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The Titanic’s Centenary

April 3, 2012

As everybody in Britain is probably aware, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a tragedy that continues to capture the public’s imagination a century on.

I’m no different. I’ve always been fascinated and terrified by the Titanic disaster. Either I went down with a ship in a past life or perhaps I just watched The Poiseidon Adventure too young (I did – most of my adult traumas can be traced back to those damn 70s disaster movies) but few things can provoke the heebs in me like a sinking ship can.

This is why 2012 finds me channel-skipping with frequent horror over the many costume dramatisations, and ads for that bloody Cameron film in 3D that have appeared on television in ‘homage’ to the tragic event.

Now, whilst I watch with interest any documentaries about the sinking or subsequent exploration of the wreck site, I’m sure I can’t be alone in finding dramatisations of the event insensitive. The box-office-smashing film is, in my opinion, the main offender. The Hollywood bigwigs make millions by inventing some improbable fictitious love story, complete with priceless necklace, nudie sketches and Celine Dion wailing slappably away in the background, but this event is a real, historical tragedy still (just about) in living memory. I suppose it’s the same with the second world war and any other terrible historical event that has stories written about it to ‘humanise’ it for viewers, but there’s something about Titanic that bothers me the most. Maybe because it’s my own personal fear to be trapped on a sinking ship, but also perhaps because dramatisations seem to glamourise the event just so much. Musicians playing whilst the ship goes down does posses an undeniable element of grim romance but please don’t undermine the utter horror of it, and don’t belittle what a traumatic event that it would have been to die in or live through. The fact that it was (any negligence arguments and so on aside) a freak accident that happened to unsuspecting people at a time that should have been wonderful for them, in an isolated and alien location, only makes it more shocking.

It just seems to me that whilst the Titanic tale is a fascinating and cautionary one, it is inappropriate to make money from it or reduce it to evening entertainment, especially given how relatively recently it occurred.

This past few weeks I’ve been having quite a few of the type of nightmares that I call ‘gifts’. By that I mean that I suffer through them whilst unconscious but then wake up with fully formed short stories in my head that pretty much just need writing up. Last night’s was a disturbing little tale relating to this centenary vogue for all things Titanic. I’m going to write it, because I’ve thought of it so now it has to come out, but even though it’s of suitably disapproving tone, I’m still not sure where the place for a story like that would be. It seems almost immoral to ‘cash in’ (not that the life of an amateur writer involves much cash!) on the tragedy, and yet the ITV-drama-hating part of me really wants to put across the alternative viewpoint I’ve just described above, and now is certainly the interest-peak time to do it.

Any bright ideas for a home for this story? I’m almost considering a one-off e-story publication with any profits made going to the RNLI, but I’m not sure it’d be viable. How about I just request here that next time you see a Lifeboat collection box you remember this blog post and drop a few coins in for the Titanic?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2012 11:56 am

    I find myself in agreement, Die. Remember that film from a mini-sub that went through the wreck of the Titanic? I found it so disturbing, I had to switch it off: and I’m rarely taken like that. As for the films and all the cash-ins around at the moment – not only am I bored to the back-teeth by it, I find them all very disrespectful – although I also find it strange that the Twin Towers tragedy is already being used in television shows to lend a little tragic glamour to some character. (His/her spouse/son/daughter died in the Towers, y’know – cue yearning, troubled look from said character.)
    Even when something happened hundreds of years ago, the first thing to get clear in your head is that it wasn’t a good story – it really happened to real people.

    • April 15, 2012 11:04 am

      Was that Ghosts of the Abyss? I’ve not actually watched it because although the actual documentary element of it interests me, the title puts me off a lot.
      I agree with finding all the cash-ins disrespectful. The same goes for the Twin Towers – of course it was only a matter of (very brief) time before they started seeing the ‘action movie’ or as you say ‘instant emoting’ potential in that.
      I think anyone fictionalising a real-life tragedy for entertainment purposes needs to be very, very careful about how they do it and the message they’re putting across. The story I dreamt had to do with people ‘roleplaying’ the sinking of the Titanic as part of a themed dinner party, but I’ve found out since that that’s really happened http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/full-throttle-ahead-for-voyage-of-the-titanoraks-7627521.html, which makes me feel a bit sick.

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