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James Cameron: Why Jack Had To Die In ‘Titanic’

Once the residual crying and bloated emotions subside, once your heart gets out of the way, your mind resumes control and considers the pressing film-related question of our day: Couldn’t Jack have fit, too?

Of course we’re discussing Titanic, one of the grandest and biggest movies ever made, and of course we’re discussing the movie’s iconic scene when the fated ship finally sinks. Our star-crossed lovers swim away from the pandemonium and discover a floating door that will save them from the freezing, death-inducing Atlantic waters. Rose climbs aboard and Jack follows suit—only the door flips over and Jack figures both of them can’t fit atop the life-saving wood. He sacrifices himself so Rose may live.

But again, we ask, Isn’t this a really stupid decision? Did Jack really have to die?

A few weeks back we reported that a group of math-loving Australian teenagers deduced the answer was, in fact, a resounding no. Jack and Rose could’ve survived. Mythbusters ran the same experiment last year, and showed that by simply MacGyver-ing the life jacket below the door, both hero and heroine would float on to a happy ending.

Titanic director James Cameron understands your point. As he relayed in a recent Vanity Fair profile, he knows both Rose and Jack could’ve survived. Instead, Jack’s death was an “artistic choice.”

Cameron’s explanation via Vanity Fair:

I think it’s all kind of silly, really, that we’re having this discussion 20 years later. But it does show that the film was effective in making Jack so endearing to the audience that it hurts them to see him die. Had he lived, the ending of the film would have been meaningless. . . . The film is about death and separation; he had to die. So whether it was that, or whether a smoke stack fell on him, he was going down. It’s called art, things happen for artistic reasons, not for physics reasons.

Now we can finally let the fictional man rest in peace.

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