In this column, we deliver hot (and cold) takes on pop culture, judging whether a subject is overrated or underrated.
The most enduring scene from the 1997 classic film Titanic for me was not the titular cursed boat being absolutely railed by an iceberg, or the satisfying thunk of that guy who falls into the rotating blades of the engine, or even Rose pushing Jack off the floating debris into the freezing water, whispering “See you in hell, Leo”.
No, for me, it was the scene at the end where the old lady version of Rose wanders out onto the freezing deck at night and throws her huge diamond necklace into the ocean. Like most young boys, I have always been fascinated by jewellery, enamoured by gems and gold, dreaming of one day being able to accessorise. I remember getting in trouble in primary school because we had to draw a picture of what we loved most in the world, and while most of my tiny peers drew their family or their dog or even the teacher herself (suck-ups), I drew a huge pile of rubies. So, you can imagine my shock and dismay when the Heart of the Ocean goes spiralling into the black depths of the sea, most likely to adorn the weird blob head of the ocean’s most fabulous octopus.
We’ve done old lady Rose a massive disservice.Credit:Marija Ercegovac
I am not alone in this bewilderment. Apart from the enduring question of whether Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) could have fit on Rose’s (Kate Winslet) floating debris (scientists say he could not, because of buoyancy), people constantly ask WHY old Rose didn’t sell off the Heart of the Ocean and live her life as a millionaire, and why she decided to chuck it at a dolphin. People think she is foolish, senile, perhaps making some sort of pact with the sea witch from The Little Mermaid.
But I have to say, since growing up a normal amount of years for someone my age, and maturing into someone with many thoughts about costume jewellery, I think we’ve done old lady Rose a massive disservice. I think she is, in fact, iconic for throwing that big blue necklace off a boat. A minimalist queen. Move over Marie Kondo! (or else old lady Rose will push you off to freeze to death). As Coco Chanel once said, before you leave the house look in the mirror and take one thing off, and throw it into the ocean.
Forget Leo and Kate, the true star of Titanic was the old lady who threw her diamond into the ocean.
The Heart of the Ocean was a major part of Titanic. At the beginning of the film, treasure hunter Brock Lovett (because when it comes to shiny things, you know he’s gonna Lovett) unravels the whole love story of Jack and Rose in his search for the diamond. It was given to Rose on the Titanic by her abusive fiance Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), used to frame Jack for arrest, and then accidentally left with Rose in the pocket of her jacket. The Heart of the Ocean is not real, but is based on a real diamond, the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond is one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, estimated worth around $US350 million dollars. In the film, we’re given no real motivation for why elderly Rose throws a $350 million dollar diamond off the side of the boat – you’re led to think perhaps as a tribute to her lost love, or to come to peace with the tragedy of the Titanic.
But in an alternate ending that was filmed but later edited out of the film (it’s worth watching, it’s super weird), we get a little more insight from her dialogue, where she basically talks about how she never wanted to live off Cal’s money because she hates him, and that true wealth is found in enjoying yourself. As some unnamed side character says after she chucks the diamond in the ocean, “That really sucks, lady!”
But I think this is actually an iconic move. Imagine being so spiteful, so willing to f— with the long dead memory of some guy she detested, that all these years later she’s willing to forgo great riches, disappoint the world, and drown an artifact of almost priceless historical significance just because of symbolic revenge. I think that’s actually a sign of great strength, if not particularly wonderful ethics. It takes a strong person to hate that much.
But when you think about it, this is exactly what Rose has been like the entire film – willing to go to great lengths to spite people she hates. Everyone focuses on how sexy and erotic and romantic it was to get Jack to draw her naked, wearing only the Heart of the Ocean. But we tend to forget that she did this MOSTLY so that Cal would see the picture and know that she was f—ing some hot guy below deck. Brutal, and elaborate.
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But this is Rose as a character – strong, spiteful, and always looking out for herself. It makes sense that anyone who is willing to push the love of her life into the ocean to die from the cold wouldn’t think twice about doing the same thing to a frankly gaudy necklace.
Plus, she might know something we don’t about the Heart of the Ocean. Imagine if Isildur had simply thrown the One Ring into the volcano instead of keeping it for himself? It would have saved Middle Earth a lot of bother, and us many hours of viewing panoramic New Zealand scenery, if he’d embraced similar accessory minimalism as Rose. We would never have had to watch The Hobbit trilogy.
Perhaps, by throwing the cursed necklace into the ocean, Rose also saved us from some kind of Titanic extended cinematic universe, the continued adventures of Rose as she kills more men and gathers more trinkets, escaping the vengeful iceberg as it tries to track down loose ends. We’ll never know, but I think we all need to be thankful the old lady threw the diamond down to sleep with the fishes.
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