Crediting Characters: Rose Dawson

I was seven years old when I first watched the blockbuster film Titanic. Though probably not a suitable watch for a child with floating dead bodies and that car scene, I fell in love with the film.

Despite the many romance films I have consumed since, nothing can quite top Titanic. It’s for this reason that my first piece published on my blog back in 2015 was in fact on this film and what it meant to me.

Though sometimes criticised for its lack of historical accuracy, this film prompted a personal short-term obsession with all things Titanic; books, exhibits, the lot. I have always loved and devoured stories with tragedy in (okay, maybe a bit morbid for a child) and of course Titanic fits that category.

To me, protagonist Rose Dawson is an inspiration, challenging numerous class and gender stereotypes which have previously restricted her. I think I maybe took comfort in the opening scenes of old Rose reminiscing her past, giving me immediate reassurance that whatever happened in the coming hours she would survive; a happy(ish) ending is always a bonus in films.

Rose’s bravery in defying her family’s wishes while opting for love over money is exactly the type of female character young me needed. The individuality she displays throughout confirms her sense of self and the personal goals she has. Kate Winslet is the perfect casting for Rose, and we share a hometown, so what’s not to love?

The older I get, the more I feel able to relate to Rose, from her defiance against the norm to the sadness that chokes her. The iconic line, ‘I feel I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room screaming at the top of my lungs and no one even looks up’ presents a type of loneliness we have all been able to relate to at some point. Rose represents the idea that money and class don’t equal happiness, as well as the validity of personal struggles regardless of social standing.

Perhaps some of the sympathy for Rose comes from the villainous creation of Cal, the truly unlikeable fiancé. The more favourable relationship between Rose and Jack definitely falls into the category of whirlwind romance, but Rose isn’t defined purely by her relationship. We see her both before and after Jack, and she is a fully developed character in her own right.

Rose is the right mix of strong and emotional and, while other female characters fall heavily on one side, she balances carefully in the middle, understanding her own needs rely on both at different points. At the end of the film, old Rose states Jack ‘saved me in every way a person can be saved’. Yet, as everyone knows from Jack’s ‘preventable’ death, Rose is the sole survivor of the pair and lives a full life without Jack by her side, proving she isn’t a weak damsel-in-distress. Ultimately, Rose saved herself; Jack merely gave her the tools and courage to do it.

When I tell people Titanic is my favourite film, they often laugh or find it cliché. But this film really does mean so much to me, and so few other films have come anywhere near sparking the same passions that Titanic does.

Rose Dawson was probably my first fictional hero. She may not be the stereotypical feminist icon presented in contemporary films, but as a child, I adored her.

Rose Dawson, you’re an icon to me. Thanks for teaching me lessons I didn’t know I needed.

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