Mythbusters Is Wrong: Jack and Rose Would Have Died

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 8 2012 4:28 PM

Jack and Rose Were Doomed

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A scene from Titanic

Photo by MERIE WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

If you Google the phrase “they both could have fit,” you’ll find photos and comment threads devoted to the argument that, at the end of the movie Titanic, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) both could have fit on the bit of flotsam that saved Rose’s life as Jack looked lovingly on, eventually freezing to death. One particularly popular photo series even implies that the two could have fit comfortably enough on there to, say, play some pinochle while awaiting rescue.

Silly as it may seem to debate the ultimate plausibility of a work of fiction, this little Internet parlor game managed to get James Cameron’s attention. “It’s not a question of room, it’s a question of buoyancy,” the director has argued. “Jack puts Rose on the raft, then he gets on the raft—he’s not an idiot, he doesn’t want to die—and then the raft sinks.  So it’s clear that there’s really only enough buoyancy available for one person.” Now the show Mythbusters has gone ahead and tested this proposition. Their conclusion: Jack and Rose could have survived.

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Cameron defers graciously to their conclusion, merely insisting that the script called for Jack to die, so maybe he and his production crew should have designed the plank to be a little smaller. But once he watches the video above, I think he’ll reconsider even that amount of deference. In order to keep them both safely afloat, the Mythbusters guys had to tie Rose’s life preserver around the bottom of the makeshift raft. Even then, they were still partially submerged, meaning that they would have remained vulnerable to the freezing cold water that finally claimed Jack. They may be right to deem it “plausible” that Jack and Rose could have survived, but really, the movie is vindicated by this test: Jack and Rose were doomed.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.