Given the fact that the semiotic significance of a particular movie cannot be discussed outside of the conventions of an affiliated socio-cultural discourse, reflected by the contained themes and motifs, it is fully explainable why it now represents a common practice among critics to refer to cinematographic pieces, as such that often advocate the socially constructed behavioral norms.
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Moreover, because Western societies never ceased being stratified along a number of different cultural, social and ethnic lines, there is nothing particularly odd about the fact that many Hollywood films (especially the historical ones) are being concerned with exploring the motif of a socially upheld inequality among people, reflective of the specifics of their gender and class affiliation.
The validity of this statement can be well explored in regards to the 1997 film Titanic, directed by James Cameron. After all, in this particular film, the director had made a deliberate point in exposing the existential stances, on the part of Titanic’s passengers, as such that corresponded perfectly well with the concerned people’s social perception of selves.
For example, there is a memorable scene in this film, where Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) ends up dining with first class passengers on the ship’s upper deck– quite contrary to the fact that, by virtue of being a third class passenger, he was not allowed to even approach close to these people.
This, however, should not be perceived as an indication of the first class passengers’ ‘open-mindedness’ – by having Jack invited, they simply wanted to entertain themselves. This is because they expected Jack to prove himself being a rather unsophisticated individual, which in turn would help them to continue enjoying their privileged status, as such that has been dialectically predetermined.
This, however, was not meant to happen, because while conversing with the moralistically minded ‘rich and powerful’, Jack was able to subtly expose their self-presumed ‘superiority’ being rather incidental, “Jack: I’ve got everything I need right here with me… Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge, and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people” (01.00.32).
Therefore, there is indeed a good reason in referring to Cameron’s film, as such that promotes a thoroughly humanistic idea that the measure of people’s actual worth has very little to do with what happened the extent of their material well-being.
The same can be said about how this film reflects upon male-chauvinistic prejudices towards women, which appear to have been shared by not only the film’s many male but also female characters. For example, there is another notable scene in the movie, where Rose’s (Kate Winslet) mother Ruth (Frances Fisher) tries to convince her daughter that she had no other option but to agree marrying Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), despite the fact that there was no even a slightest hint of love between these two characters.
According to Ruth, even though that forcing Rose to marry Cal stood in striking contradiction to her daughter’s desire, Rose had no good reason to complain about the situation, because it is fully natural for women to be willing to give in to the external circumstances, “Of course it’s unfair… We’re women. Our choices are never easy (01.11.00).
It is needless to mention, of course, that such Ruth’s point of view has been predetermined by what used be the realities of her patriarchal upbringing. Apparently, ever since her early years, Ruth was endowed with the belief that there was not anything unnatural about women being continually victimized by men.
Nevertheless, it would be quite inappropriate to suggest that the philosophical appeal of Cameron’s film is being solely concerned with the fact that, while working on it, the director strived to expose the counterproductive essence of the early 20th century’s class-related and gender-related conventions.
This is because, along with advancing the idea that there can be no rationale-based reasons for people to be discriminated against, on the basis of what happened to be the particulars of their biologically/socially defined self-identity, this film also helps viewers to adopt a thoroughly scientific outlook on the representatives of Homo Sapiens species.
That is, contrary to what it being assumed by the religious /moralistic individuals, the watching of Cameron’s film leaves very few doubts, as to the fact that people are essentially primates, who rely predominantly on the workings of their unconscious psyche, when it comes to addressing the life’s most acute challenges.
The validity of this suggestion can be well illustrated in regards to the film’s final scenes, in which fashionably dressed gentlemen from the upper deck, try to make their way to the lifeboats, while trampling the bodies of women and children. Because earlier in the film, these men having been shown to treat the same women in a particularly gallant manner, viewers’ exposure to the ‘sinking’ scenes naturally predisposes them to think that the extent of people’s affiliation with the values of a ‘civilized living’ can be best defined rather negligible.
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This is because, as it was shown in the Titanic, people’s foremost existential agenda in being solely concerned with the ensuring of their physical survival. Once, they are being put in a life-threatening situation, the considerations of religion, morality and behavioral etiquette, on their part, instantaneously disappear into the thin air, while prompting them to act in a manner, fully consistent with what these people really are, in the biological sense of this word – hairless apes.
Therefore, it is quite impossible to agree with Allan Johnson, who promote the idea that the very notion of competitiveness should be regarded ‘inappropriate’, because it reminds emotionally sensitive individuals the politically incorrect truth that there is a ‘monkey’, residing deep inside of them, “I don’t play Monopoly anymore, mostly because I don’t like the way I behave when I do. When I used to play Monopoly, I’d try to win, even against my own children, and I couldn’t resist feeling good when I did (we’re supposed to feel good) even if I also felt guilty about it” (17).
It appears that, while coming up with this statement, Johnson remained unaware of the simple fact that one’s ability to compete with others for the limited resources, defines his or her chances of attaining a social prominence. Therefore, prompting people to refrain from behaving in accordance with the basic laws of nature, which endorse competition, cannot result in anything but in reducing the extent of their existential fitness.
Therefore, it will only be logical, on our part, to conclude this paper by reinstating once again that the measure of just about film’s educational/philosophical worth should not only be assessed in regards to how this film helps viewers to realize the counterproductive essence of socially upheld prejudices (such as the assumption of women’s ‘inferiority’).
In order for a particular movie to be considered enlightening, it also needs to encourage viewers to come to terms with what can be considered the discursive significance of their biological constitution – even if this is being accomplished at the expense of revealing the conceptual fallaciousness of politically correct dogmas. Because the themes and motifs, explored in Cameron’s movie, appear fully consistent with these two provisions, there is indeed a good reason to refer to this particular film thoroughly progressive.
Johnson, Allan. The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice and Promise. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997. Print.
Titanic. Ex. Prod. James Cameron. Los Angeles, CA.: 20th Century Fox. 1997. DVD.