Prepare to have your favorite love story shattered.
You don’t know Jack. Turns out, maybe no one does. The Jack in question is the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in James Cameron’s overly-self-indulgent film Titanic, you know, the floppy-haired ruffian who wins a ticket on the ill-fated ship and finds love with Rose (Kate Winslet), a proper young lady on the verge of marrying another.
Here’s where the fan theory comes in, courtesy of (where else?) Reddit.
Rose is so upset at the thought of having to marry Cal (Billy Zane) that she attempts to take her own live by jumping off the bow of the ship. That’s when, just in the nick of time, Jack appears to save her. Fortuitous timing? Or the hallucinatory manifestation of a mentally-broken woman who doesn’t really want to die, she just doesn’t want to live the life others have prescribed for her? I think you can guess which way the theory leans.
It goes like this: Rose needs someone to stand up for her, she needs someone stronger and more self-assured to help her take the reins of her own life. She, a young woman at the turn of the 20th century, is mostly powerless so instead she conjures an alternate personality – not of her own, but exterior to her person – who can help her break free of her little world and realize her independence.
Intriguing, isn’t it? But does it hold water (unlike the Titanic)?
In places, yeah it does. Let’s talk about Jack’s death. We all know and even Winslet has jokingly admitted that there was more than enough room on that slab of wreckage for both of them, yet Jack doesn’t get on, he instead willingly lets go and sinks beneath the icy surface. If you abide by the theory, Jack’s death signals Rose’s freedom, she is now – based on her experiences with Jack and the turmoil of the sinking – a new woman, her own woman, and one who will no longer be bound by the will of another. Jack has saved her, completely now, so she is healed mentally and no longer needs this manifestation for support. Her mind in response pushes him away, peacefully, until the darkness of the deep blue sea swallows him.
In the present-day scene at the end of the movie when Old Rose has finished telling her tale to the treasure hunters, the theory’s strongest bit of proof is introduced: one of them checks the manifest and tells Rose there’s no record of Jack being on the ship, and furthermore no historical record of him at all.
“No. There wouldn’t be, would there?” Rose says. “He exists only in my memory.”
Confirmation? Not really, more just a wistful statement from a woman at the end of a long life. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, Jack won his ticket on the Titanic (in a poker game) so of course there wouldn’t be any record of him on the manifest, the ticket was in the name of another. Furthermore, plenty of other people saw Jack aboard the ship, including Cal, Jack’s buddy Fabrizio (Danny Nucci), and Molly Brown (Kathy Bates). And of course, there’s the picture of naked Rose that somebody had to have drawn, not to mention the steamy love scene in the carriage.
These are all serious detractors to the theory, but die-hard believers can explain them away. The poker-game-ticket could be Rose building backstory for her lover as a rogue, a commoner, everything that’s the opposite of the men in her world, and the other people who see Jack could be Rose imagining her lover being embraced by her world. As for the naked picture, that’s a tough one, but they had mirrors in 1912, Rose could have drawn herself, and about that carriage? Well, let’s just say it doesn’t always take two to tango.
So what do you think? Is Jack Dawson a selfless hero or a figment of a poor little rich girl’s idle imagination? I myself want to believe this one, if only because it makes an interminable and saccharine love story into something a little more sinister.
Cheers to UK site The Mirror, where I first found this theory. They even made a brief video about it, which you can see at the link below. Give it a look and let me know what you think: is Jack real or fake?