Cameron's film is not 1912

Lee Gilliland

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Feb 14, 2003
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Please remember that any number of the first-class passengers were brought up very strictly to honor the idea of "Noblesse oblige" - and did so, with all kinds of charities for the poor. Many of the First- and Second-class ladies saved worked on Titanic relief funds of one sort or another. The religious obligation of the rich ministering to the poor and unfortunate was taken quite seriously back then. Think the "Young England" and 'muscular Christianty" mindset.
 
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Jake Angus

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AFA the 'bluebloods' treating we 'commoners' differently... just spend a few weeks in England. The class system reigns supreme! The posh bluebloods have had hundreds of years practicing the subtle art of putting anyone who isn't a blueblood firmly in their place with a civil but icy attitude that sucks the very life out of the air.
The regular people, cab drivers and such, are always ready to help, and don't have a barge pole attached to their bums.
 
Jun 19, 2004
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>>I prefer second class, cause it's in the middle. I think it is very, very bad that Mr Cameron didn't mention second class in his movie.<<

I agree Rolf I really would have liked to see more of the middle class in James Cameron's Titanic and I think he would have done well to include them because I think more people would be able to identify with them.

>>Have any one ever seen the TV Production "Upstairs and Downstairs (I love it!); the most conservative persons in the house are actually the staff; they know what's suitable or not suitable much better than the Lord and Lady themselves!<<

Lars, I think the show you are referring to is the PBS/BBC production "Manor House" or "Edwardian House" if it is then I did see it, every episode, and I loved it as well. I couldn't believe that a servant like a scullery maid could have worked in a home her entire life and never go upstairs. Another good movie if you want to see a tiny glimpse into the world of a manor house is the Warner Brothers 1990's version of "The Secret Garden"

>>And Cal gave strong clues that he was going to be a abusive husband.<<

Tracy I think this goes to the heart of where this conversation started. To our modern eyes Cal seems abusive but I think to 1912 eyes it was all perfectly normal and acceptable because one doesn't speak about what goes on behind closed doors. And if you look at it in 1912 terms Cal had every right to slap Rose because back then a wife’s behavior is reflective on the husband. For a good example of this you should see "Daniel Deronda" from Exxon Mobile Masterpiece Theater. In it the wife Gwendolyn must ask her husband Malinger if she is "all together as [he] likes [her]" meaning what she is wearing etc.

>>Rose and Cal were in the parlor suite, meaning that they each had separate bedrooms<<

Actually Daneil/Kris in victorian/edwardian times especially among the upper class husbands and wives pretty much always had separate bedrooms. This brings to mind an interesting point in the movie when while Rose and Cal are having breakfast Cal says "I hoped you would come to me last night" meaning I think that Cal wanted to have 'relations' with Rose. I wonder how proper that would have been for 1912 standards.

Well even though I am posting many months after the last post there is my two cents on much of the conversations in this thread =) please feel free to quote me and make comments on anything I've said =)

-Shannon
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Shannon!

You wrote:

"...[W]hile Rose and Cal are having breakfast Cal says "I hoped you would come to me last night" meaning I think that Cal wanted to have 'relations' with Rose. I wonder how proper that would have been for 1912 standards."

Well, it certainly wouldn't have been "proper", but that itself wouldn't have been enough to stop two people from "doing it" if that's what they decided they wanted to do. The Edwardians were still heavily influenced by the Victorian Era's mores -- and those Victorians had their concealed vices down to a science!

'-)

Best wishes!

Roy
 

rob scott

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1- >>...I think it is very, very bad that Mr Cameron didn't mention second class in his movie. Just to make the contrasts big he created a world of very poor and very rich. There's no golden mean. <<
Weren't there some well-healed traveling 2nd class in those days? or on that ship? and weren't there some comfortable ones in 3rd class, to save the money for the other side of the water?
happy.gif


Um, "better" ; was Heathcliff deemed by the "In-set" Better after he returned a rich man?

Yes, new money could be treated well, but only if combining with that bank account some of the Show of the in-crowd, the Taste and "breeding" (not actual breeding as in Blood but the semblance of Breeding, the Show of it) of the upper class. And of course some Right connections didn't hurt either ;)

Food for thought- um ... not much has really changed if you look at then and now, eh?
 

Athlen

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Apr 14, 2012
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Cameron's Titanic is the story for the ages, the simplest, broadest-appeal version of the story. That story requires a simple dichotomy into rich and poor. I think it was acceptable to omit second class, actually, because it makes the story just a little harder to follow, and what Cameron was aiming for was something like "if you have three hours in your entire life to devote to Titanic, watch this."

And the divide between rich and poor *was* quite large then, as it still is. Teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc. all made several times more money than, say, a stoker or carpenter. But the wealthy had *many* times more money than that.

Furthermore, if most of us would place ourselves in 2nd class today, based on our 2012 occupations, we should remember that society was very different then and we can't say we would have had the same occupations or the same opportunities. In my case, I'm a scientist, but my father and his father and his father were all machinists and naval engineers. So although I'd most likely be second class based on what I am today, that required me having the opportunity to go to college, which I wouldn't have had in 1912 -- I probably would have been in the crew. Not as a stoker, but as an engineer or perhaps even with the H&W Guarantee Group.

On "noblesse oblige", it is true that the wealthy did feel a divine or societal mandate to help the less fortunate. After WW1, "noblesse oblige" gave way to income tax, and I would be willing to bet that most wealthy people did not contribute as much of their assets towards helping the less fortunate in the Edwardian era than they would once they paid income tax.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Lee: Cameron's lack of understanding about the mores of 1912 has formed the basis of my most sustained criticism of his movie. Time and again, he makes characters' actions suit a 1997 audience's expectations, instead of permitting those actions to grow naturally out of a deeper understanding of the Edwardian era. Rose, in particular, is a 1997 woman transported back to 1912; even her pattern of movement is all wrong. While some athleticism was permitted young women of that time, it was pretty strictly circumscribed; the tennis court, the bathing beach, calisthenics and - when still adolescent - the basketball court were all permissible. But in the drawing room, at tea, when shopping, at church - all the "ladylike" activities - a woman was supposed to move with grace and poise. Cameron's Rose moves like a modern woman who has never been "tut-tutted" at for taking long strides or swinging her arms or sitting in a comfortable position as opposed to a graceful one.

Cameron's knowledge of the era's sexual mores seems to be pretty limited. The insinuation that Cal is or may be sleeping with Rose is actually correct enough; their wedding is very close, close enough that if a pregnancy resulted, it could be passed off - there were some rather large and healthy "premature" infants at that time, in fact well up into my own era! Where Cameron comes a cropper is with Rose and Jack getting horizontal. Rose would have had it drilled into her since adolescence that the worst possible thing that could befall her would be having a baby with no husband around - which it would have been. She would not only have been drummed out of her social circle, she would have had a very hard time finding work, and a harder one finding a husband. A sad but true historic fact of the Edwardian era was that the fortunes of women were, for the most part, highly dependent on men, though that would change dramatically within a few years.

Cameron compounds his mistake when he has Jack mention an acquaintance with Parisian prostitutes. Given that what were euphemistically called "social diseases" were not treatable at the time, Rose's reaction to this information should have been to cut the boy off (I am of course, overlooking the problem of Rose and Jack having any social contact at all, given the immigration regulations that segregated Third Class from the other two). The problem of men bringing such diseases home to innocent wives via contact with prostitutes was one of the era's great health concerns; there were constant exhortations to boys to keep themselves "clean" (telling phrase!) for marriage.

I also have a real problem with Cameron's use of the Margaret Brown/Ruth Bukater/Countess of Rothes trio. Cameron makes Mrs. Brown out to be a complete clod who is only seethingly tolerated by Ruth Bukater, with the Countess complicit in Ruth's displays of snobisme. First, Mrs. Brown had some social standing of her own, although it was not of the highest. She had been taken into the circle of J.J. and Madeleine Astor, accompanying them to Egypt and France, and while Astor was in some social trouble due to his divorce and remarriage (a very big no-no at the time), the size of his fortune kept him from total social ruin. Ruth Bukater could not have afforded to give offense to Mrs. Brown; there would have been no telling when Astor and her daughter's fiance Caledon might have business dealings. Making the Countess part of all this completely ignores the actual character of the woman, who kept up a Christmastime correspondence with seaman Thomas William Jones, who had been in charge of her lifeboat, for the rest of her life. What Cameron fails to understand about the social pecking order is that those at its very top can afford to be nice to those lower down the scale; they have nothing to lose thereby. As written, Ruth Bukater should have been seen through and gently, coolly kept at arm's length by her betters, of whom she had many.

Don't get me started about Rose's excursion into steerage!
 
Jan 28, 2003
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If Rose had been sleeping with Cal, Sandy, she'd just have passed off any "premature" baby as his, not Jack's, if she'd gone ahead with the advantageous marriage. After all, she couldn't have known for certain. However, such fictional speculation is pointless.

Getting you reluctantly started about Rose's excursion into steerage ... I took my 84-year old father to see Titanic in 1997 at the cinema because he was going blind and I thought he'd be able to see the huge screen and enjoy the film. He was, and he did. His loudly-proclaimed view of the encounter in the Renault in the hold was that no "first-class bird" would have done that because Jack hadn't changed his clothes in 5 days. It was a bit embarrassing. He also seemed to know a bit about clog-dancing and the embargo about classes mixing. I think he quite enjoyed himself. I spent the evening urging him to be quiet, and passing Kleenex to weeping teenagers.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Monica: Yes, it's quite true that Rose could have done that, had she intended to follow through with Cal, but it's already clear by that point in the story that she will not. Besides, if you're married to a James Mason lookalike, and you have a kid who looks like Jimmy Cagney, Something is Up, LOL.

P.S.: Your father sounds like a most observant - and practical-minded - soul.
 

Jake Peterson

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Mar 11, 2012
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With exceptions of Crew quarters and other like places, I thought the 1st class passengers were free to go anywhere in the ship they wanted (although it probably didn't happen often).
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Jake, my understanding is that the Third Class quarantine worked both ways - other classes were not to go there, nor were Third Class passengers allowed out of it. The reason was that emigrants traveling Third Class had had only cursory inspection for disease before boarding. Cameron's film hints at this in the Southampton sequence, where a Third Class passenger's beard is being combed to look for body lice. Tuberculosis, scabies, and other transmissible infections were possible to acquire if you were in contact with someone already having them. U.S. immigration officials checked migrants very carefully at Ellis Island before permitting them to set foot in New York proper; if they showed signs of disease, they could be quarantined and treated (such as being deloused if lice had escaped the notice of inspectors abroad), or sent back. There were also legal inspections designed to make sure people did not have legal problems.

And no passenger, in any class, was welcome on the foredeck, King of the World or no. :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Apart from his/her own cabin, a 1st Class passenger was free to go nowhere that wasn't designated as 1st Class public space - and even some of that (like the restaurant and the Turkish bath) was accessible only by paying extra. The rules that segregated all three Classes worked in both directions, and for the same reason - the US Immigration authorities performed health checks on the 3rd Class but not on 1st or 2nd. UNLESS there was evidence that the rules of segregation had been broken. At best this could mean all the passengers being ferried to Ellis Island for examination. At worst, in the event of an outbreak of serious contagion in 3rd Class, the whole ship could be placed in quarantine. That's why the crew were expected to be vigilant in keeping not only the 3rd Class quite literally in their place but the 1st and 2nd too. In practice it would have been impossible to ensure that unauthorised sightseeing never took place, but the heavy traffic in both directions that we see in certain movie versions of the voyage would not have been possible.

Edit: You beat me to it, Sandy!
 

Jake Peterson

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Mar 11, 2012
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Yeah, I had read that passengers weren't allowed on the bow of the ship, although I'm not sure how they enforced that, unless they had officers stationed at each stairway leading there.

I also have heard of inspection queues, and such, but I guess I didn't give it much thought. If a passenger, a rich one, at that, who probably paid one of the larger sums to use your ship in order to keep your company afloat, wanted to go 2nd or 3rd class, who are you to argue, unless you want a complaint filed with your superior.

Edit: Just saw your post, Bob, as soon as I posted. You make a fair point. I just was thinking that the rich can get pretty snobby when they want something they can't have.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Jake, nobody would be much concerned about a formal complaint filed by a passenger whose objection was that crew members were unwilling to cooperate with said passenger's wish to do something dangerous and/or illegal. The better approach would be not to ask - just wait until nobody's looking. That's no good, of course, if you want to try a spot of King of the Worlding, because there are always several pairs of eyes looking towards the bow! And Jack & Rose in broad daylight are much easier to spot than icebergs at night.

Edit: Just added a bit to mine too, Jake! Only some further thoughts.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Bob: Question - wouldn't it have been permissible for a First Class passenger to invite a Second Class one, or perhaps even vice versa? It probably would have been a rare sort of thing, but if, let us say, a lady in First Class found that her vicar and his wife were in Second, surely a luncheon or tea could be arranged. Who were White Star crew to stand in the way of noblesse oblige? ;)
 

Bob Godfrey

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For very practical reasons the Immigration authorities were concerned with keeping the 3rd Class in isolation, but the WSL's own regulations clearly stipulated that 1st and 2nd were not allowed to invade each other's territory either, at least not while the ship was at sea. It's likely there would have been more exceptions especially to allow private meetings, but in itself the rule might have been partly an acceptance of existing social taboos. Those at the top of the social tree accepted the 'invisible' presence of the lower orders to give service, while objecting most strongly to the unnecessary and unwanted presence of those who had already climbed one step closer - ie the lower middle class. 2nd Class. 2nd best. Not to be admitted to the public facilities reserved for their betters who had paid for that exclusivity. "Steward! What are those people doing here in 1st Class?"
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Bob: I'm glad to hear that you think exceptions were at least possible. I fully agree that there is no snobbery like that of the arriviste towards those still on their journey upwards. One of the more heartwarming stories aboard Titanic was J.J. Astor's friendship with Margaret Brown. Mrs. Brown was wealthy, but not remotely in J.J.'s financial class (his net worth is said to have been $85 million, equal to more than two billion today). J.J. did not have to tolerate anyone he did not wish to, yet he found Mrs. Brown's company agreeable, and seems to have paid little attention to the gulf between his old-family, old-money status and Mrs. Brown's background, which included a stint as a dry-goods clerk. And of course, for her part, Mrs. Brown took the sensible view that it was better to be nouveau than not riche at all, a position that many of her self-proclaimed betters would have found grating in the extreme.
 

Scott Mills

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Please remember that any number of the first-class passengers were brought up very strictly to honor the idea of "Noblesse oblige" - and did so, with all kinds of charities for the poor. Many of the First- and Second-class ladies saved worked on Titanic relief funds of one sort or another. The religious obligation of the rich ministering to the poor and unfortunate was taken quite seriously back then. Think the "Young England" and 'muscular Christianty" mindset.
And class and racial divisions tremendous. So what if they volunteered to help the unfortunate, that doesn't change how what they felt towards and how they treated the working class. Just read Beasley's book and count how many times he mentions some survivor lamenting that a cowardly crew member or drunk third class passenger survived while the educated gentlemen who embodied everything good in the world were not.