Why we can’t get enough of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s enduring friendship

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On Monday Kate Winslet granted the secret wishes of Titanic fans everywhere when she confirmed that she and her former co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, quote lines from the movie to one another. Winslet spilled the precious gossip in an interview in this month’s Glamour.

“I’m not going to tell you what we actually talk about, but yeah, we’re very, very close and sometimes we do quote the odd Titanic line back and forth to each other, because only we can, and we find it really funny.”

The co-stars, who, are also best friends, were photographed earlier this month holidaying together at DiCaprio’s villa in St Tropez. Seeing photos of the pair swimming side by side at the pool, him in his board shorts, her in a fluoro bikini with a white shirt over the top, gave us all a warm fuzzy feeling, bound up in the haze of nostalgia.

Titanic was, in 1998, the biggest selling movie of all time, combining heart-tugging romance against the backdrop of real-life tragedy. It was Gone With the Wind for Generation X and quickly catapulted its two stars out of indie movie obscurity and deep into the froth of superstardom.

But there is something else about their friendship, documented time and again in women’s magazines and websites, that gladdens us.

Could it be the idea that DiCaprio, who has a long track record for dating models under the age of 25 who are either blonde or fresh from the Victoria’s Secret show, (and often both), might still find value in a woman who is, at 42, only a year older than him? A woman who is opinionated, especially when it comes to body image; a peer, who won an Oscar before he did.

Winslet, the English mother-of-three, whom we believe to be a non-nonsense, intelligent woman, lends DiCaprio, the single, tan actor with the boyish face and Dad-Bod, who used to refer to his entourage as “the p—sy posse” a certain credibility.

When we see them together, we remember Titanic and how young we were to believe only one person could fit on that door, but might this also be quickly followed by … relief? Might we also say to ourselves “Well, how much of a misogynist can he really be, if Kate Winslet is his bestie?” We see them in their swimmers and imagine her gently roasting him in a half-maternal, half-sisterly way.

“Come on now darling, put your sunscreen on, you might be dating 18-year-olds but you’re not getting any younger!’

To which his band of semi-famous bro-dudes might collectively utter “oohh” and pause, momentarily, from throwing topless models into the pool, to wait in anxious anticipation of how Leo might respond.

Then DiCaprio might raise his eyebrows in that Jack Nicholson way, and laugh, heartily at himself, while perhaps sipping from his third mai tai, because only Kate can get away with saying that stuff.

It’s a projection, a fantasy, but does that make it any less familiar? And it is a very familiar trope right now. The idea that there’s only one woman an emotionally stunted man might take seriously, thereby neutralising his reputation as a man who views women only in a certain light; a man who is blind to the value of women beyond the ornamental.

Who could forget this tweet from Donald Trump?

Or when Tony Abbot’s wife, Margie, told 60 Minutes in 2013 that her husband lived alongside “a strong capable woman, and he has played a large part in raising three beautiful young women … three daughters who are leading the life for whom feminists aspire.”

The implication in both cases being that if a man is surrounded by such virtuous women, he can’t possibly maintain his misogyny, or his greater reputation of villainy. They function as his feminist compass, pushing him to tune in to the better angels of his nature.

Haven’t we all come across that guy? He’s a player, but he loves his mum. Or, he frequents strip bars, but he’s still best friends with that girl he grew up with on the farm. Or, he has no respect for his female boss but he loves his daughter more than words. How can he be a sexist if [insert close relationship with female here]?

The answer is, quite easily.

It’s not the proximity of women to the sexist man but how he classifies the women he knows. Elevating a woman so she may function as an externalisation of your conscience is a tidy way of viewing her only in regards to yourself.

Drawing distinctions between the bitch at work and your princess at home means you view neither as a whole person. The Madonna-whore complex is not merely limited to Freudian analysis. It occupies the very atmosphere in which we live. If you doubt this, you might look at how little impact such views have on how men gain and maintain power. Misogyny has thus far not prevented any man from being, at least momentarily, king of the world.

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