Millennials, Sincerity, & Titanic


(“Jack, are you periscoping this?”)

NOT ALL Millennials are incapable of forming relationships that would make their own B list screenplay. Or something like that. When a Baby Boomer calls me entitled and lazy, I’ll fight back for us.

Ae Padilla 

I was hanging out with a guy friend I hadn’t seen in months. There was no reason for us losing touch, but when you don’t go to the same college anymore it just happens. I don’t make these rules up.

When we finally had a moment alone, over some drinks, I looked at him and said what I had been thinking about for the past couple of hours. “I miss you kid.” With a half eye roll he got flustered and laughed it off, like my comment was some dumb quote from a movie I didn’t quite nail and he was sparing me the embarrassment of lingering on it. Oh well, I contemplated, gulping down the last of my margarita. I tried.

To give a bit of context though, I didn’t say this statement because I missed him romantically or because something bad had happened between us and I needed to patch up an argument. My miss you, not laced in one hint of sarcasm (a mind-blowing feat for me!) was genuine. I missed my friend. Our conversations. Our hang outs. Simple.

But the sincerity behind that simple statement made him feel uncomfortable. And I venture to say that is the case for most Millennials, who struggle with the truest forms of sincerity that fostering an authentic relationship, both romantic and platonic, need.

In our desire as Millennials to make everything ironic, as well as our obsession with a stimulating, exciting (but also fleeting) culture, we are left craving more of a connection than we might have ever wanted. We jeopardize our emotional happiness. And I’m not taking the easy way out by saying that we do this because we are glued to our screens and do not know how to have face to face interaction anymore. I say we do this for a multitude of reasons, the first being that we are conditioned to think that emotions are the currency of some type of weakness; caring for someone can only be expressed verbally if our partner or friend does it equally. Intimacy is only applicable to one person in our life. We were sold the idea that everyone cares less than us about feelings, and we should aspire to be that same way – if we are smart enough

Millennials, in both the friendship and dating vacuum, weaken every tie they have because they are subconsciously afraid of being true to any feelings, as they have been told they are not going to help in our world. These feelings are a distraction at worst, or at best a potential manipulative tactic one can use to “get ahead.”

But so what if we can’t achieve that same sincerity that relationships had before us? Long romantic kisses, grand romantic gestures, talks between friends that last hours which are not riddled with talks about how they last hours. Does it really affect us? Does it matter, that the only truly “moments” in our lives are few and far between.

Yes. Yes, I think it does, as the lack of moments is not a lack of closeness, love, or inclination for romance, it is instead an inability to express it, stifling a part of us which desperately wants to reach out in whatever way we would if our anxiety was not preventing us from doing so. Be that a flower, a romantic kiss, or touching our friend’s hand.

This can easily translate to wholesome feelings being misconceived as stupid or a hindrance to our daily lives. I.E. I do not like the physical reactions that I am feeling right now so it must be a result of what I am thinking, which of course in relation to our psyches can be concerning.

But the result of that anxiety might actually have to do with the internet, (sorry, sorry, sorry) the constant flow of information we both seek and do not seek out, a place where our feelings are taught to us so excessively they become our own. It is here where we are instructed that emotions are unfortunately currency we barter with, they are not anything pure. The less chips you have in your bag the better.You can care about people but care fucking less than you do now. I mean, really thinking about it, how many countless articles are there directed to Millennials that say the person who cares less in a relationship always has the upper hand; be like that person.

Whether we realize it or not, despite even telling ourselves that those articles are stupid, they sink into the way we look at our friendships and partners. Idiotic memes, “this could be us but you playing”, reinforce that the ideal couple is not attainable because someone else is always not being authentic enough to their wants or needs. And if they are not being authentic, then being authentic alone is simply humiliating.

Feelings into action, wanting someone or wanting something with someone, is embarrassing. Unless it happens to be with one specific person in a secluded moment, vulnerability is something we get embarrassed for for other people. He or she is too much. He or she is “extra” and there is nothing worse than being “extra.”

Even in the safe space of a romantic relationship that has been established for some time, a desire to never show all of your cards becomes synonymous with never having to worry about experiencing that fuzzy romantic moment (or if you are like me, being more upset that this will not take place). This is because true romantic moments, special times not filled with sarcastic self-deprecation or apologizes, only come when people are candidly vulnerable. It is because during that occasion that there are no more cards to hold onto, taking a leap of faith for something you want becomes a lot easier when you cannot run backwards in anyway.( Or if you are trying to spin a more positive outlook to this idea, giving something your all with your partner becomes extraordinarily easier when you let go of personal judgment.)

And we Millennials are afraid of the judgment of those who surround us. It practically suffocates us. I can again point to the internet (sorry, sorry, sorry), not because the internet is filled with grade A critics of politics, religion, or celebrities but because large groups of people gathering together in one common space (no matter that the space be both expansive and virtual) know how to rip apart the cheesiness, embarrassing, cringe-worthy event or person impeccably. Hating something, especially hating anything corny, has brought people closer together than loving something. That rise of “hater” culture is a bond that is almost so unbreakable in our generation that it’s a wonder people bond over anything they do like.

Which brings us to the film Titanic, and a peice which explores the growth of hater culture due to the movie’s 1999 release. Owen Glieberman wrote an article for Entertainment entitled, appropriately enough, ‘Titanic is a great film. It’s also the movie that gave rise to hater culture.’ in which he speaks about how successful the film was, from performing well at the box office and the Academy Awards to how the film quickly faced a backlash. The claims from those less eager about the film were that Titanic was an audacious soap opera written by a man who had no idea how “real people” spoke. But most of all people who despised it enough to flock to online boards and express that emotion, were upset by its cheesiness and its attractive leads tangled in some bit of spectacular romantic fate. Glieberman concluded the article by writing about how the haters of the film Titanic claiming that only a teenager could love both the plot and dialogue are living in a weird delusional reality they created. In short, they are foolish

And yet it makes so much sense with the rise of Millennials, internet, and haters. If movies are a showcase to how people live their lives, then our reactions to them dictate whether or not we approve. In the case of Titanic, sincerity is questioned at every moment by a modern audience. Yes, I can understand some of the backlash, there are some lines I wish would rather have not made it to the final cut including “something Picasso, he won’t amount to a thing.” But the moments that irk people are arguably the most iconic ones. “Draw me like one of your French girls,” “I’m the king of the world,” and the unforgettable “I’m flying Jack.” It is these moments, the most “cheesy” ones in the film that people have no problem claiming as “cheesy” – the result of this stamp is that Titanic is beneath their movie watching taste and above their embarrassment threshold.

But not me. I love it. As one of the most sarcastic cynical people I know, I find the moment in Titanic where Rose and Jack are stretching their arms out at the bow of the ship to be one of the most iconic and breathtaking scenes in cinematic history. My God it’s beautiful. And it’s not beautiful because of the cinematography or the score, or because two beautiful people are in it. It’s captivating because it is the most authentic moment you can possibly have privilege to spy in on.

Just imagine if someone who had never seen this film tried doing that today with their significant other on a cruise. How quickly would we die of secondhand embarrassment? How quickly would we take out our phones to record this and post it online? How much would we snicker about how someone desperately wants to get laid? How easily would sincerity be wiped away from a moment that’s not even ours?

For those who hate on Titanic, the irony is delicious. The hatred on a film for being appalling inauthentic comes up short when you realize that Titanic was perhaps the first movie to ever use, what would become later, very famous tropes. We hate Titanic because it unashamedly highlights what we have been told, or told ourselves,we do not like. Over the top vulnerability, tender lines we scoff at because we believe no one would ever say that in “real life” (when perhaps people actually would).

Because in the history of humanity feelings and love continue to live on. This will never change. Ever. How much we allow ourselves to be able to express what resides in us does though. And when you suppress it long enough, it makes it almost shameful.

Titanic is so in your face with all of what it is because it does not apologize. Jack does not take Rose’s hand and says “this is cheesy but do you trust me?” He does not say “well, you don’t look like any of my other French girls” (insert laugh here) when he draws her portrait in arguably their most erotic moment together. He is the best, most genuine version of himself, which even if it makes for a whole lot of heartache makes for so much more earned happiness.

This openness, this transparency, does happen nowadays but it seems to be that it is the property of others as opposed to the people involved. “Is this too much? What would other people think if they heard this? Am I being pathetic?” are questions dancing too close to the perception from people who do not matter to the relationship that the person cares about. But when sincerity, black and white make out sessions, and lines reserved for Cary Grant were dubbed as “a thing of the past that no self-aware person partakes in” then people had to listen to this narrative and follow it.

Sex is a loophole, or on the opposite end maybe, the most honest time for communication that produces “realness” in our modern environment. This makes sense because what other time can you exclaim the genuine passion you have for someone in your life then when you are inside of them? If you didn’t, and it was more than just casual sex, you wouldn’t probably be able to do that again. Sex, being a physical act, is an easier way to showcase emotions.

But I worry that if authenticity only follows sex then this resistance to express one’s self will trickle down to every other person that they are not having sex with, like friends, who become not as close as they could be because again dependable exposure is a rare commodity. (And our friends don’t have orgasms in the back of steamy cars with us.)

Then again maybe some personalities don’t call for over the top movie moments, although I argue that our lives do call for some moments we should most certainly not deny ourselves of. The most amazing times in my life, the lines that make it to books, are the ones I embrace not shy away from. The times when I am not afraid as most people are. When I realize that we have such little time in life that to not be as genuine as possible at every second is a waste.

What this really comes down to, the lesson of this all however, is if Leonardo DiCaprio (or anyone for that matter) wants to take your hand and help you to fly over a magnificent sunset, don’t fight it. And tell them to take off their shirt while they do it.


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