimony struck me, especially her mention of the movie “Titanic” as a verb! In other words, instead of panning Titanic and talking about what an unrealistic view of love it is, people, (especially men) would do better to study the movie and find out why it had many women going back to see it 10-15 times, and then incorporate those “best practices” into their own relationships like my friend did. It worked for him, so I have no problems with the film!

  13. Isabella
    Nov 10, 2012 - 02:52 PM

    How can you say it wasn’t true love how could you know? Love is a feeling, you cannot say there is a certain time till you are allowed to feel it or what you have to know, do, talk about with someone to fall in love with him. I am not saying that true love is always love at first sight but it can be. It is not about what you know of the other person but how that person makes you feel and i think thats the point of the Titanic love story. Jack makes Rose feel free, independant for the first time in her life he realizes there is more to her, he gets her.

    And i am not even saying it definitely is true love we just do not know. You cannot compare this to college student affairs or anything because you cannot compare feelings.
    I also do not understand how this should affect any girls. If they fall for a guy, good for them, if it does not workt out they will learn from it, if they believe in true love, why not? It is not the worst thing they could dream of

  14. ashley
    Nov 01, 2012 - 03:55 PM

    It’s a f—— movie, so SHUT UP!

    *This was censored by the TCC staff due to the vulgar nature of the comment.

    • An
      Jan 19, 2016 - 08:52 PM

      If its just a f*cking movie, why are there a sh*t load of comments of persons disagreeing with her? Seriously guys, apply this to your life and see how ‘romantic’ it gets. You don’t need romance or sex to have a great movie. Just seems like a high-risk couple anyways. I’m sure the 10000th teenage or mainstream crazed hopeless romantic would disagree with me, but Idc; I read the disagreements and I think they just encourage less healthy and high risk behaviors. I am not even conservative! What if one contracted syphilis? I bet it wouldn’t be so romantic.

  15. sapphire
    Jun 04, 2012 - 10:34 AM

    Sometimes two people meet and decided to marry within a week or two. But its rare. I had an ex-fiance whos parents met, a week later decided to get married & stayed together 50 years…my husband knew each other a few days & weve been together 22 years. The key is honesty between the 2 of you. We wanted to get married anyway and didnt do much ‘courtship dance’..i wouldnt recommend it with this pornified culture today ..we’re ready to LOSE THE CULTURE! did you hear about the ZOMBIE IN FLORIDA?

  16. Sapphire
    Jun 04, 2012 - 10:19 AM

    Rose was forced into a bad scene all the way around. If the titanic docked in NY she would have dumped both of them or wanted too. Jack was a way for her to get rid of the creepl she needed to get away from her mother.Besides her ‘fiance’ was VIOLENT!! I think she would have left her mom & worked in a factory until she got on her own. She probably could have went to a church if she was desperate and asked what she could do

  17. dove
    Jun 03, 2012 - 12:07 PM

    But what makes the story touching to so many people is that Rose remembered Jack and thought of him all her life until she was 102 and dying. And even though their meeting was short, Jack gave up his own life to save her. You can hardly compare it to one-night stands during spring break. When you have a special connection with someone, length of time doesn’t really matter. Also, who’s to say such love can never exist in ‘real life’? I don’t think anyone can generalize. There are just too many different people out there, each with very different stories.

    • Joseph
      Jun 25, 2012 - 01:23 AM

      Exaclty my point.Rose and Jack in titanic could have found love,although less probable but possible.Love and realism hardly goes hand in hand.

  18. ED
    May 15, 2012 - 07:58 PM

    “my mom finally said I was old enough to go see it.” lol aren’t you in college? you really still ask your parents what you are allowed to watch?

    • Christine Rousselle
      May 16, 2012 - 07:26 PM

      Ed–It was meant to be a joke. I was about six years old when the movie first came out, and my mother wouldn’t let me see it because I was too young.

      • Joseph
        Jun 25, 2012 - 01:24 AM

        You do know Love and Realism hardly goes hand in hand right??

  19. Robert Stacy McCain
    May 14, 2012 - 11:17 PM

    The essential message is a sort of vulgar socialism: Rich people are selfish cowards, while poor people are lively and virtuous.

    This is a common theme in much of literature, of course, turning envy into something heroic, flattering the self-pitying sensibilities of fools who suppose that their lack of success is somehow evidence of their superior virtue. Such an idiotic sentiment (don’t dignify it by calling it a “thought”) cannot survive a careful scrutiny of how real life actually works. Do the gushy fools who love stories like this actually aspire to hang out with the contemporary equivalents of those “lively” steerage passengers to whom Jack introduces Rose? Of course not: This is a movie for middle-class suburban kids who would never want to be seen in the vicinity of a trailer park or a housing project.

    In movies like this, poor people are glamorized, and all the villains are rich people, aristocrats, Republicans, business executives, etc. Ultimately, the moral to the story is: VOTE DEMOCRAT.

  20. Elizabeth
    May 14, 2012 - 07:45 PM

    Will everyone get a grip? This is a movie for crying out loud. The story is here to entertain us. Going to the movie is a voluntary act. If you do not want to be seduced by over priced concession stands and 10 dollar tickets, then don’t go! No one is forcing you.

    Also, no one is telling us to believe this. No one is saying that this movie is the true definition of true love. These people are not real! They are characters, made up….if they didn’t exist, the movie would be a documentary about a ship that sunk now 100 years ago.

    I loved the movie, always have and always will. Even though they may not seem too realistic, my idea of watching a movie is sitting in a theater and enjoying it!

    • Holly
      Jun 07, 2012 - 09:54 PM

      I agree completely!
      It doesn’t need to be a documentary. If that’s what you want to watch, than this is not the movie for you, plain and simple! After all, it is a movie and every bit that was not realistic made it all the more romantic!

      If you didn’t like the movie, than don’t go posting things all over the internet. With your opinion, someone may decide they don’t want to watch it and be robbed of a chance to watch what could turn out to be their favorite movie (worst case senario). Titanic never voluntarily did anything to you.

      Lastly, you may have just crushed the hopes and dreams of any average romantic out there! it’s okay and good for you to believe if you choose to. Speaking on behalf of my kind, it is very reasonable to want to have that love because no matter how brief, It most certainly was true love! Obviously not a very realistic true love, but still, true love. It is true love because the director and the actors intended it to be and because it is what we choose to believe.

      No matter how many other movies I see in my lifetime, Titanic will always be my number one favorite, hands down. That is all.

  21. Chelle
    May 14, 2012 - 06:29 PM

    You should probably mention that Rose was forced into the engagment. Its not like she was in love with him and then fell for Jack the next day.

    The point of their love story was for them, mostly Rose, to live their life by their own choices. So what if she had sex with him two days after meeting him? It was a choice she made for herself and it didn’t harm anyone. (Well, the finance but he was abusive towards her, so I’m not really feeling sorry for him.)

    • Eliza
      May 14, 2012 - 09:07 PM

      Yes, but there are silly girls out there who actually beleive in this hyped up fantasy version of love and can’t sort it from reality. That is the point she is making here. I think she did a great job. Kudos!!!

      • Chelle
        May 15, 2012 - 12:41 AM

        If she did a good job getting her point across, then there is no need to mislead by implying Rose was a floozy going from man to man or attempting to slut shame.

      • Paul
        Jan 09, 2013 - 05:00 PM

        How does anyone know what love is? You can’t really define it because it’s different for everyone. Sure, to you and everyone else, falling in love in two days seems irrational… Until it happens to you. Yes teenagers shouldn’t be running around having sex with every person they think they ‘love,’ but just because their judgement is skewed doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of love. And even if it’s not love, it was a lesson. So my point is, there is no “realistic” love. There are no boundaries in love.

  22. Michelle
    May 14, 2012 - 11:56 AM

    Your comments are thoughtful and on target. Young girls have been sold a bill of goods about what love is and isn’t for centuries. Movies like Titanic and Pretty Woman sell that notion that love is a feeling. In reality, love is a verb, an action word. True love invloves doing something- and not a sexual thing. You see, when you love someone you extend yourself for the object of your affection’s growth. This pertains not only to romance but any other kind of love as well. When your love object is about to do something that is not good for them you say, “Hey, I am concerned for you. This thing that you are contmeplating dosen’t seem to be healthy or in your best interest.” That’s love, but it wouldn’t have become such a blockbuster if the Titanic story had gone that way, would it?

    I wish more people saw the fact that Rose was flaunting conventions. You see, for me Titanic was all about a young woman saying, “I will not live the life you tell me I have to live because it isn’t what I want!”. It was passionate, alright but it was about her own independence. Rose had guts and I do like that!

  23. Brittany
    May 14, 2012 - 09:14 AM

    I mostly agree. I think Rose was a free spirit type who was being suffocated by the wealthy elite society, and was using Jack as an escape. I do believe she would try to be with him in America, but not sure if she would stay under family pressure. Also marrying at such a young age was common in the time frame- you have to remember that for women at that time, life began with marriage. My grandmother got married when she was 15 and she wasn’t even born at this time yet. Makes you very grateful you have no pressure to rush and form a family, and can take the time to find the right guy for you! I don’t think it was true love, though. Maybe a fascination/infatuation. Maybe it would have evolved into true love, though. You never know!

  24. Alan Batty
    May 14, 2012 - 04:50 AM

    I am so happy that there are still sensible young people in America. I have hated Titanic since it was first released for exactly the reason you outline in your article. It is ridiculous that people allowed their children to see this movie because “it was so beautiful.” It is a disgrace that so many people, who should know better, can’t see the poison that movies like this pump into our culture.

    Well done. Keep up the great work.

    • Robert Lindsey
      Jul 25, 2013 - 08:46 PM

      Right on! I agree with you totally. ‘Titanic’ is a disgusting, historically inaccurate pile of garbage. Have you seen the 1958 movie ‘A Night to Remember’?

    • karen
      Feb 24, 2014 - 05:29 PM

      Love has no rules i hate that people say this type of love cant happen and say its a bad thing to have in our culture yeah like thats the worst thing to have an our culture true love can happen because it happened to my parents and they have been together for 30 years

  25. Jared Cowan
    May 14, 2012 - 04:04 AM

    I agree, and a lot of this is probably connected to the idealized notions of love from romantic authors. Love at first sight, love that goes through many difficulties and yet still succeeds and is somehow perfect and magical.

    But unfortunately those kinds of relationships that work out would be purely through chance that the people are even remotely compatible, not to mention they’d either have to sequester themselves from family squabbles or try to resolve it with varying success.

    I like Japanese romances in their comics, since they always seem more realistic and take more than 2 days to establish the connections and chemistry, etc.

    • Nyara
      Aug 25, 2012 - 05:28 AM

      I agree but then i dont i believe this movie wasnt simply here too show true love it was here to show how much of an impact Mr. Dawson had on Rose’s life, I believe it may sound silly to think that what Rose and Jack had was love but you have to think at 101 your still dreaming and having every memory of a man you once cared about at the age of 17 it’s extraordinary. Let’s be clear you can’t compare the present with the past, back then you HAD to respect your parents, your parents could force you to do ANYTHING, not only that but lets be real there were REAL men back then, in that movie Jack showed he was willing to do anything for Rose ( even if that meant freezing to death )Jack proved he was a REAL man that loved Rose I mean for god sakes he froze to death for this woman. Today 13 year olds are out here having sex on bench’s, some of the fakest people are in this generation and most importantly the men are not real. I understand this is a movie is here to entertain us, but if this were real, i believe there love would have been strong until they died together.


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