Kate Winslet turns 40 today. A good birthday present, since I hardly know her, is to just say happy birthday and wish her a good day, so let’s start with that: “Happy birthday, Kate. I hope you have a good day.” Also, another good present is to expose her for the murderer she is. Let’s do that, too.
To be clear, I’m not accusing the real Kate Winslet of being a murderer. That hardly seems like the case. She seems like she’d be quite lovely and agreeable in person. Whom I actually mean to accuse is Rose DeWitt Bukater, her character from 1997’s Titanic. Rose is the murderer. Much has been made about how Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), her love interest in the movie, also could have fit onto that piece of wood she floated on to keep her body out of the freezing water after the ship sank. (The MythBusters guys even did a whole thing on it.) But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about happens well before then. What I’m talking about is how that part with the floating wood never should have even happened.
Here’s a light recap of Titanic: Rose is from a wealthy family (though their wealth, we learn, is little more than an illusion). She is engaged to Cal Hockley, played by Billy Zane’s eyebrows and hair. He is heir to a legitimate fortune. Leo’s Jack is a poor, handsome artist. All three are passengers on the Titanic. Jack rescues Rose one night after she decides she wants to kill herself by jumping off the ship because she doesn’t want to be engaged or rich, which is absurd. Jack and Rose insta-fall in love with each other. The ship crashes into an iceberg. The ship starts to sink. The ship sinks. Rose and Jack try to survive. Rose survives. Jack doesn’t.
But the thing of it is: Jack’s death is entirely Rose’s fault, and, had Jack not been so wily and resourceful, he’d have died a number of times before he had the chance to freeze to death, too. At the two-hour-and-16-minute mark of the movie, that’s where this all starts. This is the scene:
By this point, the ship has begun to sink and the crew is loading the women and children into the lifeboats, and there aren’t nearly enough to hold all the passengers on the Titanic. Rose has managed to get a seat in one, but she hesitates taking it because she wants to stay with Jack. He tells her to go, that he’s a survivor, that he’ll be fine. And Cal joins in, too, encouraging her to get on the boat, because he still thinks he can win her heart later. Cal tells her that he and Jack will be fine because he’s made an arrangement with a crewman on the other side of the Titanic to save them both spots on a different rescue boat. Rose agrees to get on her boat. But she doesn’t stay on the rescue boat. She jumps back onto the Titanic. And had she just stayed there, it’s very likely that Jack never would’ve died. Because every good or smart thing that happens between her getting off the rescue boat and her floating on that big piece of wood at the end of the movie is his idea, and he could’ve just taken her place on the piece of wood. So he spends the rest of the movie trying to keep her alive and also trying to keep himself alive, an impossible task, really, given the circumstances. This is what happens after Rose decides to stay with Jack:
- Rose decides she doesn’t want to be on the rescue boat anymore; as they’re lowering it to the water, she jumps out, grabbing onto a rail of the ship, eventually climbing over and then finding her way to Jack. “You’re so stupid,” Jack says. “Why did you do that?” They kiss a bunch. (2 hours and 18 minutes)
- Cal, forever a dick, watches Rose run to Jack. He decides that if Rose won’t choose to be with him, then he’s just going to murder everyfuckingbody. He snatches a gun off the hip of a person who works for him, then sprints down after Jack and Rose. He shoots at them nine times. Rose has been off the rescue boat for only two minutes and already Jack has nearly died nine times. (2 hours and 20 minutes)
- During Jack and Rose’s escape from Cal, they come across a little boy standing in a hallway, crying. Rose tells Jack, “We can’t leave him.” Jack, obliging, runs to him, scoops him up, then begins to run away. The little boy’s dad comes out of a room, sees Jack holding his kid, says mean things, shoves Jack, then begins to run back toward where he came from. A door bursts, water comes rushing in, and the dad and the little boy (presumably) drown. Had the dad not had to waste time rescuing his kid, then the two likely would’ve made it to the exit stairway before getting washed away. Instead, he wastes those moments, and they both die. (2 hours and 21 minutes)
- When the water comes rushing into the hallway, Rose and Jack are nearly trapped. But Jack, smart and strong, pushes her up toward another exit stairway before they’re both drowned. It’s already the second time he’s saved her life since she got off the boat that was going to save her life. (2 hours and 22 minutes)
- When Jack and Rose get to the top of the stairway, they find the exit gate locked. Jack convinces a guy to try to open it. The hallway is still flooding, though, and so when the guy drops the keys, he just runs away. Rose’s response: scream at the guy to go get help, which he most assuredly will not do. Jack’s response: go underwater, reach through the gate, and retrieve the keys himself. This is the easiest moment to see the philosophical differences between the two lovers. (2 hours and 24 minutes)
- Jack asks Rose if she knows which key opens the gate. She doesn’t. “Try the sharp one,” she says. TRY THE FUCKING SHARP ONE??? (2 hours and 24 minutes)
- Despite having to unlock it from the wrong side while nearly drowning, Jack manages to get the door open. It’s the fourth time he’s saved Rose’s life in the last nine minutes. By comparison, she has indirectly killed a dad and his son and nearly gotten Jack shot at as many times as 50 Cent. (2 hours and 25 minutes)
- Rose doesn’t know what to do as they’re running away from the water. Jack tells her to keep going up. She goes up. She stays alive. (2 hours and 26 minutes)
- While attempting to escape, Rose sees a person she knows. She tells Jack to stop for a moment (please note that the ship is still filling with the ice-cold water that will eventually kill more than 1,500 people). She tries to convince the person to run with them. The person doesn’t want to. Rose doesn’t know what to do. “We have to move,” Jack says. She moves. She stays alive. (2 hours and 28 minutes)
- Jack and Rose are still running, still trying to figure out what to do. Rose is confused. Should they stay on the ship or get in the water? “We have to stay on the ship as long as possible,” Jack says. “Come on!” he shouts at her. She comes on. She stays alive. (2 hours and 34 minutes)
- Jack helps Rose climb over a rail. She stays alive. (2 hours and 34 minutes)
- Jack helps Rose jump down from a high ledge. She stays alive. (2 hours and 34 minutes)
- Jack helps Rose jump down from another high ledge. She stays alive. (2 hours and 35 minutes)
- Rose can’t push her way through the thick crowd also trying to make its way to the back of the ship. Jack pushes her to the front of the pack. She’s still alive. (2 hours and 36 minutes)
- One side of the Titanic is quickly sinking. The other side is not. Rose doesn’t know where to go. “This way,” Jack says, pulling her toward the not-sinking part. She goes. She stays alive. (2 hours and 37 minutes)
- Jack has successfully managed to get himself and Rose to the farthest end of the Titanic, as far away from the water as possible, because he knows that the water is very cold and so they have to stay out of it for as long as they can. She is still alive. (2 hours and 38 minutes)
- “Jack,” Rose says, looking around. Has she thought of a plan? Has she figured out a way to help them both live? Has she finally found a way to prove herself useful? “This is where we first met,” she says. SON OF A BITCH. (2 hours and 39 minutes)
- The end of the ship is starting to tilt upward because the other end is sinking. People all around them are tumbling down the boat. Rose doesn’t know what to do. “Hold on real tight,” Jack tells her. She holds on real tight. She stays alive. (2 hours and 40 minutes)
- The end of the ship rises high up into the air, then breaks in half at the center. Jack holds Rose down to prevent her from falling, saving her life yet again. (2 hours and 41 minutes)
- Once the ship breaks in half, the bottom part quickly pulls the top part down into the water. Jack is the first one to realize they need to be on the other side of the end rail. “We have to move,” he says as he climbs to the other side. “Give me your hand. I’ll pull you over.” She gives him her hand. He pulls her over. She stays alive. (2 hours and 42 minutes)
- Rose is literally staring at the ship being pulled underwater. She asks, “What’s happening, Jack?” Jack doesn’t even bother to respond because he knows Rose has eyes. (2 hours and 42 minutes)
- Rose watches a woman who had not climbed to the other side of the rail dangle for a moment. Rose offers no support. She doesn’t extend a hand or anything. The woman falls to her death as Rose watches. (2 hours and 43 minutes)
- The ship is just about to be pulled all the way under. “This is it,” Jack warns. “The ship is gonna suck us down. Take a deep breath when I say.” (He’s actually telling her when to breathe.) “Kick for the surface and keep kicking. Do not let go of my hand. We’re gonna make it, Rose. Trust me.” Jack is very inspirational and confident. (2 hours and 44 minutes)
- The ship goes under. Jack and Rose are underwater. Her one job was to not let go of him. She lets go of him. He is pulled away by the current. (2 hours and 45 minutes)
- Rose’s life jacket lifts her to the water’s surface. She starts calling for Jack. She swims into a man who is panicking. He tries to to use her to keep himself afloat. She’s being drowned by him. She can’t escape his grasp. She’s going to die. This is it for Rose. She’s been without Jack for one minute and she’s already going to die. (2 hours and 46 minutes)
- Jack miraculously hears her being dunked under the water. He swims over, punches the guy out, then pulls Rose aside, saving her life. (2 hours and 46 minutes)
- Rose and Jack are surrounded by hundreds of people who are terrified and all accidentally drowning each other by trying to save themselves. Rose doesn’t know what to do. “Swim, Rose,” Jack shouts at her. “I need you to swim.” She swims. She stays alive. (2 hours and 46 minutes)
- Rose: “It’s so cold.” Jack: “Swim, Rose!” Rose swims some more. She stays alive. (2 hours and 47 minutes)
- Away from the knot of people, Jack finds a large piece of wood. He helps Rose onto it. He can’t get on it without it tipping over. He tells her to stay on it. She stays on it. She is out of the water. She is safe. He is not. HE WOULD’VE BEEN SAFE IF SHE’D JUST STAYED ON THAT RESCUE BOAT. But she didn’t. So he’s not. (2 hours and 47 minutes)
- Rose wants to die. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Jack explains that the boats are going to come back and asks her to not die, to just hold on a little longer. She does. She stays alive. (2 hours and 48 minutes)
- Rose finally decides to talk: “It’s getting quiet.” Jesus, Rose. (2 hours and 49 minutes)
- “I love you, Jack,” Rose says. Jack realizes she’s giving up, she’s ready to die, she’s saying her goodbyes. He wants her to stay strong. It’s become obvious to him that he is going to die and it’s her fault and he just keeps on trying to save her life and also make her feel good because that’s what heroes do: “Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says. “It brought me to you, Rose,” he says, lying, because if it hadn’t brought him to her he wouldn’t be about to die. (2 hours and 52 minutes)
- Jack isn’t talking anymore. Rose doesn’t know what to do. She stares at the stars and waits to die. (2 hours and 54 minutes)
- A rescue boat comes back. “Jack, there’s a boat,” Rose says, before realizing he’s dead, before realizing his body’s been ice-cubed. “Jack. Jack. Jack. Jack. Jack. There’s a boat, Jack.” She survives. Jack doesn’t. (2 hours and 55 minutes)
That’s 19 times in 39 minutes that Jack did or said something that helped keep them alive. Or, to be more direct: That’s 19 times in 39 minutes that Jack did or said something that stopped Rose from causing him to die. All because she got off that first rescue boat.1
Somebody might possibly point out that it was Rose who went into the holding cell and used the ax to chop the handcuffs off Jack after he’d been locked up down there, before the passengers knew the ship was taking on water. But I’d point out that she literally closed her eyes before swinging the ax at the cuffs. I will never count someone blindly swinging an ax at someone else as a rescue. He’s lucky she didn’t lop one of his arms off.
At the end of Titanic, Rose — by then a very old woman — has a group of modern-day explorers around her and she’s telling them her and Jack’s story. One of the guys mentions how there were no records of Jack on the boat, and she says of course there weren’t, because he won his ticket in a poker game and was never officially registered. “But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson,” she says, her voice crumbling in the wind like desert-dry parchment paper. “And that he saved me, in every way that a person can be saved.” It’s maybe a more literal sentence than she intended.
Rose killed Jack Dawson. It took her 20 tries, but she got it done. Rose is a murderer.
Happy birthday, Kate.