The Socialism of Shipwrecks

FB
X

“So now you know: the Titanic was lost for love.”

– Anthony Lane, “The Shipping News”


“These comrades are seeking a love that transcends the classes, love in the abstract […] this shows that [they] have been deeply influenced by the bourgeoisie.”

– Mao Zedong, Talks on the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature


When we look back at 2022, which film will be the most defining? Will it be Glass Onion, which—just in time for Elon outing himself as a boob on Twitter—portrays tech billionaires as seeming deep, but being as easy to peer through as the eponymous object? Will it be Avatar: The Way of Water, a film in which James Cameron’s knack for noble savages and their peace-loving ways is eclipsed only by his knack for simulated violence? Everything Everywhere All at Once, where the A24 art house set proves that—like Marvel—they can deftly blend multiculturalism with motion sickness? Or Top Gun: Maverick, which relishes in the mystificatory capacity of the white male (= America, = freedom) to overcome the Asiatic hordes, whatever the odds?


In fact the most defining film of 2022 might be one that wasn’t even released in 2022: Titanic. On the surface of things this seems absurd. Titanic cost as much as the boat it was based upon; unlike it, it didn’t tank. It went on to become one of the most successful movies ever, in case you haven’t heard. But it’s sometimes hammy acting and always hammy dialogue—Rose declaring “to the stars!” when Jack asks her where she wants to go, to give one memorable example—made it at best a guilty pleasure for cineastes. After destroying global box office records upon release in 1997, and now in its fourth revival in theatres, what new could Titanic —with its aging CGI none too enhanced by its obligatory 4K makeover—really have to tell us?


By itself, maybe not a lot. But what makes it decisive is the way it contrasts with another film about a shipwreck released in 2022, Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness—one that rewrites it for our more radicalized time. To understand this, one has to understand the reception of Titanic itself. After its release, it received no small amount of praise from critics in legacy media for its portrayal of class inequality; the way it served, in the words of Cameron himself, as a “microcosm” [1] for society as a whole. “We must […] salute the bias of James Cameron,” declared Olivier Mauraisin in Le Monde, “who tells, literally and figuratively, the story of a class struggle through that of a young couple who decides to smash all conventions” (Cameron was also praised for a “political reflection” which was “not Manichean”) [2]. Going even further, Janet Maslin breathlessly described it in The New York Times as “a film that pitilessly observes the different plights of the rich and the poor,” before quoting James Cameron’s own remark that “we’re holding just short of Marxist dogma” [3]. Some well-known critics, sensing a certain silliness in the film’s portrayal of social dynamics, demurred. But even they were inclined to acknowledge that the caricatured Edwardian malevolence of affluent characters like Cal (Billy Zane) fit with the hokeyness of the overall format: “I didn’t object to the presence of this stage villain,” wrote Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, “because he reinforced the growing sense that ‘Titanic’ is, for all its narrative dexterity and the formidable modernity of its methods, an old-fashioned picture” [4].


While high-profile notices brimmed with references to Marxism and class struggle, actual Marxists had decidedly more mixed reactions. The World Socialist Website scoffed at the idea that the film’s soppy portrayal of the mass death of lower class passengers was tantamount to ‘radicalism.’ “Most adults,” opined David Walsh, “are probably aware that the rich and the poor were treated differently in 1912 and continue to be 86 years later” [5].


Slavoj Žižek—a Slovenian Marxist thinker best known for blending of dense theoretical exegeses with comic musings about toilets or the latest K-pop smash—took a more playful approach. Mocking Cameron’s fake “Hollywood Marxism” [6], he advanced a bold thesis: that the real hero was, in fact, the iceberg. Had Rose made it off the boat with Jack, their bloom would’ve likely gone off their relationship after “two or three weeks of intense sex,” [7] once the realities of poverty became apparent to her. By punctually striking the ship, the iceberg staves off this dreary outcome, allowing their bond to persist in eternity—and for Rose’s “vitality” [8] to be restored by the poor without her having to compromise her future (and it is worth remembering that, as the photos of her riding everything from a horse to a plane to an elephant at the end of the film imply [9], she did end up being well off even if she absconded from her marriage). Yet easily the influential assessment of the film by anyone who could discernibly be called ‘Marxist’ came from de facto leader of China Jiang Zemin. “Let us not assume,” he said in a speech to the National People’s Congress, “that capitalist states do not do ideological education”; equally, that we “cannot learn from capitalism.” “This movie gives vivid descriptions of the relationship between money and love, rich and poor and the performance of all kinds of people in danger… [with a budget] of $200 million, [it] is venture capitalism … I invite my comrades of the Politburo to see the movie… I don’t mean to publicize capitalism, but [as the saying goes] ‘Know thine enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat’” [10].


As Jiang’s remark about knowing one’s enemy suggests, he had other motives than simply sharing his filmgoing experience. Beginning in 1994, China had approved the importation of “ten great films” (shibu dapian) [11] per year. While ostensibly intended to promote “cinematic art,” [12] the real goal of this policy was to buoy the revenues of China’s spavined film industry. This fiscal deficit did not owe to a deficit of talented directors. Since the release of Chen Kaige’s Yellow Earth in 1984—a quiet work about a soldier in the Chinese Communist Party tasked with injecting the lyrics of rural folk idylls with agitprop during World War II—China’s “fifth generation” of filmmakers had reliably churned out films that artistically equaled those of their Western peers. But commercially, this generation remained trapped in a vicious cycle. Because China didn’t have extensive cinematic infrastructure—even as late as 1998 Titanic was released in only 150 theatres [13]—they were forced to make films for the international festival circuit. And because they made films for the international festival circuit, they failed to make inroads with a mass audience, who remained nonplussed by sober social realism (it probably didn’t help matters that the Chinese government had banned several of these movies—most infamously a few key works by Zhang Yimou, though he was later rehabilitated in time to serve as the opening and closing director of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008).


With Titanic, the party saw an opportunity to escape this impasse. If the film did well enough, they reasoned, it would help grow the number of theatres in China, as well as allow firms to experiment with new marketing strategies. This could in turn create a platform, in subsequent years, to progressively supplant Western imports with Chinese-made blockbusters. It would allow them to create, if you will, Hollywood with Chinese characteristics. And in pushing this, Jiang echoed the thought of Mao Zedong [14]. The error of the Chinese artists of the past, Mao stated in his 1942 Talks at the Yenan Forum of Art and Literature, is that they did not “identify [themselves] completely with the people,” [15] remaining trapped within “petty-bourgeois ideology” and “backward ideas” [16]. In a strange détournement of this logic, Jiang—by making Titanic the first film ever endorsed by the CPC—issued a de facto reproach to Chinese filmmakers: that because they didn’t understand the people, they couldn’t make Titanic.


By giving it a CGI sheen and a breathy Céline Dion score, Titanic may have shown how to communicate ideology to the masses. But for the party, there still remained a tinge of discomfort. This discomfort likely had to do with, in addition to the kind of points made by Žižek, its historical dimension. Titanic is only a film about a shipwreck in the sense that Casablanca is a film about a Moroccan city. In reality, it is about war. It is in particular about the two world wars that ravaged global society, allowing for a more egalitarian one to be erected in its wake (even if it is technically set before them, in 1912). The film’s three principle mononyms—Jack, Rose and Cal—serve as stand-ins for different political actors involved: Jack for the working class [17], Rose for the progressive bourgeois, and Cal for the reactionary bourgeois, or fascism [18].


Early on in the film, Cal—a walking raw nerve, in a toupée—dismisses a painting by Picasso that Rose has purchased; later, he evinces his disapproval of her reading Freud. It is probably not a coincidence that both Picasso and Freud were persecuted by fascists. Picasso’s work fell under the rubric of “degenerate art,” while Freud’s status as a Jew, as well as a promulgator of the “Jewish science” of psychoanalysis, caused him to flee Vienna for London in 1938. Yet as boorish and snivellingly disdainful of both the poor and the avant-garde as Cal may be, Rose’s family needs him. “Your father left us,” her mother reiterates, “nothing but a legacy of bad debts hidden by a good name.” If they are not betrothed, she risks becoming a mere seamstress. To try to win her affections, Cal gifts to Rose “The Heart of the Ocean”—a fabulous diamond (supposedly) owned by Louis XVI before it was stolen prior to his execution in 1793, during the height of the Jacobin terror. That this diamond symbolizes aristocratic reaction [19], and the transmission of heritable wealth, explains why Rose never used it: “it was a dreadful, heavy thing,” she quips. As well why she drops it into the ocean at the end of the film: because as much as Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) is obsessed with it, it represents a legacy society cannot and should not revert to.


Like the bourgeois after the Great Depression, Rose’s family is threatened with impoverishment if it does not enter into an unholy alliance with brutes like Cal. In the film, this threat is personified by Jack. Both a loogey-hocking lover of Gaelic dance and sensitive artiste, Jack is every bit—to use Jiang’s words—a “working-class hero” [20] (and it is telling that, of the first-class passengers old enough to legally drink, he is only truly liked by the American nouveau riche, in the form of Molly Brown). If he gets Rose, Cal’s designs are thwarted, her family’s wealth dissipates, and she swaps out opulent riches for the rewards of eternal love. But in reality—and this is where Žižek’s take resonates with the historical aspect—she never has to make this choice. The hubris of the upper class, embodied by Ismay’s desire to set a trans-atlantic speed record, causes the boat to strike an iceberg. While initially consigned to death by being confined to the third-class cabins, the poor soon begin to resist. Amidst spectacular scenes the destruction of bourgeois property—the berg splitting the ship’s hull plates, and its ornate main staircase eventually being flooded with icy waters—the distinctions of class cease to hold fast: the proles use a bench as a battering ram to smash open the gates that hold them in, and First Officer Murdoch (Ewan Stewart) throws back the bribe Cal offers him to procure a spot on a lifeboat. “There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain,” intones a priest before the boat goes head up, “for the former world has passed away.”


Like the Allies and the Soviets, or Free France and the communist resistance, Jack and Rose work together to avoid passing with it. Rose saves Jack, by breaking his handcuffs with an axe, and Jack saves Rose, by letting her rest on a floating door after the boat goes down. But in the end, he dies. Much as the Popular Front didn’t terminate in communism, but a more egalitarian capitalism, Rose doesn’t end up leveling with Jack. Instead, she’s propelled to a liberated life of exotic travel and artisanal ceramics. The final scene—in which, on the cusp of death, she fantasizes meeting him again on the main staircase—seems to confirm the idea that the abolition of class, not to mention true love, will only be consummated in paradise. Mao likely wouldn’t approve. Those who advocate ”love in the abstract,” he writes in the Talks on the Yenan Forum, only show how “deeply they have been influenced by the bourgeoisie” [21] “The genuine love of mankind” will emerge not from lifeless fantasies, but will “be born only when class distinctions have been eliminated” [22]


While partially glossed over by Jiang, the nonconformance of Titanic with Maoist doctrine was nevertheless noticed by partly organs in China, who quickly stepped in to temper his endorsement. Regardless, the film did what it was supposed to do, kicking off a frenzy as consumers fell over themselves to pay tickets that averaged $10 USD due to a shortage of screens. At the time, this was the equivalent to one week of an urban worker’s salary [23] (though most of the poor would’ve watched it via cheaply purchased bootlegs). Caught off guard by its success, the Chinese business class scrambled to invest in cinemas. Whereas Titanic launched in 150 cinemas, 2012’s Titanic 3D launched in over 3,500 [24]; when the 25th Anniversary 4K version hits theatres in China on April 3rd, it’ll be a nation with over 14,000 cinemas [25]. That’s seven times the U.S. post-COVID [26], even if the country only has twice as many screens [27]. This remarkable expansion of cinematic infrastructure means that China’s Shanghai-based industry has, for some years now, been capable of creating indigenous blockbusters. Yet the likes of Wolf Warrior 2 or the Battle at Lake Changjin do not seem to have dampened China’s enduring love for Titanic. In a nation that’s history of film production stretches back to Dingjun Mountain in 1905, Cameron’s dewy-eyed opus remains for many a cinematic year zero—the moment when these experiences became, one way or the other, available to the masses.


This is all the more striking since the film—in addition to being heretical by strict Marxist standards —doesn’t map tidily onto Chinese history. Or that of any country that experienced socialism. It’s an origin story of the Western progressive bourgeois—how they so deeply internalized the struggles of the working class that, even if it died, they will never make the same mistake again. To rewrite it to fit with the mid-century events of China, or Russia, or Albania, would be to tell another story, in which it’s Rose, not Jack, that dies. Or barring that, one in which they both make it off the ship, and Rose—no longer an exploiter of the poor—has to contend with sewing garments for her social betters while trying to dodge tuberculosis.


It’s here where Triangle of Sadness comes in. As the film also uses a ship as a means to condense social classes together for the sake of sending up the rich, early notices contained a flurry of allusions to Cameron’s flagship nineties feature (even if Ferreri’s La Grand Bouffe may be the more apt comparison). “It’s the modern-day Titanic, where ‘paint me like one of your French girls, Jack’,” declared MovieWeb’s Patrick Hayes, “is replaced with ‘take a picture of me for my Instagram, Carl’” [28]. Cosmopolitan labeled it “Titanic meets The White Lotus” [29]; cutting straight to the point, the Houston Chronicle called it “’Titanic’ meets Marx” [30]. This is a little odd, since—at least if you go off Maslin, or Jiang, or Cameron himself—Titanic was already supposed to be, at least partially, about Marx. But this “partially” is where a difference can be felt. Unlike Cameron, the film’s director— Ruben Östlund—is less likely to describe himself as holding just short of Marxist dogma than to accuse others of it. “[My mother is] very active in the [Swedish] Communist Party,” he told The Irish Times in 2018. “If I look at what I learned from home, the one thing really useful was the analysis of Marx and his theories.” He doesn’t see these, though, as being uniformly represented by the left. “[Libération] called [my 2015 film The Square] right-wing and very conservative,” says Östlund. “They want a sentimental portrait of poor people. […] It’s almost as if certain left-wing people have forgotten about Marx. They have a very upper-middle class way of thinking about poor people. That they have a community and true values. That’s bullshit! Poor people are living in a tragedy. And their awful circumstances can create bad behaviours. I worry sometimes that some left-wing people misunderstand Marx” [31].


While aimed at a publication founded by May ’68 figureheads Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July, Östlund’s barb about the left wanting a sentimental image of the poor could’ve just as easily been directed at Titanic. It’s for this reason, perhaps, that, whereas Cameron cut scenes to make sure that the drama stayed on the ship, Östlund takes the action in Triangle beyond it, showing the sort of difficulties encountered when one attempts class leveling. This unfurls through three acts. In the first part of the film, we meet Carl (Harris Dickinson), a male model, and Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean), an influencer whose bronze tan is eclipsed only by her expensive tastes. They bicker—as straight couples are wont to — over whether it’s “not sexy” that he doesn’t want to pay for (another) date; at the conclusion of their spat, she admits she’s only seeing him to increase her followers on Instagram. All is well, though, because—as the film’s second act kicks off—they’re gifted a free luxury cruise of the Aegean. There, the beleaguered crew struggle to grapple with the nonsensical demands of the super-rich—to clean the sails when the boat has none, for instance. Perhaps knowing better than to expose himself to this importunity, the ship’s captain (Woody Harrelson) remains stowed away in his cabin. When he emerges, he’s drunk, and a storm of apocalyptic proportions breaks out. The rich belch and vomit, the captain argues with Russian manure mogul Dimitry (the great Zlatko Burić) for the superiority of Marx over Reagan on the intercom, and—when the dawn breaks—the yacht is capsized by African pirates.


The third and final act follows a small group of survivors, including Carl and Yaya, stranded on an island. As they struggle to cobble together enough food to survive, it soon becomes clear that the ship’s Filipina cleaning lady Abigail (Dolly de Leon) is the only one with the slightest clue of how to manage in the wild. She benevolently obliges on the condition they help where they can. The lopsided power dynamic, however, allows her to delegate to herself certain privileges—including the extortion of sexual favours from Carl, who’d otherwise be out of her league. Ironically considering her own opportunism, Yaya feels dejected. But this subsides when she—along with Abigail—discovers that this whole time they’ve been right beside a luxury resort. As she looks out into the ocean with her backside to Abigail, she enjoins her—in a reflection worthy ofher to use it, one imagines, if for no other reason than to put a quick end to Yaya’s out-of-touch musings. Love, Jack tells Rose in Titanic, needn’t be complicated [38]. Neither, Östlund’s own epic reminds us, does murder.

[1] It’s a bit hard to track down a reliable primary source for this quote, but it can be found in any case on IMDb at thisURL.

[2] Mauraisin, Olivier. ?� Titanic �, la nouvelle d�ferlante.” Le Monde (Paris), October 11, 1998.

[3] Maslin, Janet. “A Spectacle As Sweeping As the Sea? (review of Titanic). The New York Times, December 19, 1997.

[4] Lane, Anthony. ?The Shipping News? (review of Titanic). The New Yorker, December 7, 1997.

[5] Walsh, David. ?Why are the critics lauding Titanic?? World Socialist Website, January 30, 1998.

[6] From the Sophie Fiennes-directed 2012 documentary on Žižek, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. An excerpt of this part discussion of Žižek’s discussion of Titanic is available on YouTube.

[7] ibid.

[8] Žižek, Slavoj. “A Pervert’s Guide to Family.” Lacan.com.

[9] Somewhat hilariously, these photos purportedly come from Cameron’s personal album, with Winslet’s face having been photoshopped in.

[10] This passage has been cobbled together from two different translations of excerpts from Jiang’s speech in Unravel and The Wall Street Journal.

[11] Noble, Jonathan. “’Titanic’ in China: Transnational Capitalism as Official Ideology?” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 12, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 171.

[12] ibid.

[13] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 26.

[14] Noble, Jonathan. “’Titanic’ in China: Transnational Capitalism as Official Ideology?” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 12, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 187.

[15] Tse-Tung, Mao. Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, 2.

[16] ibid., 4.

[17] In private conversation, Rebekah Parlar has argued that Jack is not really “working class”—if anything, his sketch artistry and mobile lifestyle make him closer to what Marx calls “lumpenproletariat.” That as it may be, he suffices as working class for the structural purposes of the film.

[18] Is it a premonition of our current impasse—one defined by the dizzying ascent of the far right—that Cal’s fate after Titanic doesn’t seem entirely certain? “The crash of ’29 hit his interests hard, and he put a pistol in his mouth,” recounts Rose. “Or so I read.”

[19] Céline Dion was presumably unaware of this when she wore a replica of it to the 1998 Academy Awards.

[20] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 7.

[21] Tse-Tung, Mao. Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, 8-9.

[22] ibid., 38.

[23] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 28.

[24] ibid., 26.

[25] “Number of movie theaters in China from 2012 to 2021.” Statistica, September 2022.

[26] ?Movie Theaters in the US.? IBISWorld, January 10, 2023.

[27] McClintock, Pamela. ?U.S. Lost 2,000-Plus Movie Theater Screens Amid Pandemic.? The Hollywood Reporter, March 9, 2023.

[28] Hayes, Patrick. ?Triangle of Sadness is a Lesson in Social Dimensions.? MovieWeb, October 24, 2022.

[29] Young, Courtney. ?How to Watch ?Triangle of Sadness,? AKA ?The White Lotus? on Water.? Cosmopolitan, March 3, 2023.

[30] Darling, Cary. ?Review: ?Titanic? meets Marx in heavy-handed ?Triangle of Sadness?.? Houston Chronicle, October 17, 2022.

[31] �stlund, Ruben. ?Ruben �stlund: ?I worry that left-wing people misunderstand Marx?? (interview with Tara Brady). The Irish Times, March 9, 2018.

[32] Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin Books/New Left Review, 170.

[33] ibid., 171.

[34] ibid.

[35] Since the release of Triangle, Woody Harrelson has clarified in interviews that his views don’t overlap entirely with those of his character: “I’m not a Marxist Marxist, I’m more of an anarchist,” he told Vanity Fair, “but there’s a lot of the Marxist ideas that I love.” This is perhaps not so different than the ultra-left Marxist he plays in the movie.

[36] While little known in the West, during Tiananmen the CCP wasn’t enthusiastic about having to use lethal force to clear the square. They spent nearly two months trying to negotiate, and many officials—like general secretary Zhao Ziyang—were openly sympathetic to the protesters. A particularly telling episode is recounted on pp. 611-612 of Ezra Vogel’s seminal biography of Deng Xiaoping, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. In mid-May, head of the United Front Work Department Yan Mingfu was sent at Zhao’s behest to persuade the students to leave the square prior to the visit of Gorbachev. After promising to them that they wouldn’t be punished if they returned to their campuses, and even offering to give himself as a hostage as a guarantee, he realized they weren’t going to budge. He was then seen, like Abigail, in tears. He knew, presumably, what would follow.

[37] Balakrishnan, Gopal. ?The Resignation of the Proletariat.? Sublation Magazine, August 4, 2022.

[38] This is a paraphrase. He tells her on the boat deck that if she doesn’t love someone, she shouldn’t marry them; that it’s “that simple.”


[3] Maslin, Janet. “A Spectacle As Sweeping As the Sea? (review of Titanic). The New York Times, December 19, 1997.

[4] Lane, Anthony. ?The Shipping News? (review of Titanic). The New Yorker, December 7, 1997.

[5] Walsh, David. ?Why are the critics lauding Titanic?? World Socialist Website, January 30, 1998.

[6] From the Sophie Fiennes-directed 2012 documentary on Žižek, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. An excerpt of this part discussion of Žižek’s discussion of Titanic is available on YouTube.

[7] ibid.

[8] Žižek, Slavoj. “A Pervert’s Guide to Family.” Lacan.com.

[9] Somewhat hilariously, these photos purportedly come from Cameron’s personal album, with Winslet’s face having been photoshopped in.

[10] This passage has been cobbled together from two different translations of excerpts from Jiang’s speech in Unravel and The Wall Street Journal.

[11] Noble, Jonathan. “’Titanic’ in China: Transnational Capitalism as Official Ideology?” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 12, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 171.

[12] ibid.

[13] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 26.

[14] Noble, Jonathan. “’Titanic’ in China: Transnational Capitalism as Official Ideology?” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 12, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 187.

[15] Tse-Tung, Mao. Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, 2.

[16] ibid., 4.

[17] In private conversation, Rebekah Parlar has argued that Jack is not really “working class”—if anything, his sketch artistry and mobile lifestyle make him closer to what Marx calls “lumpenproletariat.” That as it may be, he suffices as working class for the structural purposes of the film.

[18] Is it a premonition of our current impasse—one defined by the dizzying ascent of the far right—that Cal’s fate after Titanic doesn’t seem entirely certain? “The crash of ’29 hit his interests hard, and he put a pistol in his mouth,” recounts Rose. “Or so I read.”

[19] Céline Dion was presumably unaware of this when she wore a replica of it to the 1998 Academy Awards.

[20] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 7.

[21] Tse-Tung, Mao. Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, 8-9.

[22] ibid., 38.

[23] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 28.

[24] ibid., 26.

[25] “Number of movie theaters in China from 2012 to 2021.” Statistica, September 2022.

[26] ?Movie Theaters in the US.? IBISWorld, January 10, 2023.

[27] McClintock, Pamela. ?U.S. Lost 2,000-Plus Movie Theater Screens Amid Pandemic.? The Hollywood Reporter, March 9, 2023.

[28] Hayes, Patrick. ?Triangle of Sadness is a Lesson in Social Dimensions.? MovieWeb, October 24, 2022.

[29] Young, Courtney. ?How to Watch ?Triangle of Sadness,? AKA ?The White Lotus? on Water.? Cosmopolitan, March 3, 2023.

[30] Darling, Cary. ?Review: ?Titanic? meets Marx in heavy-handed ?Triangle of Sadness?.? Houston Chronicle, October 17, 2022.

[22] ibid., 38.

[23] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 28.

[24] ibid., 26.

[25] “Number of movie theaters in China from 2012 to 2021.” Statistica, September 2022.

[26] ?Movie Theaters in the US.? IBISWorld, January 10, 2023.

[27] McClintock, Pamela. ?U.S. Lost 2,000-Plus Movie Theater Screens Amid Pandemic.? The Hollywood Reporter, March 9, 2023.

[28] Hayes, Patrick. ?Triangle of Sadness is a Lesson in Social Dimensions.? MovieWeb, October 24, 2022.

[29] Young, Courtney. ?How to Watch ?Triangle of Sadness,? AKA ?The White Lotus? on Water.? Cosmopolitan, March 3, 2023.

[30] Darling, Cary. ?Review: ?Titanic? meets Marx in heavy-handed ?Triangle of Sadness?.? Houston Chronicle, October 17, 2022.

[31] �stlund, Ruben. ?Ruben �stlund: ?I worry that left-wing people misunderstand Marx?? (interview with Tara Brady). The Irish Times, March 9, 2018.

[32] Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin Books/New Left Review, 170.

[33] ibid., 171.

[34] ibid.

[35] Since the release of Triangle, Woody Harrelson has clarified in interviews that his views don’t overlap entirely with those of his character: “I’m not a Marxist Marxist, I’m more of an anarchist,” he told Vanity Fair, “but there’s a lot of the Marxist ideas that I love.” This is perhaps not so different than the ultra-left Marxist he plays in the movie.

[36] While little known in the West, during Tiananmen the CCP wasn’t enthusiastic about having to use lethal force to clear the square. They spent nearly two months trying to negotiate, and many officials—like general secretary Zhao Ziyang—were openly sympathetic to the protesters. A particularly telling episode is recounted on pp. 611-612 of Ezra Vogel’s seminal biography of Deng Xiaoping, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. In mid-May, head of the United Front Work Department Yan Mingfu was sent at Zhao’s behest to persuade the students to leave the square prior to the visit of Gorbachev. After promising to them that they wouldn’t be punished if they returned to their campuses, and even offering to give himself as a hostage as a guarantee, he realized they weren’t going to budge. He was then seen, like Abigail, in tears. He knew, presumably, what would follow.

[37] Balakrishnan, Gopal. ?The Resignation of the Proletariat.? Sublation Magazine, August 4, 2022.

[38] This is a paraphrase. He tells her on the boat deck that if she doesn’t love someone, she shouldn’t marry them; that it’s “that simple.”


[6] From the Sophie Fiennes-directed 2012 documentary on Žižek, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. An excerpt of this part discussion of Žižek’s discussion of Titanic is available on YouTube.

[7] ibid.

[8] Žižek, Slavoj. “A Pervert’s Guide to Family.” Lacan.com.

[9] Somewhat hilariously, these photos purportedly come from Cameron’s personal album, with Winslet’s face having been photoshopped in.

[10] This passage has been cobbled together from two different translations of excerpts from Jiang’s speech in Unravel and The Wall Street Journal.

[11] Noble, Jonathan. “’Titanic’ in China: Transnational Capitalism as Official Ideology?” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 12, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 171.

[12] ibid.

[13] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 26.

[14] Noble, Jonathan. “’Titanic’ in China: Transnational Capitalism as Official Ideology?” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 12, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 187.

[15] Tse-Tung, Mao. Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, 2.

[16] ibid., 4.

[17] In private conversation, Rebekah Parlar has argued that Jack is not really “working class”—if anything, his sketch artistry and mobile lifestyle make him closer to what Marx calls “lumpenproletariat.” That as it may be, he suffices as working class for the structural purposes of the film.

[18] Is it a premonition of our current impasse—one defined by the dizzying ascent of the far right—that Cal’s fate after Titanic doesn’t seem entirely certain? “The crash of ’29 hit his interests hard, and he put a pistol in his mouth,” recounts Rose. “Or so I read.”

[19] Céline Dion was presumably unaware of this when she wore a replica of it to the 1998 Academy Awards.

[20] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 7.

[21] Tse-Tung, Mao. Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, 8-9.

[22] ibid., 38.

[23] Dillon, Kaylin. “Hollywood in China: The Chinese Reception of Titanic as a Case Study.” MA diss. University of Kansas, 2015: 28.

[24] ibid., 26.

[25] “Number of movie theaters in China from 2012 to 2021.” Statistica, September 2022.

[26] ?Movie Theaters in the US.? IBISWorld, January 10, 2023.

[27] McClintock, Pamela. ?U.S. Lost 2,000-Plus Movie Theater Screens Amid Pandemic.? The Hollywood Reporter, March 9, 2023.

[28] Hayes, Patrick. ?Triangle of Sadness is a Lesson in Social Dimensions.? MovieWeb, October 24, 2022.

[29] Young, Courtney. ?How to Watch ?Triangle of Sadness,? AKA ?The White Lotus? on Water.? Cosmopolitan, March 3, 2023.

[30] Darling, Cary. ?Review: ?Titanic? meets Marx in heavy-handed ?Triangle of Sadness?.? Houston Chronicle, October 17, 2022.

[31] �stlund, Ruben. ?Ruben �stlund: ?I worry that left-wing people misunderstand Marx?? (interview with Tara Brady). The Irish Times, March 9, 2018.

[32] Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin Books/New Left Review, 170.

[33] ibid., 171.

[34] ibid.

[35] Since the release of Triangle, Woody Harrelson has clarified in interviews that his views don’t overlap entirely with those of his character: “I’m not a Marxist Marxist, I’m more of an anarchist,” he told Vanity Fair, “but there’s a lot of the Marxist ideas that I love.” This is perhaps not so different than the ultra-left Marxist he plays in the movie.

[36] While little known in the West, during Tiananmen the CCP wasn’t enthusiastic about having to use lethal force to clear the square. They spent nearly two months trying to negotiate, and many officials—like general secretary Zhao Ziyang—were openly sympathetic to the protesters. A particularly telling episode is recounted on pp. 611-612 of Ezra Vogel’s seminal biography of Deng Xiaoping, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. In mid-May, head of the United Front Work Department Yan Mingfu was sent at Zhao’s behest to persuade the students to leave the square prior to the visit of Gorbachev. After promising to them that they wouldn’t be punished if they returned to their campuses, and even offering to give himself as a hostage as a guarantee, he realized they weren’t going to budge. He was then seen, like Abigail, in tears. He knew, presumably, what would follow.

[37] Balakrishnan, Gopal. ?The Resignation of the Proletariat.? Sublation Magazine, August 4, 2022.

[38] This is a paraphrase. He tells her on the boat deck that if she doesn’t love someone, she shouldn’t marry them; that it’s “that simple.”


[27] McClintock, Pamela. ?U.S. Lost 2,000-Plus Movie Theater Screens Amid Pandemic.? The Hollywood Reporter, March 9, 2023.

[28] Hayes, Patrick. ?Triangle of Sadness is a Lesson in Social Dimensions.? MovieWeb, October 24, 2022.

[29] Young, Courtney. ?How to Watch ?Triangle of Sadness,? AKA ?The White Lotus? on Water.? Cosmopolitan, March 3, 2023.

[30] Darling, Cary. ?Review: ?Titanic? meets Marx in heavy-handed ?Triangle of Sadness?.? Houston Chronicle, October 17, 2022.

[31] �stlund, Ruben. ?Ruben �stlund: ?I worry that left-wing people misunderstand Marx?? (interview with Tara Brady). The Irish Times, March 9, 2018.

[32] Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin Books/New Left Review, 170.

[33] ibid., 171.

[34] ibid.

[35] Since the release of Triangle, Woody Harrelson has clarified in interviews that his views don’t overlap entirely with those of his character: “I’m not a Marxist Marxist, I’m more of an anarchist,” he told Vanity Fair, “but there’s a lot of the Marxist ideas that I love.” This is perhaps not so different than the ultra-left Marxist he plays in the movie.

[36] While little known in the West, during Tiananmen the CCP wasn’t enthusiastic about having to use lethal force to clear the square. They spent nearly two months trying to negotiate, and many officials—like general secretary Zhao Ziyang—were openly sympathetic to the protesters. A particularly telling episode is recounted on pp. 611-612 of Ezra Vogel’s seminal biography of Deng Xiaoping, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. In mid-May, head of the United Front Work Department Yan Mingfu was sent at Zhao’s behest to persuade the students to leave the square prior to the visit of Gorbachev. After promising to them that they wouldn’t be punished if they returned to their campuses, and even offering to give himself as a hostage as a guarantee, he realized they weren’t going to budge. He was then seen, like Abigail, in tears. He knew, presumably, what would follow.

[37] Balakrishnan, Gopal. ?The Resignation of the Proletariat.? Sublation Magazine, August 4, 2022.

[38] This is a paraphrase. He tells her on the boat deck that if she doesn’t love someone, she shouldn’t marry them; that it’s “that simple.”


[28] Hayes, Patrick. ?Triangle of Sadness is a Lesson in Social Dimensions.? MovieWeb, October 24, 2022.

[29] Young, Courtney. ?How to Watch ?Triangle of Sadness,? AKA ?The White Lotus? on Water.? Cosmopolitan, March 3, 2023.