Fashion and Style

The Unsinkable Memes of ‘Titanic’

Katee Forbis often encounters a GIF on social media that shows a white-haired woman with a faraway look saying, “It’s been 84 years.” Ms. Forbis had scrolled past the clip “a thousand times” she said, but was unsure of its origin.

“Is that from ‘Titanic’?” asked Ms. Forbis, 37, a screenwriter who has never seen the movie.

“Titanic,” James Cameron’s three-and-a-quarter-hour drama on the icy seas, was released 25 years ago, grossing (approximately) a gazillion dollars and winning (roughly) a boatload of Oscars. But perhaps even more impressive is that a movie released before the first iMac has remained such a buoyant force in pop culture and on the internet — where its audience extends beyond even that of the film.

The story’s recognizability and capital-D drama have made it ripe for all sorts of campy reinvention. “It’s so in the zeitgeist right now,” said Marla Mindelle, one of the writers and stars of “Titanique,” an Off Broadway parody that was staged until recently in the basement of a former Gristedes supermarket in Manhattan. And on “Saturday Night Live” last spring, Bowen Yang portrayed the story’s iceberg in the midst of a pivot to hyperpop.

But “Titanic” has been most vividly immortalized online, in the screenshots, GIFs and covers of a certain power ballad that fans are still finding ways to make fresh a quarter-century after the movie’s release. This way, they never have to let go.

The story of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) has spawned countless memes, many of them snippets of the movie’s script.

As the R.M.S. Titanic sinks into the Atlantic near the movie’s conclusion, its musicians play on. “Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you tonight,” one says, in a line that has become one of Twitter’s favorite Mad Libs whenever things go wrong.

“It has been a pleasure tweeting with you all during a genuine zombie apocalypse,” Kyle Alex Brett wrote along with the clip from the movie on March 11, 2020 — the day the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Others have invoked the scene to refer to tanking cryptocurrency prices or a particularly bad Yankees game.

Versions of “I want you to draw me like one of your French girls,” Rose’s instruction to Jack after seeing his sketchbook, now serve as captions for images of cats and George Costanza reclining. That scene’s nudity was part of the reason Ms. Forbis’s family did not allow her to watch the movie when she was in seventh grade. For others, it made the scene, and the line, particularly memorable.

When Amara Lambert, a 38-year-old photographer in Fargo, N.D., is working with a couple who are nervous in front of the camera, she tells them to “do the ‘Titanic’ pose.”

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