20 years ago Titanic won the Oscar for best picture. What has changed?

titanic-dicaprio-winslet Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in 'Titanic'

20 years since Titanic won the Oscar for best picture, romance has gone out of fashion

Twenty years ago, on the night when James Cameron won the Oscar for Best Director, he went up on stage and elatedly cried out: “I’m the king of the world”—words that were immortalised by his lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. It must have been a euphoric moment for Cameron, after months of hardwork and hitches. In his retelling of the sinking of the ship Titanic in 1912, he constructed a 775-foot replica of Titanic and put it in a tank containing 17 million gallons of water. Originally budgeted at $100 million, the production cost reached an unparalleled high of $200 million. The visual effects and action sequences in the movie were highly praised, but things were not so unambiguous when it came to the story and the screenplay. One critic from the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film “reeks of phoniness and lacks even minimal originality”. Cameron wrote back to the newspaper saying that the critic should be “impeached”.

Another Oscars will be hosted on March 4. This time, it’ll be a hotly contested competition between films like The Shape of Water and Dunkirk. In the many years since its release, Titanic has fallen from grace. People have loved to tag the sweeping romance in the film as “corny” – DiCaprio’s dopey haircut, Celine Dion crooning that her heart will go on, Kate Winslet enthralled by DiCaprio’s gift to “see people” after leafing through his drawings, the couple holding a spitting competition, handprints on the window pane after a steamy session of love-making. And, of course, that iconic image of the two standing on the hull of the ship with their arms extended; how many cheesy parodies have that posture inspired?

But, I think in the cynical world that we live in, we need a few more movies like Titanic, which has been called by some as nothing but a “glorified chick-flick”. Nowadays, romance has gone out of flavour; not just in celluloid but in life as well. Roses and candy exist only in Archie comics. Dressing up to go on a ‘date’ is a relic of the past.

The tsunami of debate that has emerged about the question of “consent” post #MeToo shows that people have lost the art of the chase. Men are going straight for sex instead of taking time to woo the girl. Women are agreeing to it for all the wrong reasons; not because they feel comfortable in doing so. But so as not to hurt the guy’s feelings. Or to snag a husband. Or because she thinks it’s the only way to keep the relationship going. Sex should be more than just a contractual push-and-pull between two people.

Antioch College in the US, for example, has formulated a document called the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy, which essentially states that you can’t touch or hug another person without his or her permission. If you visit the college, you will be asked to sign a “statement of understanding” that you will not violate their policy of requiring “enthusiastic verbal consent during every stage of sexual interaction”. The sad truth is that, we’re probably living in a world in which we need such a ‘statement of understanding’.

It wasn’t always like this. Here’s what Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, whose birthday was yesterday, said in a letter to his son in 1958: “If you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you… Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it. The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it… And don’t worry about losing [it]. If it is right, it happens – the main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

Ad man Prahlad Kakkar hit the nail on the head when he said: “If men come on very strongly without real encouragement, it’s because they have jumped the whole business of courtship, charm, and grace by going straight for the end game as they have no experience of the joys of the chase, or the methodology that it takes to truly woo a woman.”

So, the next time you cringe when you hear a dialogue from Titanic, think again. What the world needs is a bit more of Jack and Rose in each one of us.