Jack Dawson game.

5 Jan

In the comments on Dalrock’s post “The one that got away,” which discusses a woman’s penchant for holding on to memories of a previous lover even if married to a man who gives her everything she could ever want, anon66 criticizes the movie Titanic, saying:

This is why I dislike the movie Titanic. At the end of the movie Winslet’s character ends up back on the ship with DiCaprio to which I ask “What about her husband?” Was a very short fling on the doomed ship more important to her than a lifetime of marriage and children.

Commenter vitabenedicta replies:

What’s interesting is that the fiance is an alpha–socially powerful, violent, largely indifferent to her–while her paramour is more of a beta–a sexually timid white knight who dies saving her life. After he dies she marries another man, who also appears to be a beta, but he can’t ever inspire the passion that the first beta did. So the movie isn’t so much about getting “five minutes of alpha” as it is an instruction manual on how betas can succeed with beautiful women. (Basically, target young women who have never been in love before; be different than the men in her usual surroundings; and be an artist. It’s a bit of a tall order.)

I started to write a reply but then realized that it was getting long and detailed enough to merit its own post here.  Since the movie will be re-released in April of this year (with a 3-D conversion, of course) to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the ship’s sinking, let’s take a look at the real alpha/beta dynamics in the film.

For those who are unaware (either having never seen the film, or have forgotten the details, or were too young to see the film when it was released [oblig. THAT MAKES ME FEEL SO OLD UGHHH]), here’s the plot:  Rose DeWitt Bukater is an upper-class 17-year-old Philadelphian engaged to wealthy heir Cal Hockley.  They are traveling with Rose’s mother from Southampton, England, to New York City on the Titanic.  Rose feels trapped because she does not love Cal, and he sees her as a prize possession rather than a person.  On the first evening of the voyage, Rose meets Jack Dawson, a penniless American sketch artist who won his steerage ticket in a game of poker.  He seems interested in her as a person, and she sees an opportunity at a new life.  They fall in love, the iceberg hits the ship, the ship sinks, and Rose survives empowered to live life to the fullest.

This story is framed in a flashback, with Old Rose telling the story to a treasure hunter looking for the diamond necklace that Rose received as a gift from Cal.  At the end of the movie, having now spilled the secret she held so long, Old Rose drifts off into sleep (or death?) and finds herself young and back on the Titanic, where Jack is waiting for her.

It’s still hard for me to believe that the guy who wrote and directed Terminator and Aliens is the same guy who wrote and directed this grade-A chick crack (and the plot description reads like the romance novel that female romance writers all wish they could have written), but there you go.

Going back to the above comments from Dalrock’s, I disagree with vitabenedicta that Cal was alpha and Jack was beta.  In actuality, the reverse is true.  Titanic is actually a testament to inner game and is a celluloid representation of Roissy’s insistence that money and social status alone are not enough to win a woman’s affections.

Jack is more beta on the surface, but he has strong inner game.  It is actually this strong inner game that provides the basis for the emotional through-line of the movie.  When Jack and Rose first meet, Rose is about to commit suicide by jumping off the back of the ship at night.  Jack is able to talk Rose out of suicide using some light negs, nonchalantly reminding her of how cold the water is and how he’s gonna hafta jump in to save her, subtly shifting the power in his favor by insinuating that she’s being silly and emotional.  What he does NOT do is act like what she’s about to do is SRS BSNS.  A lesser man would have acted frightened that Rose would jump.

Jack is also unapologetic about his station in life and sees it as a good thing.  He does not try to seek Rose’s approval (or even make any pledge or attempt to better himself for her).

He is unruffled by Cal’s continued attempts to belittle him and charms all of Rose’s upper-crusty dinner companions. He tells her what to do (“meet me at the clock”) rather than requesting behavior of her. He never panics when the ship begins to sink but remains level-headed and provides guidance to Rose the entire time.  And (SPOILER ALERT) in the end he does what every woman wishes the man she loves would be willing to do for her:  sacrifice his life in order to save hers.

In contrast, Cal, while having an alpha social position, has little inner game and thinks that bullying is a substitute for alpha frame.  He is domineering rather than dominant.  He acts defensively and lets little things bother him, and he spends most of the movie in a petulant mood, being rude to Jack because he can sense Rose’s attraction to him, and paying his #1 minion to spy on Jack and frame him for theft. When he loses his temper with Rose, it’s not one of Roissy’s occasional outbursts to correct bad behavior, it’s a man trying to intimidate because he can sense that he’s losing the woman and intimidation is the only tool he has left in his arsenal.  And once it’s really and finally clear that Rose has chosen Jack for good, Cal completely loses it and picks up a pistol and chases them around the sinking ship shooting at them.  These are not the actions of a man with inner game, who is in control of himself and the situation around him.

(Of course, in case we weren’t able to figure out already that Cal isn’t The One, James Cameron reveals Cal as the ultimate coward, first trying to bribe his way onto one of the lifeboats, and when that doesn’t work, actually picking up a random child and pretending the child is his so he can get onto a lifeboat.  And just to make really, REALLY sure we know that Cal is a loser, we find out that Cal ultimately committed suicide when the stock market crashed in 1929.  Stuff like this is why James Cameron, despite being one of the greatest action directors of all time, and one of the few blockbuster directors who actually writes his own films, will never be considered by tastemakers on par with guys like Christopher Nolan or Peter Jackson.)

In light of the differences between Jack and Cal, and the fundamental truths of Game and female attraction so simply presented, it’s not surprising to see why Titanic became such an international phenomenon.  It worked because the truth of human experience is not bound by culture or nationality. Not that the nice, shiny package of a lavish period drama of class warfare that was also an action movie that was also a disaster pic that was also a “first love” love story that was also Leonardo DiCaprio at his most beautiful and charming didn’t help.  But if more writers were able to access the truths of human existence, I think the box office would be doing a whole lot better.

As for the claim that Rose was some sort of awful woman for meeting Jack in Titanic heaven and not her husband, I think there are a couple of different ways to look at this.  One is that yes, it’s kind of horrible that Rose still carried Jack in her heart, a man she knew for only a few days, rather than the man who was her husband and gave her her children.  But Jack was a first love, and first loves have a way of sticking that later loves can never quite displace.  Isn’t that why manospherians are so much about keeping numbers low?  (And really, how can any man compare with a man who literally talked you off a ledge and saved you from freezing to death in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean while the luxury ship you were sailing on was sinking AND sacrificed himself in the process?  Okay, and also that you had your first orgasm with him in the back of a car.)

The other way to look at this is that having Rose meet Jack in Titanic heaven is really the only way the story could have ended satisfactorily.  The story was about Rose’s emotional emancipation.  Jack was the agent of change.  He was her savior (and Rose even says at the end of the movie that he “saved [her] in every way a person can be saved”).  Having her reunite in death/dream with her late husband (whom we hadn’t even seen), right after she has finally relieved herself of the secret she has been carrying with her since she was a teenager, would have been bizarre.  I can’t imagine anyone would have walked out of the theater rejoicing that Rose showed what a loving and faithful wife she was if THAT had been the ending.

It’ll be interesting to see how the film affects a new generation of movie-goers.  In the age of Twilight, Facebook, and reality TV, will Jack and Rose be able to enchant today’s teens, or will the bulk of moviegoers only be nostalgia-trippers?

38 Responses to “Jack Dawson game.”

  1. deti January 5, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Jack was alpha. His death, coupled with the short time she knew him and the instant white hot attraction, solidified Jack forever in Rose’s heart. She did not see Jack as he really was. She did not fall in love with Jack the person. She fell in olve with an idealized version of Jack. She fell in love with Jack the persona.

    She saw him at his absolute alpha best, spitting his tight-as-a-drum game in every scene. His alpha was “on” all the time — he knew how to handle every situation, he knew just what to say and when to say it, he looked just as fine in his denims as in a tux, and when the time came, he died so the love of his heart could live.

    Nearly every woman carries around some man like this. Usually he’s a high school or college boyfriend — the aspiring law student who will set the world on fire and get filthy rich. The brooding artist or musician or actor, the Brando wannabe, who is Misunderstood and who has a great Injured Heart that she just wants to care for and mother. The bad boy biker who thrills and tingles her, and is forbidden fruit because Daddy hates him. The impossibly beautiful man with the big arms, the big pecs, the tight butt, the six pack, and the titanium rod for a penis.

    She and he were star crossed lovers. It was never meant to be. SOmething happened, and they could never, ever make it work. Her husband , good as he is, can never, ever measure up to her Impossible Dream.

  2. A January 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Cameron can only do impersonal villains like machines, space insects and such. When he tries to do human villains, like Cal in Titanic and the Colonel in Avatar, they are complete disasters.

  3. y81 January 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I think Roissy would say that fulfilling female fantasies (he “does what every woman wishes”), as Jack does, is the opposite of “game.” Fulfilled women go on to other, satisfying experiences. The optimal “game” strategy relies on keeping women perpetually teased and frustrated.

    Haley’s basic problem remains the fundamental attribution error. Female sexual attraction is basically unpredictable, and its presence or absence in any particular case has little to do with any inherent qualities of the male in question. (I mean, in real life: it’s even sillier to seek logical explanations for the behavior of characters in movies, who are doing what the script tells them to do.)

  4. modernguy January 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    You always fall in love with an idealized version. Falling in love is partly a process of idealization of the object of that love.

    I haven’t seen this movie but from the plot description I can tell what’s wrong with it. To be a perfect tragedy she would have to have killed herself. That’s why Romeo and Juliet is a work of art and this is garbage. Ultimately, she didn’t love him more than herself. She went on, lived a compromised life and used this episode in her life for emotional masturbation. Which is what women watching this movie are doing as well, vicariously. It’s ironic that she would almost kill herself out of self pity and then be the object of someone else’s chivalrous sacrifice. The epitome of a solipsistic fantasy. As a character she is despicable, which is partly why this movie is so popular. That it’s so appealing to so many women is proof of a base nature. This movie is the equivalent of a porno in which one man gets to bang a hundred women. Its the respective sex’s basest fantasy. Except that men wouldn’t get to walk out of the theatre praising the beauty and timelessness of such a great work of art.

  5. A January 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I’ve always thought of Titanic in conjunction with another love triangle movie that came out roughly in the same era: The English Patient.

    Of the two, Titanic lacks dramatic tension because the deck is so clearly stacked against Cal.

    Whereas in The English Patient, with Almasy and Clifton, you’re kind of rooting for both guys. Which makes the story truly tragic and, well, just a lot more interesting.

    Titanic lets the audience off too easy, which makes it kind of boring. Like all porn.

  6. Jennifer January 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Jack the persona, please. I see the stressing of “game” and especially the A/B male terms here as simplified as ever, but am glad that Haley came to the conclusion of Jack being more than the ridiculed definition of “beta”. Cal sure as hell wasn’t beta; he was a spoiled trained social-alpha who didn’t learn how to deal with rejection.

    I REALLY disagree that Cameron can’t write villains. I mean, really? Cal’s ultimate suicide was not at all far-fetched, or the lowest of his actions; he had a family and lost everything that supported them and that he used to define himself. It’s not that rare, sadly. But he wasn’t a one-shade character; he had true emotion for Rose, and commentary on the script describes his blow-up at her over tea as a breakdown as well as a blowup; it’s said, “He rarely loses his temper, but when he does, it’s explosive. His heart is breaking even as he realizes he has one.” The Colonel in Avatar didn’t need to be so explained to be SOMEWHAT empathized with; he wanted to save his home planet (at least from economy crisis) and naturally sided with his own species, even if it was in over-the-top selfishness.

  7. Jennifer January 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Y81, I agree, except that I think there’s nothing mysterious in Rose’s love for Jack.

    “Of the two, Titanic lacks dramatic tension because the deck is so clearly stacked against Cal.”

    Which is why I don’t define it as a love triangle at all.

  8. K-Dog January 5, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Open plea to the women of the world:

    Not all things about women are meant to be shared, just as not all things about men are meant to be shared.

    The idea that you still swoon over memories of your first love or some random HS jock may be true, but seriously, if you were trying to insert a personality trait that is guaranteed to be offensive to nearly all men, that’s the one.

    We all have first loves, but men don’t go on for years mooning about it. So please: Learn to keep things to yourselves. Not everything true needs to be expressed.

  9. Mark Slater January 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    So what do we really want to know here? What would have happened if Jack lived and he and Rose were allowed to spend their lives together?

    A true story of a high-class girl and a bad boy.

    My grandmother was from a well-to-do family with lots of land, resources, etc. She had many suitors of similar socio-economic background vying for her affections. One day her father hired a struggling young, tall, handsome dude as a hired-hand. A bit wild but a “swell guy”. Saved up his money and bought a motorcycle.

    You know whom she chose, of course. The tall, handsome dude was my grandfather.

    They had five children together. They struggled severely. My grandfather found it difficult to hold down a steady job and he hit the sauce pretty good. (He did clean up his act in later years).

    She stayed with him until his passing in 1991. TO THIS DAY, at age 98, she still speaks of him in warm, glowing terms despite his difficulties. She says there was never another man for her.

    Suppose, then, if Jack and Rose made a life for themselves together and he continued to flounder. Would she have reached the end of her life with his name forever on her lips?

  10. Jennifer January 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I think so. He proved he was real, and she proved she wanted a full-life (including in the pictures next to her bed). Sometimes I take the word of the story, and in the case of films like this and “Cold Mountain”, I certainly do. I can be a real cynic of romances, but these are brilliant.

  11. lemmiwinks January 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Hmmm very convincing post and you definitly beat down anon66 from Dalrock as far as Jack vs Cal Alpha/Beta thing. I do question though is Titanic seriously considered Grade-A chick-crack? The romance in James Cameron movies is so hamfisted and forced in Titanic and in Avatar that it almost destroyed in my mind what were otherwise pretty good movies. If this is Grade-A chick-crack I shudder to think what grade B or C is…

    The only other thing I disagree with in this otherwise excellent post is the following:

    “James Cameron, despite being one of the greatest action directors of all time, and one of the few blockbuster directors who actually writes his own films, will never be considered by tastemakers on par with guys like Christopher Nolan or Peter Jackson.)“

    Sorry, Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson are not fit to wipe Cameron`s sweaty ballsack.

  12. Aunt Haley January 6, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    But he wasn’t a one-shade character; he had true emotion for Rose, and commentary on the script describes his blow-up at her over tea as a breakdown as well as a blowup; it’s said, “He rarely loses his temper, but when he does, it’s explosive. His heart is breaking even as he realizes he has one.”

    While that may have been in the script, that’s not how it played on the screen. And what’s on the screen is ultimately all that matters.

    We all have first loves, but men don’t go on for years mooning about it. So please: Learn to keep things to yourselves. Not everything true needs to be expressed.

    Which is probably why Rose never told anyone, including her husband, about Jack until Brock Lovett found her diamond necklace.

    This isn’t a locker room. Ditch the lewd talk.

  13. Aunt Haley January 6, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    Anonymous at Dalrock’s makes many of the same points I did in my post (albeit more succinctly).

    Also makes a good point about people misunderstanding Game, i.e., assholery is not synonymous with demonstrating higher value.

  14. Jennifer January 6, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    That idiot says Jack “negged” Rose, like it was a pre-planned jab that he delivered while she was contemplating suicide? Playing “aloof” and demonstrating higher value through his pictures? Good grief, what a bunch of over-game bs.

  15. Aunt Haley January 6, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Someone on this blog really needs to take the plunge and give Jennifer the gaming her feminine little heart longs for. Do we have any volunteers?

  16. Jennifer January 6, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    LOL Sorry Haley, I’m more off this nonsense than I ever have been before. Not that there’s nothing to “game”, or very pleasing male attitudes and social interaction, but the obsessive and changeable labeling of game terms to normal behavior is beyond through for me.

  17. Jennifer January 6, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    At least that guy knew that being an as*hole is not attractive to every woman.

    Lemmi, glad you love the brilliant Cameron, but this isn’t crack of any sort. I could argue all kinds of one-note, cheap romance-only films; this ain’t one of them.

  18. Hermes January 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    I was in college when this movie came out, and saw it in the theater twice, with my then-(first)-girlfriend. (Who was madly in love with me despite my betatude, thus proving what vitabenedicta says about betas succeeding with women by targeting girls who have never been in love before. Reading Roissy, one would never learn that, at least with mousy-but-cute low-self-esteeem college girls who have never been in love before, all those schlocky beta moves like telling her she’s beautiful and buying her flowers really do work.) Anyway, to make an additional point about Jack’s alphatude, I remember it greatly troubling my beta heart that at the end, Rose says “I love you” to Jack–and he ignores it.

  19. Jennifer January 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    He does not; he tells her not to say goodbye, because she said the words with an obvious tone of finality, like she doesn’t have much time left. Honestly you people.

  20. Jennifer January 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    I guess spoiled girls would need less “beta” stuff, much as I hate that term, because they’re too used to dedication. Sad.

  21. deti January 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm #


    What do you mean by “you people”?

  22. Jennifer January 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Mostly exasperated exaggerating. I meant anyone who seems to inaccurately pick apart the film.

  23. jack January 8, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    It seems that if you don’t get a girl young, you will never truly have her.

    The way our culture is currently organized, young women auction off the best years of their youth, and their sexual innocence to the highest bidder. And the coin of the realm is alpha status.

    Even some so-called chaste Christian girls often practice for potential future dreams of fornication by reading books like Twilight, which is pretty much a manual for Making Bad Decisions.

    It amazes me how many women, especially Christians, want the BEST in a man, but have no problem handing their best over to the worst of men.

    Although, if they know they will end up settling for a beta provider, perhaps they don’t care.

    Maybe they would resent giving the best to a man they clearly see as a second choice. Maybe they feel that at least their best, given to an alpha, didn’t “go to waste” on a substandard beta male.

    First squeeze of the juice to the alphas. Free of charge. The pulp and the rind go to the betas. At full price.

    This is why marrying this type of woman is the ultimate insult to a good man – paying full price for what she gave away for free.

  24. Jennifer January 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    You don’t get married just to “pay” for sex.

  25. jack January 8, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    Marriage is equivalent to a “payment”.

    It represents a man’s willingness to forsake all opportunities for sexual variety.

    If a girl was willing to sleep with college guys with few strings attached, and wants to hold out longer for the future hubby to prove her good girl bona fides, she is a fraud.

    And unworthy of marriage.

  26. Jennifer January 9, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Yes, she is a fraud. But my point is, being a virgin is not the sum of her worth as marriage material.

  27. vitabenedicta January 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    I stand corrected. I seem to have been confused about the use of the terms “alpha” and “beta” in this here ‘sphere. I was under the impression that “beta” meant “nice guy who respects and serves women (i.e., white knight)” with “alpha” being tantamount to “devil-may-care cad.”

    To Jack (the one on this thread, not movie Jack): not all young women waste their first affections on alphas. As Hermes eloquently points out, many young women, particularly of the geeky and mousy variety, fall very hard for men who write them poetry, tell them they’re beautiful, and generally act devoted. That was kind of my point in characterizing the Leonardo DiCaprio character as a beta. He’s not a jock or a bad boy or a cold and mysterious Mr. Rochester type, yet plenty of girls (and even women) found his character irresistible.

  28. Rodney January 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    While we are on the topic here is an interesting vid

    (though you may argue the girls know they are on TV and so give answers they think they should give). I suspect its true though. I hope so.

  29. Rodney January 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I think part of the problem is that game manuals assume that there is only one type of women when in fact there are 4 types of women and 16 subtypes as there are of men too (At least in the MBTI scheme of things).

    Game teaches you how to seduce only one of those 4 types the SP (Sensate Perceptive) type (by trying to out SP the SP). It doesn’t teach you how to seduce the NF (iNtuitive Feeler) type who will be seduced by devoted men writing poetry.

  30. Jennifer January 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Very apt observation, Rodney.

  31. Rodney January 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    Thankyou Jeniffer.

  32. Cadence Harper January 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    I think FAR too many men think bullying is a substitue for alpha frame. It’s what has left such a bad taste in my mouth with the word Alpha. I’m trying to reframe.. Alpha really isn’t the negative– it’s bullying, and other boorish behaivor coupled with low self esteem. Of course guys like Cal don’t feel good about themselves.. Why should they? Instead of connecting with people (even the women in their lives, who they should have instincts to care for and protect) they are stomping all over they– and they damn well know it.

  33. Joe January 12, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    Even some so-called chaste Christian girls often practice for potential future dreams of fornication by reading books like Twilight, which is pretty much a manual for Making Bad Decisions.

    jack is being delusional. You’re reading way too much PUA (or MRA) blogs.

  34. y81 January 12, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    I agree with Rodney: it’s silly to think that all women are the same or that they would all go for the same sort of guy or the same sort of behavior. Most PUA/game techniques work best on moderately promiscuous, 20-something single urban women whom you meet in nightclubs. (This is a sociological characterization, as opposed to Rodney’s psychological analysis.) To overgeneralize from that group to conclusions about the laws of biological evolution or the mind of God is unjustified.

  35. Jennifer January 12, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    I agree with both the last two of you. Y81, your last line is especially brilliant.

  36. Tom January 18, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    @ lemmiwinks: January 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm
    >is Titanic seriously considered Grade-A chick-crack?

    @ Jennifer: January 6, 2012 at 10:33 am
    >but this isn’t crack of any sort. I could argue all kinds of one-
    >note, cheap romance-only films; this ain’t one of them.

    Well, crack cocaine “offers the most wonderful state of consciousness, and the most intense sense of being alive, the user will ever enjoy. She will access heightened states of being” (cocaine.org)

    Sounds a bit like some of the previous descriptions of what Jack did for Rose, and the famale audience was lapping it up ( http://titanicrules.tripod.com/~titanicrules/Ft7.jpg )

    Crack is also the most addictive form of cocaine known. The user just *has* to go back to have their reward centers stimulated again.

    Do you remember the “going to see Titanic ever and over again” phemonenon? ( http://tinyurl.com/7auum5c ) Women have been going back repeatedly to the theater for their fix ever since Gone With the Wind was released, but Titanic took the phenomenon to a new level ( and of course, the cartoonists had a field day with it http://titanicrules.tripod.com/~titanicrules/Ft6.jpg )

    This sounds like crack to me. Whatever you think of the movie’s other qualities ( and there’s definitely a boy-girl divide here http://titanicrules.tripod.com/~titanicrules/Ft2.jpg ) nobody can question the fact that James Cameron made the single most female-addictive film in all of history.

  37. Jennifer January 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Crack has no real value, though. The story in “Titanic” does. Girls can drool equally over stupid or deep things. I do remember the records dopey girls wanted to make by seeing the film; ugh. I was 13, and wiser, thank you; I only wanted to see it THREE times.


  1. Haley on Titanic, and Alpha and Beta | The Badger Hut - January 8, 2012

    […] religious messaging and secular pop culture. She’s hit another home run with her post Jack Dawson game, concerning the 100th anniversary re-release of James Cameron’s maritime […]

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