Titanic accompanied analysis

Hi there,
I am surprised that Jame’s Cameron mega-success “Titanic” hasn’t been Dramatica-ly analysed yet.
Am I wrong ?
It is one of my favorite films in that genre and I would love to participate to a DUG analysis of it, but the waiting list is long and I would like to try it with the help of the forum.
I propose to go step by step and wait for the experts to correct the analysis as we go.

So the first step seems pretty easy :

The throughlines :

OS : Surviving the sinking of a doomed ship.
If I formulate it like that it is because I think that when the film begins, everyone knows that the Titanic will eventually sink. However, James Cameron takes the times to be explicit about it at the beginning of the film with the character of Lovett (and his colleagues) who explain us in detail what is going to happen to the ship during that night. Also, putting it that way makes it easy to see this Throughlines in Situation because everybody is stucked in this terrible situation (but please let’s discuss it !)

RS : Rose/Jack romance
Continuing my first idea (OS in Situation), it means that RS would be in Mind. And I think it works because, preconceptions are on both sides of these two characters and are the main obstacles to their love story (belonging to opposite sociales classes they are constantly separated, even physically, from each other because of fixed rules and attitudes of this era)

MC : Rose
I think Rose is not a manipulator (contrary to Jack) and therefore, she would be in Activity. Her activity would be to try escape the golden cage she is locked in and break free of the social pressures to be able to express her true self.

IC : Jack
Jack is motivated in changing Rose, pushing her to embrace the freedom he had made is all life about.

That’s it for now. I have further ideas but I would like to be sure of this first level before focussing further down as I have noticed that my confirmation bias is VERY STRONG and I always manage to find a complete story form that turns out to be completely wrong !

I would really appreciate any comment/help/discussion on this Topic.
Thanks a lot.

Technically, it has been looked at before: Titanic: One Interpretation - Story Synopsis - Dramatica
Though, as far as I can tell, that was quite a while ago.

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Also, there are two different takes on the Storyform — and I believe @sandystone wrote up a pretty detailed analysis of it. We’re you not able to find it on Dramatica.com?

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Hi Jim,
I have found the one mentioned above (I never browsed those pages of Dramatica.com before).
It seems to suggest that the story form is not complete. (it mentioned two different possible but incomplete storyforms)
Now, I am VERY surprised that this film has not a complete story argument !
If it doesn’t, then it means that you don’t need a complete story form to make an unforgettable, deeply moving story !
What do you think ? And what do you mean by “two different takes on the story form” ?

Its more about the people doing the analysis than the work itself, though intuitionally speaking I can see Titanic not having all the pieces in the right place to make a solid argument (Storyform).

There are many factors that go into whether or not a work is unforgettable or deeply moving, that have little to do with the completeness of the Storyform. Saving Private Ryan is another film that came out around the same time that was massively popular, massively moving, and yet somehow managed to get by without a complete story.

I was moved by both films, but if you asked me to tell you what actually happened in Titanic beyond the ship sinking I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I think there were some old guys with lots of money, I know he drew her naked, and I know there was plenty of room on the door for both of them…:grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: but beyond that – I’m not really sure what it was trying to “say”

Same with Private Ryan, I remember Gru bleeding out in the street, the beach landing, and the Nazi soldier telling one of the guys to be quiet…but other than that…I’m not sure what it was trying to “say” beyond giving us the experience of what it was like to live through these events. I know it was trying to say something about the “man being the mission” but I’m not sure if it made a convincing argument for that.

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Be yourself, and you will live the life you want ?


what about:
“When you get out of your way and abandon being controlled by someone, you can have a future”

Premise builder settings :
Reason/to realign/Resist/Triumph
OS Future, MC Obtaining, IC Becoming, RS Subconscious
Key element : Control

I’m not sure how an Objective Story of Universe/Future would fit for a film about the sinking of the Titanic…hard to imagine where everyone is stuck…

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I happened to catch the last hour of this recently and was struck by how Rose casting away the diamond at the end, sort of ensured that the outer story and inner story shared the same Outcome (Failure).

I like @nicodu’s idea of a Problem of Control, and there is a lot of Self Interested-ness that ripples through the whole story, the rich getting things their way, everyone having to fend for themselves, the poorer passengers being locked below (Control), etc. (contrasted with the Morality of the band playing on at the end.) So what about something like:


Thanks to Jack, Rose changes her perspective to live free of her family. But she also has to let Jack go, in order to live. And in the end she sets the diamond free.

But that’s kind of a stab in the dark, so feel free to tear it apart. (I haven’t seen the first two hours in 20+ years!)

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I think mlucas is right.
the story is a failure (not all passengers are saved). So what about :

Virtue lies in being uncontrolled even if it means being heartbroken

As for my proposal to place the OS in Situation, concern of Future, here are some arguments:

  • For starters, I don’t think the movie is about the sinking of the Titanic !
    I mean it is not one of those movies like “Poseidon’s Adventure” or “The Towering Inferno” where the goal is to survive a catastrophic event (OS in Activity, right ?). In Titanic, the iceberg is only a complication of the story because surviving the Titanic is not going to solve the story problem. The story problem is the way the society works. The inequity is the domination of a class over the rest of humanity. The sinking of the ship is a symbolic representation of the sinking of an entire society. The one that prevailed before World War I, where women had no choice but to find a good man to whom they would belong body and soul for the rest of their life. A society where the ruling class crushed the working classes and lived outside the real world, not caring about the rest of humanity. When Rose points out that there are lifeboats only for half of the passengers, Cal answers: "fortunately, the good half! ".

  • What occupies the minds of the all the characters at the beginning of the film is to be present in this historical situation: the maiden voyage of the Titanic. They only talk about it and to do that, they have nothing else to do but just be there for it, no activity required, nothing else to do but to live this situation. And when they talk about what they are concerned about and/or why they are there, it is always to talk about the Future. The spassagers are leaving for the new continent to find a future, the rich are preparing to earn even more money thanks to the new technologies that the ship represents. And Rose is caught between the wedding plans that are imposed on her and that will decide her future, while what really thrills her are the avant-garde painters and the new sciences of psychoanalysis. She is caught in the situation of being a woman in this era.
    And of course, once the iceberg hits the ship (the midpoint), simply having a Future becomes the main and only concern for everyone !

  • And finally, as I said, the film begins by telling us how it will all end (2000 deaths). So we know from the start that once they board the ship, the passengers are stuck in a situation only few of them will survive. And so, as a spectator, we ask ourselves: what would it be like to be in that situation ? To live this historical moment knowing that everything will turn into a tragedy ?

This is all Dramatica as storytelling. Telling us that characters are thinking about being present doesn’t show us that Present, or even Universe, is a source of conflict. It doesn’t mean it’s not a source of conflict, just that you haven’t shown it. In order to show it, we should address the conflict that being present creates.


I had response all ready to go, but this (above) is better than what I was going to say


The situation that I depicted is a source of conflict. At least for Rose, that is why she wants to commit suicide. That is the only way she can think of in order to escape her situation.
Is it a source of conflict for the other characters ? Maybe it is not as obvious.
So, maybe MC is in Situation, IC in Mind ?
RS in Psychology and OS finishes in Physics.

It may be, but you haven’t shown that yet.

“The boat is sinking” does not show conflict.
“The boat sinking caused everyone to breakout into incivility” does show conflict.
What conflict is caused by everyone wanting to be present? By everyone being concerned about the future?

Note that I am not arguing for or against a Storyform, but rather am discussing how to properly use the Storyform as structure for a story.


I appreciate that and this discussion is starting to make a lot of sense to me, thanks to every one.

So, Source of conflict is the word. And not what is the throughline about , right ?

Therefore, in determining the Domains (and correct me if I am wrong), one needs to answer the questions:
In the OS Throughline what is the source of conflict for everyone ?
In the MC Throughline what is the source of conflict for the MC ?

Well then, I think I still like my idea of OS in Situation because, yes, the throughline is about being on this particular ship on that particular day and it is not a source of conflict in itself, but the source of conflict for everyone (is it the inequity as well, I am not sure how to differentiate it ?) is being part of a dysfunctional society that is going to sink very soon (during WW1 as to say) and even if it is not obviously shown as a conflict in the first half of the film, it has the potentiality of it. And when the boat start to sink, it is definitely the main source of conflict.
Isn’t that a Situation ? Am i still missing something here ?

Here is the Dramatica.com extract for “Pride And Prejudice” (OS in Situation)
The objective story explores the particular social customs and manners of England’s upper class in the early nineteenth century. An example of a social custom is voiced by Lady Catherine: “Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life” (Austen 179). The situation the Bennet family finds themselves in is, with five daughters and no male heir, their estate is entailed to their priggish cousin Collins. To secure their future, it is necessary for the Bennet girls to marry well.

Is it not the same situation in Titanic ?
Or is it only Rose’s problem (and her mother) ? And then it would feel closer to Little Women, with MC (Jo March) being in Situation ?

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It’s been a long time since I saw Titanic (maybe time to rewatch?) and I don’t remember the ins and outs.

Regarding Pride and Prejudice, I think your second observation is correct. The whole world of the novel “stuck” – all of the sisters are trapped by their social situation, but so is everyone, really (“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”)

This seems different from Titanic where, as you suggest, Rose is the one trapped.

If I had to guess based on genre, I would put the Concerns in the lower left as you and @mlucas did (Future/Becoming/Subconscious/Obtaining) and the OS in Psychology.

What is the inciting incident/first driver? Is it Rose deciding not to commit suicide when she meets Jack?

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It could be Jack winning his ticket (I think it was in a poker game). Or it might simply be, boarding the Titanic.

I put the OS in Obtaining because that seemed to make the most sense for the Goal – something like “making the Titanic’s maiden voyage”.

One thing that might help is to stop using the word Situation which is notoriously inaccurate – use Universe instead. Also remember that all the Domains are combination of internal/external and state/process – so Universe is a problematic external state, something that is stuck that needs to be unstuck.

That said, I definitely see where you are going with OS in Universe. On top of Pride of Prejudice there is the 80s film Breaking Away which has a very similar “class struggles in a small town” OS. Boyz N The Hood may be similar to these as well.

However, when you look at Titanic as a whole and try to fit all the throughlines, I feel like it’s the MC and IC that are more defined by their states (stuck/trapped in the way things are) than processes. I also feel like all the death and destruction work really well as an objective Becoming Consequence! And I liked the symmetry of the outer story kind of adding onto the same message with its own Obtaining Failure (obtaining the Heart of the Ocean).

Note I had pegged Rose as a Be-er, because I felt like all the stuff near the end where she gets the axe and frees Jack was showing her Change to Do-er. Also when she is on the lifeboat and jumps back on board. Heck, even blowing the whistle at the end.


“The Inciting Incident (…) is the event or decision that begins a story’s problem” and “Regardless of outcome, this Inciting Incident gets the ball rolling by introducing an inequity into the lives of the characters that inhabit the story” (both extracts from one of Jim’s article: " Plot Points and the Inciting Incident")

Rose attempt of suicide, introduces an inequity for Jake, for Cal and for Rose’s mother. But not for all the other characters. And for Rose, the inequity was obviously prior to that.
The very first thing Rose is telling us (when she embarks) is “… to me, this ship was a prison” or something like that.
So maybe the decision that was made that she’d marry Cal is the inciting incident. It surely gets the ball rolling for Rose but it somehow is an inequity for the rest of the character as it is a classic illustration of the social inequity in place.

In The Fugitive, the inequity is the emprisonnement of an innocent, this injustice is threatening indirectly all the society.
Again, I think the inequity in Titanic is the domination of the white rich men over the rest of the humanity.

That is also questioning me. Can a character change from Be-er to Do-er ? I mean is it a way of having your character change ? Characters are both Do-ers and Be-ers anyway. It is just that one method has the preference above the other. Is it not ?

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Often (though maybe not always?) the change from Be-er to Do-er or vice versa is the clearest way to illustrate Change in the story.

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When you say “source of conflict is the word”, are you saying that source of conflict is the Dramatica word? If so, that’s right. As in the source of conflict in a Pursuit story is pursuit.

But when you say “not what the throughline is about”, I disagree. From the perspective of Dramatica, the story is about how conflict is addressed, not the things people do or say or think about as they go about existing within the story.

It’s hard to talk about a movie I haven’t seen in forever and don’t know the Storyform for, so let me look at Shawshank Redemption to show the difference.

In Shawshank, a prisoner is beaten to death. In a Dramatica sense, the story isn’t about the prisoner being beaten to death. Even the signpost is not about that. The prisoner getting beaten to death is just what happens in the story-like people wanting to be present for the launching of the Titanic. But the story and the sign post are about how going along with the game causes the prisoner to get beaten to death.

Similarly, Capt Hadley complains about the taxes he’s going to have to pay on the car he gets from his brother. But that’s just something he does—like people wanting to be present at the launching of the Titanic. The signpost is not about that. It’s about how opposing the system instead of supporting it (talking to the guard instead of tarring the roof) leads to the prisoners feeling like free men. Or said another way, it’s about how going along with the system creates conflict…but not going along with the system eases conflict.

“A prisoner gets beaten to death” is a statement, a thing that happens. “Capt Hadley complains” is a statement. Neither one is a message. The story and everything in it is about the message. “Playing the new fish game will get people beaten to death” is part of the message. “Taking control of the situation will let you feel like a free man” is part of the message.

I know it seems like I just spent five paragraphs on a semantic difference, but the point is to show that a grand argument story is not about the characters or events in the story, but about the message the story is trying to present. And the message about how to address conflict.