The big-screen retelling of the ‘unsinkable’ ship that crashed into an iceberg, condemning thousands of people to an icy death, has become a cultural reference ever since it hit cinemas in 1997 (not to mention the obsession we all have with the friendship of the actors that played the famous couple).
But there’s something that fans of the record-breaking film just can’t let go (sorry) and it’s about Jack, Rose and that floating door.
Many, many people subscribe to the theory that the two of them could have fit on that bit of wood. And now scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has come up with another extremely good point about the scene.
So first, a recap: the film follows the ominously romantic tale of Rose (Kate Winslet), a member of the upper classes, and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), a charming but penniless chancer from the lower end of society, as they both take the trip of a lifetime on the the Titanic.
Throughout the journey the pair fall hopelessly for each other. But tragically, an Irish jig below board and a steamy car window later, our favourite couple are left clinging to each other as they stare death in the face, bobbing around in the North Atlantic Ocean.
After being flung from the ship, the lovers hold on to a floating door for safety, but it is only Rose that makes it on top of the drifting wood, while Jack holds her hands and paddles in the sub-zero water, which slowly freezes him to death. All pretty cheery stuff, then.
“Why?” we all whisper as we weep softly into a picture of DiCaprio. “Why couldn’t he have fit on the door as well?”
A quick peruse of Twitter shows that two decades on, the fury that fans feel about Jack’s untimely death has in no way dampened, with one user writing, “I've watched the Titanic like 50x and every time I watch it I get so vexed that Rose didn't make room for Jack on that huge door”.
Cast and crew alike have commented on the size and shape of the door, with even Winslet admitting she could have made room for DiCaprio’s character on her makeshift lifeboat.
But apparently, while we’ve all been busy measuring shapes and sizes of door and discussing whether they could have topped and tailed, DeGrasse Tyson insists that we’ve all been missing a far more important factor.
The author and astrophysicist explains that his issue with the scene isn’t that neither Rose nor Jack failed to realise there was enough room on the door for both of them, it’s that Jack’s efforts were also a not a realistic representation of his character’s personality.
Read more: 10 forgotten facts about Titanic
And we have to admit, we completely see what he means.
Tyson takes our minds back to the moment when Jack tries momentarily to pull himself up on to the door with Rose, and argues that being a strongly spirited fellow, he can’t believe he would have given up after one attempt.
Speaking to HuffPost, he says, “Whether or not he could’ve been successful, I would’ve tried more than once. You try once. ‘Oh, this is not gonna work. I will just freeze to death in the water’.”
Tyson continues to muse that even if you weren’t overly resolute as a person, your natural survival instinct would encourage you to try again.
“The survival instinct is way stronger than that in everybody, especially in that character. He’s a survivor, right? He gets through. He gets by.
“And I’ll tell you this, if that character was Matt Damon from The Martian, he would’ve made an outboard motor and saved everybody. This is how science can help you.”
There’s no doubt Tyson has a point. However, we must point out that according to director James Cameron, Jack wanted to give up his space to ensure Rose’s safety, so his apparent easy defeat could be seen as a gallant choice.
Speaking to Daily Beast back in January, Cameron used his ‘I directed the film’ card and tried to put an end to our squabbling, stating, “Look, it's very, very simple: you read page 147 of the script and it says, 'Jack gets off the board and gives his place to her so that she can survive.’”
Referring to an episode of Mythbusters, which at the time had successfully attempted two grown men fitting on a wooden door, he elaborated on his point, “OK, so let’s really play that out: you're Jack, you're in water that’s 28 degrees [that's minus 2 in Celsius], your brain is starting to get hypothermia.
“Mythbusters asks you to now go take off your life vest, take hers off, swim underneath this thing, attach it in some way that it won’t just wash out two minutes later – which means you’re underwater tying this thing on in 28-degree water, and that's going to take you five to 10 minutes, so by the time you come back up you’re already dead.
“So that wouldn’t work. His best choice was to keep his upper body out of the water and hope to get pulled out by a boat or something before he died.”
To be honest, we think this is a debate that will continue raging until the end of time and for those who haven’t quite decided their stance on the most important question to hit society in the last several decades, take a look at the iconic moment for yourself.
Images: Rex / 20th Century Fox