Doug Palumbo wrote:This thread is funny but I really dont understand the ongoing mystique surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. Poor seamanship coupled with a flawed design/reportedly substandard materials sank the ship. What is the draw to the story?
By the way, I didn't like the movie either. You knew from the start Jack was doomed to die in the sinking and any sence of romance or wonder was heavy handed and carefully marketed. Boo James Cameron.
I've been a Titanic
nut since I was a kid. The wreck was found the year I was born. Bob Ballard was one of my childhood heroes. I went to see the movie not to see the love story (basically, two kids get 1996 get dolled up in Edwardian garb and have a forbidden romance - and oh yeah, there's some kind of tragedy in the background) but to see the ship itself.
For me, the appeal of Titanic
boils down to a couple of things.
1. It's a tragedy. There have been larger marine disasters with a with higher death tolls since (Willhelm Gustloff
) or losses that forced governments and shipbuilders to take a hard look at design standards (Empress of Ireland
) or sinkings that evoked similar shock and outrage (Lusitania
) but Titanic
still has a special allure. Most sinkings are preventable, but few can be considered events that brought such a sense of vulnerability to the fore. When an unsinkable technical marvel goes down on its first outing and takes a thousand-odd souls with her it tends to leave a mark. Especially when it's learned that it could have been lessened, if not prevented outright. The sinking was a slap in the face to people living in an age of prosperity and dizzying scientific and industrial advances.
2. The era. Though it doesn't have the same allure (or widespread recognition) of the Victorian Era, the Edwardian years still resonate in the public conscience as the last hurrah of a more genteel time. Consider that if Titanic
had reached New York most of the men aboard would, in a few years, be gassing, bayoneting, and trench-clubbing their way into stalemate along the Western Front. Similar periods (at least in perception) in American history would likely be the antebellum South and the Big Crash in 1929; even if you weren't directly involved, you felt it, and nothing was quite the same afterwards.
3. The romance of the event, as related to Point No. 2. Something about the call of 'women and children first' and well-bred society men in fine dress standing aside to meet death with a straight face appeals to people. This plays into the occasionally dangerous nostalgia that 'things were better back then', but it's nonetheless an interesting comparison to look at what the well-to-do are doing today and wonder doubtfully if they'd show similar nobility under like circumstances. For me, I find it dubious that any
class would today, but it's an interesting mental exercise. There's also the question of how you
personally would comport yourself had you been there, knowing you had perhaps two hours left to live. It's a measuring stick of sorts.
4. The time-capsule factor. Perhaps moreso than any other maritime disaster, Titanic
was a microcosm of its time. It presents one of the rare occasions in history where you have people from every stratum of society in such a confined space; all nostalgia aside, the Era was still fairly well segregated along class lines. The concept of taking a little of everything and putting it all together adds more heft to the event. Unlike, say, a coal-mining strike that affected mine owners first and consumers eventually, or the financial ruination of a 'good' family, Titanic
is an event that pushes all the buttons at once. Conveniently, the major aspects of the event all play out across a few hours in the middle of the night. From a dramatic standpoint that's pretty heady stuff - no time to adapt, no time to make any long term plans, just time to act.
5. From an engineering standpoint Titanic was (roughly) the equivalent of a space shuttle or perhaps a very large airliner. Not only does the scale and the function impress, but the nuts and bolts operation of the thing. Layer that with the luxuries and amenities available to the upper classes, the workmanship of the age (most everything crafted by hand) and the considerable prestige of liners at the time and you've got a goldmine for engineers, architects, and gearheads.
6. The loss of the ship itself. Sinking in two miles of water in the North Atlantic meant that, once gone, Titanic
might as well have been on the surface of the moon. Not forgotten, not disappeared, but so far out of reach that the odds of ever seeing her again weren't worth betting.
7. The discovery itself is a pretty fair drama in its own right.
8. James Cameron. I have mixed feelings on this one; I appreciate the sheer amount of research and time that went into his recreation of the ship, but it bothers me that he took all that and opted to center it all on a pair of teenagers. Given the death toll, the physical cost of the ship and the loss at its sinking, and the psychological blow to society at large I find it difficult to care much for two fictional characters stealing away for some forbidden dirtyfuntime down in the cargo holds. Walter Lord's A Night to Remember
and The Night Lives On
do a much better job of bringing the scope and tragedy of the thing into focus. Admittedly an unfair comparison given that Lord was hamstrung by sticking to facts, but overall I felt that Cameron's movie missed the mark.