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Why Are People Still Bitter About That Tragic ‘Titanic’ Ending?

With Titanic’s twentieth anniversary on the horizon (December 19—mark your calendars), director James Cameron has been answering dozens of new and old questions about his acclaimed romantic epic. Some are curious about Titanic’s theatrical re-release, or about how Cameron tried to incorporate real-life facts and events into the film. But even after 20 long years, most people still want know why in the world Jack had to sacrifice himself to save Rose.

Cameron has addressed this question several times, most notably when the MythBusters conducted an experiment to see whether or not two people could have fit on the piece of wood Rose used to keep herself alive. Spoiler Alert: If Rose had tied her life jacket to the wood panel, it would have stayed buoyant enough to keep both her and Jack above water.

When presented with the results of the experiment, Cameron conceded that he could have made the panel a teensy bit smaller. But now he’s insisting that the size or buoyancy or weight of the panel never really mattered and that Jack died because of “art,” not physics. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Cameron explains that “the ending of the film would have been meaningless” if Jack somehow survived, as “the film is about death and separation.”

Fair enough. The film probably wouldn’t have packed as hard of an emotional punch if Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) both survived and lived happily ever after. But shouldn’t James Cameron just let us have this one? If people want to theorize about what would have happened if Jack hadn’t drowned, let them. If hardcore Titanic enthusiasts want to come up with outrageous fan theories and mourn Jack’s needless demise, give them the space to do so.

Jack and Rose are basically a modern-day Romeo and Juliet—a poor artist and a posh bride-to-be who fall in love despite the forces that conspire against them. So the fact that a sinking boat was the one and only thing they couldn’t overcome is pretty heart-breaking. Also, Leo DiCaprio is a beautiful specimen that must be protected at all times. Watching him suffer—whether it’s because of freezing water or a vicious bear—is never fun.

If you’re like us and want to re-live Jack and Rose’s short-lived but passionate romance yet again, you can catch the Dolby Vision Titanic re-release in theatres from December 1 to December 8.