It’s safe to assume that everyone has heard of the Titanic. Whether the actual ship or the 1997 James Cameron movie based on the historical events of the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage, everyone knows about it, especially with all the media hype it garnered last April due to the centennial of the ship’s sinking.
My question though is why all the hype? I understand the 1997 movie plays a huge part it our collective cultural obsession with the events that took place that cold April night in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but even so, we are all still so dumbfoundedly amazed by the Titanic. For in today’s cultural sphere, the Titanic seems more of a romantic tale of tragedy than just that: a tragedy!
I only bring this up because my Tumblr dashboard is beginning to become filled with post after post of the Titanic and it got me wondering why we romanticize it the way we do. I mean, we romanticize almost to the point in which we forget that thousands of lives were lost. Again, I totally think the movie is to blame, since it is–as Mr. Cameron pitched it–Romeo + Juliet on the Titanic. We probably think more of Jack and Rose’s love affair and how that was affected by the sinking of the ship more so than we think of the actual sinking of the ship when we hear the name Titanic. Then again, the history of the doomed vessel also seems to intrigue a lot of people.
I think there are a lot of reasons why we romanticize the Titanic. For one, it seems to be dubbed as the most amazing ship to ever grace this Earth. That sort of luxury does lend itself to the romanticism of the era. Then again, this leads back to class, and those who romanticize (for the purpose of this post, they will be referred to as a collective “we”) the ship often forget that in 1912 there was a rigid class structure in society. First Class rarely ever mingled with Second Class and Third Class. And because of this romantic notion of luxury, we forget the other two classes altogether, which diminishes the memory that out of all the souls who perished the majority of them were Second and Third Class passengers.
The notion of its unsinkability, whether accurate or not, also lends itself to our romantic views. The Titanic was suppose to be unsinkable; how could this have happened? The fact that the ship never completed its maiden voyage lends itself to the ideas and thoughts of “well what if?” What if it never struck the iceberg, or a more plausible what if (since everyone seems to like the idea of it hitting the iceberg), what if there were more lifeboats? What if they loaded more passengers into said lifeboats? What if the California didn’t shut off their responders for the night? What if there was another boat much closer than the Carpathia that came to save them all? What if the water wasn’t so cold? What if Rose never jumped off the lifeboat? What if she stayed on and Jack was about to find the door panel and survive? What if–in all Mythbusterness–they tied Rose’s life vest to the bottom of the door, which allowed them both to lay on the door safely and in turn both survived?
Okay, I know I’m getting ridiculous here, but all these what ifs do lead us to replay the scenarios how we think we know happened and dream up stories to make the tragedy less of a tragedy. I feel like that’s what people are beginning to do with 9/11, to which Tumblr users have also taken the advantage of posting picture of the burning and/or falling of the Twin Towers, like that’s something that’s so romantic. But people do it anyway, which just seems so odd. (I suppose it seems even odder to me, born and raised in NYC, I remember exactly where I was, what lengths it took to get home from school, the sound of the fighter jets circling the island all day and night, the smell of burning debris…everything. The idea of that being romanticized in anyway seems so weird to me.)
I suppose this is how people cope with the idea of something so tragic happening? Granted, I think there’s a sense of detachedness as well. Those clearly unaffected by such tragedies try to place themselves there, except place themselves there and survive. Like this whole idea of a Titanic II. An almost exact replica of the RMS Titanic, the Titanic II will be a cruise ship where people can experience how it must have felt to be on the Titanic. That’s like romanticizing to the extreme, don’t you think?