By Patrick McGee (auth.)
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Extra info for Bad History and the Logics of Blockbuster Cinema: Titanic, Gangs of New York, Australia, Inglourious Basterds
At least one so-called authority on the historical Titanic whom I heard through the barrage of media commentaries on this movie observed that the romance between Jack and Rose is the most glaring historical anomaly in the film. Such a relationship would have been impossible because there could have been no contact between a person from first class and one from steerage. One should always be suspicious of such historical certainties, for there are exceptions to every rule; there are no laws without at least the possibility of transgressions.
These movies came at the end of the social movements that began in the 1960s and probably appealed to popular anger at the social system that drove so many of the events of that era. The force of this anger can still be seen in Brian De Palma’s The Fury (1978) in which government agencies manipulate and betray innocent children in the interest of social forces that remain hidden but ultimately can have only to do with profit and capital accumulation. The “fury” in the movie’s title refers to the act of a teenage female psychic (Amy Irving) channeling her anger at the system into a force that explodes the system’s evil agent (John Cassavetes), who virtually comes apart in slow motion.
As a flâneur, Jack is the character in the movie who embodies or represents the spectator. Like Jack, the spectator is also abandoned in the crowd and shares the situation of the commodity in his or her longing for a buyer—that is to say, for the social capital that would make it possible to translate the wishdemand for pleasure and happiness into a reality that would function as the fantasy of absolute satisfaction. The pleasure Jack takes from the Titanic, as he stands on the prow with his arms spread out as if he were flying, is pleasure not only in the dream ship as commodity fetish but in his own identification with the dream ship, and the spectator enjoys a similar identification with the movie Titanic as the intoxicating experience of the commodity (something that cost over $200 million).