The Real Message from "Titanic"

by Doug Payton

OK, I came really late to this particular party. It’s September and only now, a few days after it came out on video, did I finally see the movie "Titanic" in our local "dollar" theater. The special effects were utterly amazing. They gave me a sense of actually being there, and brought home how tragic the entire episode was. To see and hear those hundreds of people crying out while floating in the water was, for me, the most emotional part of the movie.

Of course, some may point to portions of the fictitious romance between Jack and Rose for emotion, but it was so full of stereotypes and cliches (the woman not in control of her destiny, the "evil rich", the "virtuous poor") that the actors simply could not rise above it. It’s like taking a plastic plant and painting it to look like a real one; no matter how good of a job you do, it’s still plastic.

But upon leaving the theater, the one emotion that hit me hardest was one of disgust. As I said, I didn’t see "Titanic" until the hype had come and gone and I’d heard about how people had seen it dozens, even over a hundred, times and how they swooned over the romance and Leonardo DiCaprio. When the video was released, people dressed up as Jack and Rose at stores for parties, waiting for midnight when they could officially buy it. There were rumors about a "Titanic II", where Jack really didn’t die and the romance between the two could be continued. And what disgusted me the most was, after having seen it, that the suffering and death of almost 1500 people was just another bit of scenery behind which this plastic plant was highlighted.

What it made me realize was how far America has come and how completely desensitized we’ve become to suffering and death. A cheesy love story drives people to excess when it’s accompanied by bodies falling hundreds of feet and bouncing off the side of a ship’s hull. I’m sure scenes like that may have made an impact here and there, but that’s not apparently what many Americans came away with. They did not return time after time to ache about the loss of life, but to see that plastic plant just one more time. It had such a nice paint job.

This wouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much had I not heard of people being so obsessed by the movie that they returned over 100 times to watch Jack and Rose kiss while death in epic proportions was all around them. The coverage of the fans of "Titanic" showed people completely taken in by the love story, with hardly a mention of the tragedy. To them, sure 1500 people died, but golly gee she got off the lifeboat just to be with him. >swoon<

And that’s the reaction I’ve had ever since leaving the theater. The most striking message I got from the movie had nothing to do with the plot or the special effects or even the suffering. As a documentary, "Titanic" went beyond all my expectations. As a love story, "Titanic" left me flat. Mostly, though, as an American obsession, "Titanic" made me sick. It uncovered still more of what is going on in our country; violence, suffering and death have become mere entertainment that people don’t even notice anymore. More people have to die for an event to make the news. Pre-teens are committing murder with increasing frequency and feeling no remorse other than having been caught.

I’m not going to try to place blame here, but I do think it’s good for people to at least acknowledge that such a thing is happening. What I would like to do is resensitize people to the violence they take for granted around them, and get them to reevaluate what they tolerate. What you tolerate, you give tacit approval to, because if you do not take steps to reduce it, then it will increase. If you say you wish there were less violence in our country, if you say you wish you could walk the streets again at night, then think about what acts of violence you tolerate. What can you do to express your intolerance for violence?

For the Christian, this means prayer and action. We need to resensitize America to its situation. A frog will not jump into a pot of boiling water, but put him in a pot of cold water and turn the heat up ever-so-slowly and he will sit there, unaware of the change in his surrounding, and boil to death. Likewise, the heat in our country has been getting higher and higher and we need to sound the alarm to what is happening. The Father of Lies tells us that there’s nothing we can do, it’s just the way that society is going and we can’t hold it back. He tells us that "it’s just a movie" or "it’s just TV", but if art imitates life then America needs a new life, a reborn life. We are in the middle of the sea and the ship is sinking, but there is a Master Builder who can restore us and sustain us. But he won’t fix the ship against the will of the passengers. Pray that God will restore America to it’s reverence for Him, and work to show those around you what is really happening.

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