This post discusses the super toxic mom that was Ruth DeWittBukater, Roses’ mom in Titanic.
Titanic was one of the top-grossing movies of all time.
The main character, Rose, navigates her mother’s toxic behavior throughout and is one of the most passive aggressive movie characters.
It reigned for nearly 12 years as the world’s top-grossing film before its younger cousin, Avatar, broke its record in 2009.
Everyone was seeing Titanic.
Many, more than once!
People couldn’t get enough of the romance, the period piece, the cinematography, the music, and the romantic tragedy of it all.
It is a story for the ages and remains in the hearts of many. It is one of my favorite movies of all time!
I even got Jack’s mantra: “You jump, I jump” tattooed on my neck as my first tat when I was 18.
Titanic truly holds a special place in the hearts of many, including my own.
After nearly two decades of re-watching it a million times, I have grown to understand who these characters are.
I see them as more than just fictional characters in a story. They are like ordinary people with strengths, weaknesses, struggles, pain, and love. All of which makes them the character they are.
As I got older, I noticed Rose’s mother, Ruth, more often when I watched Titanic. More specifically, who her character was and how toxic she was.
I knew she and Rose always had friction, but why?
Well, Ruth was highly toxic and showcased various toxic femininity traits.
Ruth DeWitt Bukater is one of the most narcissistic, toxic mothers and passive aggressive movie characters out there!
This post will deep dive into the passive aggressive and toxic mom that is Ruth in Titanic.
Ruth Was a Toxic Mother
Ruth Made Everything About Her
There were three different scenes where Ruth was the ultimate narcissist toxic mom.
She cares very much about her image, wealth, and ranking.
You could argue that was all she cared about.
All moms want to help their daughters become kind, thoughtful, good-hearted, and caring women.
Not at the expense of their happiness, though.
Ruth is a very toxic mother.
The first scene I’m referring to is early in the movie.
When Cal (Rose’s wealthy fiance), Rose, her mother, Molly Brown, Mr. Ismay, and Mr. Andrews are together for tea on the deck.
Rose is enmeshed in dull and dry conversation and takes a smoke at their table ( honestly, as much as smoking is gross, I can’t blame her while being stuck looking like a creme puff listening to out-of-touch rich people engage in stuffy dialogue.)
As she gets the cigarette going, Ruth leans over to Rose, saying:
“You know I don’t like that, Rose.”
In response, Rose blows the smoke right in her face.
It is then when Cal whips the cigarette right from her mouth, putting it out, saying:
Ruth doesn’t like smoking, so Rose isn’t allowed to smoke.
End of story.
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Ruth is lacing up Rose’s corset for choir.
Ruth continues to tell Rose how their money is gone.
That their lifestyle can only be preserved if she marries Cal.
Rose’s father, unfortunately, left them nothing but financial ruin.
Ruth says Cal secures their “survival” with their marriage.
In which case, Rose reasonably asks:
“How could you put this on my shoulders?”
“Why are you being so selfish?!”
Rose understandably replies, shook:
“I’m being selfish?!”
Insinuating that Ruth is the selfish one. Which she is. Ruth replies:
“You want to see me working as a seamstress? Is that what you want? To see your fine things sold at auction? All of our memories scattering in the wind?”
Damn, the toxic mom emotional manipulation here is REAL.
Emotionally manipulating someone through guilt is a staple toxic femininity trait.
This statement confirms Ruth isn’t interested in survival but a life of luxury!
So much so she is willing to sacrifice her daughter’s happiness and life to live it.
If she cared about her daughter’s happiness and well-being instead of being a selfish toxic mom, it wouldn’t matter how much money she had or who she married as long as they made her happy and fulfilled.
This would mean she would have to own up to the fact her husband made some shitty financial decisions and live with that baggage herself.
A Common Toxic Mother-Daughter Dynamic
Fortunately, for Ruth’s sake, Rose has a heart and is easily manipulated to please her mother.
As kids and even adults, if we don’t heal, crave our parent’s approval and acceptance, often at the expense of our happiness and well-being.
Narcissistic women like Ruth abuse this love for their benefit ( so f*cking cruel.)
This is the ultimate dynamic of toxic mother-daughter relationships.
Ruth painted a good enough picture of her suffering should Rose not marry Cal; it convinced Rose it would be her fault for her mother and herself living that way if she didn’t marry him.
When in fact, it’s the fault of her mother and father not being responsible with their money, having too big of heads on their shoulders, and blind pride.
Rose was collateral damage, and now Ruth needs her to keep her luxurious lifestyle alive.
Ruth was one narcissistic female.
The toxic femininity is real.
Ruth is the queen of narcissistic gaslighting and one toxic mom.
Rose and Ruth are having afternoon tea with some of their lady friends.
This scene is a little more dreamlike.
It focuses on Rose the whole time as everyone is going along with their business and gossip as usual.
Rose is spacing out when she sees a little girl around nine years old sitting across the room, being corrected for her posture at the tea table by her mother.
While Rose sits in a haze, you can overhear Ruth talking to her friends.
They are discussing Rose’s wedding and all the details.
Ruth explains how much of a nightmare the invitation situation has been in needing to send them out not only once but twice.
She continues complaining about how much of a thing the wedding planning has been for them.
Ruth, the Toxic Mother, and a Narcissistic Woman
Ruth is a highly narcissistic woman; she goes on to complain about the wedding planning in regards to the bridesmaid’s dresses Rose picked, stating:
“Now for the bridesmaid dresses, let me tell you what an odyssey that has been…
…Rose decided that she wanted lavender. She knows I detest that color. She picked it just to spite me.”
Since Ruth comes off as an insecure narcissist, she sees everything as a personal attack on her.
This is a typical narcissist relationship pattern.
It isn’t enough that Rose is marrying a man she doesn’t love, so her mom continues to live her lavish lifestyle; she also has to get approval on what color bridesmaid dress is acceptable to her mother.
She thinks Rose goes about her life with the thought that she is going out of her way just to upset her mother.
However, Rose isn’t an evil or vindictive person whose bitterness is stewing and who constantly makes choices out of spite.
This scene is short yet powerful.
While Rose observed that little girl being directed by her mother on how to sit, she saw herself.
She realized at this moment how much her mother controlled her and her life, how much of a people pleaser she became, lost herself, and therefore, knew it was time to break free from that prison way of living.
Ruth is Two-Faced
This scene doesn’t even involve Rose or how she treated her.
It involves Kathy Bates’s character, the unsinkable Molly Brown.
The first-class passengers on the ship understand that she isn’t always rich due to her husband striking oil later in life.
That being the case, Molly was excellent, empathetic, and down to Earth.
She didn’t fit in with the wealthy crowd since the money didn’t change her.
However, just because she has money now doesn’t mean, in Ruth’s eyes, she was “part of the club.”
Molly Chimes In
Ruth is having tea with a couple of other friends of hers. Ruth says:
“The purpose of a university is to find a suitable husband. Rose has already done that.”
One of them notices Molly is heading their way, saying:
“Oh look, here comes that vulgar Brown woman.”
Which Ruth replies:
“Quickly get up before she sits with us.”
This is when Molly walks up and says:
“Hello girls! I was hoping to catch you at tea.”
“We’re awfully sorry, you missed it. The countess and I were just off to take the air on the boat deck.”
“Oh what a lovely idea I need to catch up on my gossip.”
This is when Ruth sort of begrudgingly steps off with her friends as Molly follows since her sneaky plan to scare her off doesn’t work.
This scene screams the toxic femininity many of us girls experienced in school.
Girls are mean, critical, judgemental, fake, straight-up assholes with a smile.
Luckily, Molly is a lovely and secure woman and doesn’t care.
For Ruth, however, it showcases more common toxic mom behavior.
She’s Passive Aggressive
Passive aggression is a prevalent form of toxic femininity.
Women, in general, are more passive-aggressive because it’s a way we can be aggressive without getting physical.
Especially historically when we didn’t have a ton of power.
It’s psychological warfare. It’s cruel, manipulative, and abusive.
Ruth’s comments were very often dripping with disdain and passive aggression.
Since she is a wealthy woman living in nobility, she wouldn’t be caught dead in a physical catfight or even engage in a heated argument.
She displays this well during the dinner Jack attends with Rose.
You know Ruth is not happy about him or his presence there.
He is, after all, a threat to everything she wants from Rose.
During this dinner, she grills jack in the most passive-aggressive way possible.
Ruth asks questions disguised as a means to create interest in who he is and his experience as an individual.
They are just little jabs at his way of life and character.
Related Reading: Susan Smith⎜The Mother Who Drove Her Kids Into a Lake
Ruth Throws Jabs
“How are the accommodations in steerage, Mr. Dawson? I hear they are quite good on this ship?”
With a smirk on her face, I might add. She’s reminding him that he is not one of them and should feel out of place and remember his place.
Jab number one. She continues:
“How is it you have the means to travel?”
As Jack would say, she wants to remind him and everyone at the table that he is “a poor guy.”
Jab number two.
She keeps going once Jack mentions he lives his life like a gypsy or nomad, saying:
“And you find that sort of rootless existence appealing, do you?”
When you watch the movie, you can tell Molly Brown was shaken; she even came at him with that kind of question at the dinner table.
Reading Between the Lines
She tells him he is simply a homeless mutt that wanders the world. Ruth is a tough crowd, that’s for sure.
What makes this manipulative is she comes off as kind and polite, but her questions are like sharp knives that cut every time they leave her mouth.
This is why it can be so abusive and mean.
You look as if you aren’t mad, but what you say says otherwise.
She doesn’t like Jack, and she is making it known.
Luckily Jack being Jack, he handled her stupid questions like a champ and responded with humor, winning over the whole table by the end:
“Just the other day, I was sleeping under a bridge. Now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people.”
Ruth can never fathom a lifestyle led by faith, not materialism or money.
Something narcissistic women rarely comprehend.
She’s Not Sympathetic
Ruth doesn’t seem to care for anyone but herself and her comfort.
Living in such a wealthy bubble, she never really learned that other people have their thoughts, feelings, and wishes.
She disregards Rose every chance she gets and disregards anyone who isn’t helpful or a nuisance to her endgame.
That is why she couldn’t tolerate Jack.
In this scene, the ship starts to sink very early on.
The first-class passengers got dibs on the lifeboats.
Emergency flares are going off as all the first-class passengers prepare to leave the ship.
Rose, Cal, and Ruth made their way up to the boat deck to wait for a lifeboat when Ruth said:
“Will the lifeboats be sorted according to class?!”I hope they aren’t too crowded.”
Finally, this is when Rose has had enough of her sh*t and says:
“Oh mother, shut up! Don’t you understand?! The water is freezing, and there aren’t enough boats.”
“Not enough by half! Half the people on this ship are going to die.”
A Reality Check…Sort Of
Ruth finally got the reality check she needed.
She quickly disregarded anyone else because, according to Ruth, she was the center of the universe.
All she cared about at that moment was staying with her class and hoping those in steerage wouldn’t rub their poorness on her.
Hoping a lifeboat isn’t too crowded on a sinking ship is the most narcissistic and unsympathetic thing I can think of.
It didn’t even occur to her that people would die; how crazy is that? How self-centered, unaware and PRIVLEDGED can you be to make a statement like that, right? Like good God, man!
Although Rose finally clapped back at her, she realized the dire situation.
She finally came back down to Earth…..a little.
Of course, after this, Rose decides to GTFO out of there and find Jack, the one person who actually knows her and loves her for who she is.
She left Ruth in a desperate attempt to get her back.
Many feel Ruth was upset she was losing her meal ticket out of Rose leaving.
Others feel she had a sense of reality and humanity kicked into her and were upset that her daughter may potentially die on a sinking ship.
I considered how Ruth was demanding Rose get onto the lifeboat and not in a loving way; it was an order; it didn’t feel loving or compassionate.
She needed Rose to live so she could marry Cal and inherit her millions, living amongst the rich and sterile for the rest of her life.
She Had an Agenda
The backstory of Rose was her very wealthy father, who passed and made some shoddy financial investments, leaving Ruth and Rose with massive debts to manage ( f*cking dudes, right? 🙄 ) in a world where women had no rights.
Remember, before the Suffragette movement, if women weren’t wealthy and privileged enough to be educated, they were hookers. That’s all they could do!
To ensure Ruth and Rose didn’t end up in a poor house, according to Ruth, Rose had to marry the rich to ensure they continued living their wealthy, socialite, and luxurious lifestyle.
This is why Cal is in the picture.
The son of a Pittsburgh steel tycoon and rolling in the dough.
Ruth, an older middle-aged woman who only knew of a life of lavish living, was willing to do anything to keep it.
She wanted Rose to marry Cal so they could pick up where they left off after her father died. Pay off their debts and still live the lifestyle she wants.
She used her daughter as a commodity to be bought and sold to ensure their affluent lifestyle.
Regardless of whether it was suitable for Rose or what she wanted.
What Rose wanted didn’t matter. Ruth had the mindset that toxic mothers have: Because they raised you, you are forever indebted to them and owe them ( f*cking horse shit, by the way. Parents don’t own us or our life, remember that!)
Anything less than doing what they want from you is considered selfish and ungrateful ( again, horse shit and just more emotional abuse to manipulate you into doing their bidding.)
Ruth had ammo she used against Rose when Rose had no sense of self or confidence yet to control and manipulate her into doing what she wanted.
This is a sad reality many daughters and mothers experience.
Rose Broke The Cycle
The Liberated State of Mind
After Jack liberated Rose from her imprisoned mindset and lifestyle, she finally understood and saw her mom for what she was.
Rose finally realized that Ruth didn’t love her for who she was but loved what she could offer and provide for her.
Rose didn’t want to live a life trapped with an abusive fiance and mother.
They worked together to keep Rose at bay and control her.
Her mother wanted her to marry Cal, and Cal did his best to keep Rose’s mother happy.
Toxic mother-daughter relationships like the ones between Ruth and Rose are common and often go unnoticed.
Women didn’t have many options at this time. Therefore, they didn’t have the rights or ability to survive without being married in 1912.
According to Ruth, marrying out of security makes perfect sense.
It makes sense that Ruth didn’t understand Rose for not just jumping at the opportunity to marry a millionaire for the ultimate security lifestyle.
Faith Over Fear
Jack: Do you trust me?
Rose: I trust you.
At the end of the day, Rose found herself because she learned to trust herself. She learned that only she would have her best interest at heart and not give her trust, love, and life over to people who don’t deserve it. She learned only to trust those who love her for who she is, not people attempting to control and change her.
Ruth doesn’t realize that Rose doesn’t want to live a life of a silent doll that looks pretty and obeys everyone.
She wanted adventure, love, and a life that was her own, not for others to manipulate her to their will.
In an era of plenty of awareness around toxic masculinity, it’s time we start calling out toxic femininity.
Ruth DeWitt Bukater was an embodiment of toxic femininity. It was the personification of a female praying mantis, and I KNOW there are women in YOUR life who behave the same way. Whether it’s your mom, a sister, a friend, or an in-law, there is no way you haven’t experienced toxic femininity.
In fact, it’s probably been way more prominent in your life than you realize because we’ve been raised in a society where women can do no wrong and toxic feminity doesn’t exist ( literally saw a crappy and clearly triggered post that toxic femininity doesn’t exist ) ironically the very fact that post was written is toxic feminity.
It’s gaslighting and another common emotional abuse tactic predominantly women use ( although more modern men than ever behave this way.)
Next time you watch Titanic, I suggest you try and focus a little more on Rose’s relationship with her mother.
This is a story we can learn from, although it isn’t one of the primary relationships in the story.
Suppose you suspect you have a toxic relationship with your mother and see some parallels between your relationship with your mom and the one Ruth had with Rose. In that case, it may be time to start inspecting that relationship and take action to heal the abuse you underwent.
You won’t be able to change the ways of your mom; only she can do that, but you can have a healthier relationship with yourself and, thus, create healthy boundaries and make the best out of your relationship with your mom.