Movies where the literal events don’t make sense but the metaphor does

So there’s a lot of complaining about Titanic, because Jack could have fit on the door, and so forth. The metaphor in the movie works; the literal events don’t. Titanic was about letting go of loss, etc. The problem was Jack could have fit on the door! Victor Frankel talks about suffering in his Man’s Search For Meaning, possibly the greatest book I’ve ever read in terms of literary meaning, and he notes that in a situation of suffering, one’s primary responsibility is to end the suffering. Only if that isn’t possible should one find meaning in suffering, grow, yadda yadda. Again, Frankel puts this better than I can, so read his book.

Anyway, within the realm of narrative fiction, if some situation happens to support a metaphor but the situation could just be resolved, the characters should just resolve the situation. Otherwise the situation is absurd. Hence the problems with Titanic (he could have just climbed on the door). I tie this to Frankel because if the movie makers don’t resolve the literal events, the direct problems that cause the plot, and instead skip to finding meaning, growth, blah blah, when the characters could just climb onto the door, the movie makes no sense.

My favorite movie which does this is Signs. It’s about faith. There are aliens in it, but it’s about the metaphor.

The problem is the aliens don’t make sense. Someone could repel them with a squirt gun. The literal events don’t make sense. The metaphor is great, and it talks about faith, the meaning of it, and I got a lot out of it. M. Night Shyamalan does a surprisingly good turn as a bit character, and I’ve always liked that role. Of course, his part only tangentially addresses the aliens. He’s really there to say something about faith. But they don’t need faith, they need squirt guns! Buy a Super Soaker, save the world!

Of course Titanic made a billion dollars, so no one cares.

But we can argue about it here. My blog, anyway.

What really happened with Titanic is that the target audience related to Rose and wanted to be taken care of. They wanted to be special. So Jack dies to save Rose, which makes Rose special, which makes the identifying audience special, so the movie made a billion dollars. The problem is the success. If Jack had just climbed onto the door, Rose wouldn’t have been the more special one of the two. As it is, of the special people, she was the more special. So, again, a billion dollars. Know your audience, I guess.

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