Of course, none of this actually matters when it comes to judging the film itself. Even if Jack technically could’ve climbed up on that door, it still makes perfect sense that he wouldn’t want to risk it. As Cameron himself put it, “I think his thought process was, ‘I’m not gonna do one thing that jeopardizes her.’ And that’s 100% in character.”
In the end, Jack had to die not just for the sake of Rose’s character arc, but for the film to fully honor all the men who disproportionately died on the Titanic. After all, the whole idea of women and children being given top priority for the lifeboats was pretty rare; it’s a noble idea of course, but usually in this sort of situation the “every man for himself” motto wins out. The way so many male passengers let the women and children get on the lifeboats first, even though they probably could’ve strong-armed their way to safety if they really wanted to, is fairly unusual and worthy of tribute. Jack choosing to die rather than do anything that might hurt Rose’s chances is thematically and historically on point.
Although people often bring up the door debate as a way to cynically dunk on the film, this controversy’s endurance is a sign of how effective the movie was. The fact that viewers are still hung up on the details just shows how much they wanted Jack and Rose to get their happily ever after. “Titanic” is such a powerful, heartbreaking story that some viewers are still stuck in the bargaining stage of grief, even 25 years later.
“Titanic” will be re-released in theaters on February 10, 2023.