“Class” in Titanic (1997)

In one of the most popular movies of the century, Titanic depicts the clashing of different social and economic classes and the elements that transcend these boundaries. I know, technically, that this is not “modern”, but this movie remains one of the most popular and well-known movies in our culture. Furthermore, it clearly showcases the elements of “class” as discussed in the keywords essay.

For anyone that has not seen the movie, Titanic depicts a poor Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he ventures onto the ship, the Titanic, and eventually falls in love with an upper-class Rose (Kate Winslet) travelling with her family. Jack struggles to fit in with the social class that Rose’s family belongs to, and Rose struggles to relate to the problems associated with Jack’s economic class.

The “Class” keywords essay by Elizabeth Bullen helped me to distinguish the difference between economic and social classes, specifically, how they are different from each other and distinguishable as an entity other than merely the collective socioeconomic class structure. Understanding this distinction, as well as where they overlap, can help people like me better comprehend themes in other pieces of literature. While this distinction is clear in Titanic, it is often more subtle in other films or texts. Furthermore, it encourages greater empathy the characters. Class identifications can often be ostracizing, and better understanding the overlap and history of this helps me empathize more with relationships, like that of Jack and Rose, that struggle with transcending these barriers.

Circling back around to American girlhood, having a better understanding of social and economic class differences is critical to understanding their presentations. Once, we discussed the age of girlhood, and like most things in this class, realized that age restrictions on girlhood are indeterminable. A text in class that helped me understand this was Little Women. The description and experiences of all four girls simultaneously was able to show moral development. Furthermore, comparison to girls and others in different economic classes from the March sisters allowed me to consider girlhood in a new way. A response to the rejection of age as a restriction for girlhood, many students in our class agreed that it was a collection of morals, values, and actions that determined the end of girlhood. However, this is a classist perspective, as some classes are forced to value things differently and their youthful traits or lack thereof should not be over or understated and should not play the sole role in determining the validity of an identity.

4 thoughts on ““Class” in Titanic (1997)”

  1. Hi Keila,
    I agree with your discussion of class in the film Titanic. The majority of the movie really is all about class and how difficult it is for people of one class to interact with members of another class. It is also interesting to consider the difference between economic and social class because despite being a lower economic class, the March family still had a high social class. But when considering Titanic, all that really matters is economic class.

  2. Hi Keila,
    Your title caught my attention at the very first place as Titanic is one of my favorite movies. Like you, I learned from Elizabeth Bullen’s keyword essay that there are two different meanings of class which are social and economic respectively. Jack and Rose definitely come from totally different social and economic classes and these pose a huge barrier in front of their love for each other. For March girls, the difference in levels of wealth and class also poses various challenges in their girlhood. It is actually quite sad when talking about “class” that we can hardly do anything to counter the negative effects brought by it. But we must know that classes do not place the sole role in deciding our value of identity, like you said at the end.

  3. I myself am a big fan of the Titanic and agree that the socioeconomic class structure is more apparent in this film than others. It is interesting that a film produced over twenty years ago can still serve to portray some of barriers encountered by individuals interacting amongst different classes seen today.

  4. Thank you for sharing, Keila! You mentioned the difference between economic and social class, but what is that distinction? I think that economic class has to do with money while social class has to with people. Is this the division you found in Titanic?

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