A Study in Scarlet: A Survey of Sexism and Classism Through the Eyes of Rose Dawson in James Cameron’s Titanic

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Weiss, Hannah
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University Honors College, Middle Tennessee State University
This project is an evaluation of how class and gender inform each other when examining Rose Dewitt-Bukater from James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic. Rose evolves from a young girl who caters to the male gaze and is a manifestation of the patriarchal ideals of the Victorian era to a woman who exhibits elements of both first- and third-wave feminism in her personal life. Rose is a manifestation of the patriarchy in the beginning of the film, and she does so by her upholding of the English Rose stereotype, an ideal that calls for women to be demure and obedient. She adheres to the standards that her upper-class peers have set for her, and she perpetuates these norms by her inability to fully rebel against them. Although she tries to do so, her attempts are futile as she is shut down by her peers. As the film progresses, she begins to showcase her individuality in comparison to her upper-class peers, which is a tenet of the first wave of feminism. She wears looser clothing and her hair down, contrasting the corsets and immaculate up-dos the other first-class women don. At the end of the film, Rose becomes a sexually awakened young woman, showing that she has become a manifestation of fully-fledged feminism. She consummates a relationship with a man who is not her fiancé and returns her heart to him at the end of the film. By evaluating Rose’s character in this manner, one can trace the evolution of feminism during the twentieth century from the first to the third wave as well as teaching women of that time that they are able to gain control of their lives in the same way Rose did.