Titanic still stands as the only movie I have seen in theaters twice. It was 1997, well before the age of cell phones and the internet had really just started catching on (I was months away from an AOL Instant messenger screenname). Preteens still had the attention span to sit through a three-hour movie — twice.
The first time I saw it, I went with just about my entire seventh grade class (I attended a small Catholic grade school). I remember being mesmerised by the story — my female peers and I were completely enthralled with a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Our male counterparts were surprisingly more into the story than I thought they would be. When Kate Winslet flashed her breasts in that infamous scene, the boys were typical 12-year-olds — they blushed beet red yet were instantly more intrigued at the same time.
The last third of the movie as the boat sinks had us girls in tears. It was the perfect preteen movie full of romance, thrills and emotions of the highest of highs and lowest of lows. As the credits rolled, I remember sitting in the theater in silence. Everyone just sat there for a moment, taking in what they just saw. Even at 12, my peers and I knew what we saw was special.
I went home that night and couldn’t stop talking about Titanic. My family finally caught on that it was something momentous, a blockbuster of epic proportions. I got my brother and dad to go see the movie and I gladly tagged along again. I remember the second time seeing the film, noticing and appreciating the costumes more, or perhaps Leo’s hair flip as he sketched a naked Kate Winslet.
Titanic feels like my first truly adult movie. It was the first sex scene I appreciated (who didn’t want to be Kate Winslet in that carriage?), the first movie I saw with only my peers and no parents, the first movie I saw twice before it was released on VHS and DVD.
The movie was the reason I began watching The Oscars. I was so obsessed with Titanic that I remember begging to stay up on Oscar night, despite it being a school night. I was miraculously granted permission and my dad made his delicious homemade popcorn. As the film racked up the awards, I remember thinking “Wow this is exactly what I want every movie I watch to be like!”
Once the movie was released on VHS, I immediately sought out to get the old two tape copy because of the movie’s length. It’s funny to think that back then, we had to switch tapes halfway through! Anyway, my family loved it so much that my then three-year-old sister quoted the movie in the bathtub. The rather cheeky line she quoted was when the ship’s lookout called the captain and he wouldn’t answer. He yelled into the phone “Pick up you bastard!” Let’s just say we let my little sister think that word was mustard for years.
Titanic also managed to sneak into other aspects of my life too, like my piano lessons. I remember immediately asking for the sheet music to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” That was the first time I learned a piece of music within a week! I also went as Rose from Titanic that following year for Halloween. I had a blue velvet dress and a fake “heart of the ocean” necklace too.
I will be forever grateful for Titanic for showing me the beauty of movies. I know Hollywood may never make something like it again and I am so happy it came out at such an opportune time in my life. To me, Titanic is truly what a blockbuster means—it was big, it was financially successful and it affected my life, a regular 12-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in so many ways.
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