A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this dramatic, fictionalized retelling of the ill-fated voyage commemorates the 100th anniversary of the ship's demise with emotional scenes of families being separated in the chaos, people committing suicide (by jumping off the boat), parents making the ultimate sacrifice to save their children, and passengers fighting for their lives. Because this miniseries shines the spotlight on more than one set of main characters, viewers are more likely to become emotionally invested in the hope of survival for one or more of them. Aside from the life-and-death drama, the content is fairly mild, with some hints at sexuality thrown in (a couple is shown cuddling in bed, there's mention of an illegitimate pregnancy, etc.) and infrequent language ("bitch," for instance). There is some romance, but it takes a backseat to the series' main goal of personalizing the stories of an array of victims of the tragedy. Astute viewers will also pick up on the show's presentation of the era's class system as it's seen through the eyes of the elite all the way down to the steerage passengers, which can spark some intriguing discussions with your teens.
What's the story?
TITANIC is a miniseries that chronicles the tale of the doomed ocean voyage and its 2,200 souls by interweaving both fictional and historically accurate stories of first-class guests, crew members, and steerage passengers who faced the same fate with the ship's demise. There's the unassuming Earl (Linus Roache) and haughty Countess (Geraldine Somerville) of Manton, whose liberal-minded daughter, Georgianna (Perdita Weeks), finds unlikely romance on board the ship. Italian brothers Mario (Antonio Magro) and Paolo (Glen Blackhall) and Irish emigrants Jim (Peter McDonald) and Mary Maloney (Ruth Bradley) and their children head to America with hopes of new possibilities in a new land, while designer Thomas Andrews (Stephen Campbell Moore) simply wants to see the liner of his design sail into the horizon. Their stories are as varied as they themselves are different, but their fates are the same on that cold April night when an iceberg spelled disaster for the seemingly unsinkable ship.
Is it any good?
This four-part miniseries gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of more than just the elite class of passengers, by spotlighting a different set of characters in each segment of the series. Their stories become intertwined once they're aboard, which makes their desperate fight for survival -- often at the expense of someone else's life -- all the more anguished. It's impossible to watch this small-screen re-telling without drawing comparisons to its famous high-grossing, Academy-Awarded counterpart, and the similarities don’t end with the familiar dining room settings, unexpected romance between a reluctantly proper British lady and a handsome American man, or the dramatic reenactment of the ship's final moments. But it's the differences between the two interpretations that ensure that this one is more than just a timely copycat.
There's a discomfort to watching this story unfold because of your awareness of the outcome before it starts. It's hard to get emotionally drawn into the lives of the characters, fiction or not, knowing that many of them won't survive the story. On one hand, Titanic does a good job of reminding us that the century-old statistics from the tragedy are more than just numbers, that they were real people with hopes and dreams and families who loved them, regardless of their traveling class. On the other, the story is too emotionally wrenching for most kids for that very same reason. Mature tweens who can handle this aspect of the show will be fine with the content, however, and the show's portrayal of the class system and prejudice can spark some discussions about how those issues have evolved over time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about overcoming adversity. How does experiencing tragedy change us? Have you ever survived a particularly difficult situation? Did it change your perspective on life or the people involved?
How does this series portray prejudice between the characters? Do you think it is a fair assessment of the time? Were you surprised by any of it? Do you think times have changed considerably since then, or is this still a problem?
Families can discuss the historical fiction genre. What aspects of this movie are obviously fictionalized? Do you think this type of series aims more to entertain or to educate? Did you learn anything new from this story? Was it any more or less credible than James Cameron's version?
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