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Can we just please sink the Titanic once and for all? | Cat

 
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:30 am    Post subject: Can we just please sink the Titanic once and for all? | Cat Reply with quote

div class="track"img alt="" src="http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.22.4/55422?ns=guardianpageName=Can+we+just+please+sink+the+Titanic+once+and+for+all%3F+%7C+Catherine+Bennet%3AArticle%3A1722322ch=Comment+is+freec3=Obsc4=Titanic+%28News%29%2CJulian+Fellowes%2CJames+Cameron+%28Film%29c5=Unclassified%2CNot+commercially+usefulc6=Catherine+Bennettc7=12-Mar-25c8=1722322c9=Articlec10=Commentc11=Comment+is+freec13=c25=Comment+is+freec30=contentc42=Comment+is+freeh2=GU%2FComment+is+free%2FComment+is+free%2Fblog%2FComment+is+free" width="1" height="1" //divp class="standfirst"The usual obsessing over the disaster has reached unfathomable depths for its 100th anniversary/ppLook at the BBC's Titanicem /emscheduling and you can't help wondering if the corporation has done enough to own the great heritage disaster. True, it is working hard to prevent Julian Fellowes commandeering the wreck in its entirety, given the perfect fit between the horrifying mass drowning and his signature, vintage melodrama. In its offering emTitanic with Len Goodman/em, for instance, BBC viewers will see the emStrictly/em celebrity travel all over the shop, "to discover how the impact of the Titanic disaster is still felt today"./ppPrincipally, of course, the disaster is still felt today courtesy of James Cameron – his 1997 film updated for the anniversary in glorious 3D – and his rival, Julian Fellowes, who describes the sinking as "the perfect disaster in a very compact form". Almost too compact, in that it unfolded more quickly than his TV series. His ingenious solution is to sink the ship at the end of each episode, starting tonight, so as to allow the tragedy to be savoured, from very different perspectives, four times in as many weeks. It seems a fair guess that we will discover that rich Edwardians had a better time of being sunk than did poor ones, as well as prettier frocks, although snobbery, true love and extremes of valour/cowardice will be shown, through the magic of Fellowes, to thrive in every social class./ppThe BBC response is a courtroom drama based on transcripts which tells, perhaps more tastefully, "the story of the official British inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic". Other Titanic treats include a "commemoration in music and film", including massed choir performances, a documentary which details some lawsuit "the owners of Titanic didn't want you to know", emA History of the Titanic in 30 Pieces/em, featuring relevant objects, a emSongs of Praise/em, a emBlue Peter/em with "forgotten stories of the children who survived". Then on the day, there will be lavish news coverage including broadcasts – in finest BBC sad voices – "from the exact spot where the Titanic sank"./ppMeet, once again, the ship they said was unsinkable. Or did they? Anyway: hubris! High society. Class. That staircase! Only two bathrooms in third. Eeeuw. The shortage of lifeboats. Maritime law reform. Women and children first? Edwardian chivalry. That cowardly owner. The band playing on. Though its final choice of tune is contested. We'll go with "Nearer, My God to Thee". Screams. Silence. The end, bow first. The news spread by wireless telegraph. The myth takes hold…/ppIs it too much to hope for Huw Edwards at the exact spot, curled up inside an unsinkable bathysphere? For, plainly, the anniversary has been designated one of those national moments, like the Olympics or the coming jubilee, when the premise for celebration – sorry, commemoration – is not even in doubt. Just as there will be no visible republicans for the duration of the jubilee, the BBC can hardly compromise its own exhaustive contributions to Titanic mythology with Titanic doubts about the significance of a catastrophe, whose celebrity disaster status surely owes as much to the whims of James Cameron and the trade in Titanic trophies, as to its maritime replaying of the Icarus story. The Challenger and Hindenburg tragedies are equally, for the Icarus-minded, fine examples of human pride and ambition brought low, but even a Cameron or Fellowes might hesitate to turn those death agonies to artful, tragic effect./pp/pp/ppIf the scale of mortality is what has reserved for the Titanic disaster – along with its temporal compactness – the compliment of a BBC mini-season, this has not, strikingly, been the response to the sinking, say, of the a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/lancastria_01.shtml" title=""Lancastria/a, whose bombing in 1940 caused the death of more than 5,000. When the 70th anniversary of its loss was commemorated two years ago with a wreath-laying off Saint Nazaire, the daughter of one victim said: "We continue to try to raise awareness of this previously forgotten part of our history."/ppYou could argue, then, that there is something worthy and respectful about the sale of commemorative Titanic bathplugs and the endless re-examination of the Titanic's tragedy, in Len Goodman's programme and docudramas such as Channel 5's emInside the Titanic/em, replete with howls of agony, love interest, remarks such as "this can't be happening" and a narrative pointing up various ironies. For instance, intoned as the innocent passengers sleep: "No one yet knows that the great ship's fate is now sealed."/ppBut even in 1912 Joseph Conrad recoiled from the Titanic fixation. "What are they after?" he asked, when the American Senate sought to attribute blame. "What is there for them to find out? We know what had happened. The ship scraped her side against a piece of ice, and sank after floating for two hours and a half, taking a lot of people down with her."/ppAs now, the press were thrilled by the ship's size, its splendour, vast hull – the very features Conrad blamed for its fate. "A great babble of news and eager comment has arisen around this catastrophe," he wrote, "though it seems to me that a less strident note would have been more becoming in the presence of so many victims left struggling on the sea, of lives miserably thrown away for nothing, or worse than nothing: for false standards of achievement, to satisfy a vulgar demand of a few moneyed people for a banal hotel luxury."/ppLater, the overheated, borderline-ghoulish fascination in the Titanic story did dissipate and become – like a matchstick specialism or intense interest in the demographics of Middle Earth – if not a marker of creepiness, an instant quirky-alert. What kind of person considers the exact disposition of the Titanic's lifeboats in the moments before she went down a fun leisure interest? OK, Fellowes, obviously. But when the a href="http://www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum/" title=""National Maritime Museum/a put salvaged relics on display in 1994, that kind of curiosity was still considered trivial enough for relatives and enthusiasts to complain of insensitivity and grave robbery. On 8 April Fred Olsen Cruises launches its memorial cruise to the wreck site, for tourists wanting to combine moments of solemn empathy with world-class cuisine./ppWhether the passage of time or Cameron's hysteria-inducing blockbuster has blunted sensibilities, a long-time hobbyist such as a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jan/20/robin-gibb-titanic-victims-classical-piece-1" title=""Robin Gibb, composer of a Titanic requiem/a, can now disclose a passion for Titanic relics and an "interest bordering on obsession". Fellowes, too, outs himself as a proud "a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/04/titanoraks-titanic-julian-fellowes-itv" title=""Titanorak/a" – who must in that case curse his bad luck in having met Emma Kitchener-Fellowes too early to marry, as others are queueing to do, on the replica grand staircase inside the new a href="http://www.nmni.com/titanic" title=""Titanic Belfast museum/a./ppIt will help Belfast, obviously, if the Titanic cult is strong enough to outlive this anniversary. The more Titanoraks there are, the sooner the museum justifies this £60m public investment in a replacement association for the less compact horrors of the Troubles. And maybe other disasters could benefit? Don't just "fall in love again with Titanic", as Cameron's advertisement urges. There are plenty more catastrophes in history. If only they'd had better clothes./pdiv class="related" style="float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;"ullia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-titanic"The Titanic/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/julian-fellowes"Julian Fellowes/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/jamescameron"James Cameron/a/li/ul/divdiv class="author"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/catherinebennett"Catherine Bennett/a/divbr/div class="terms"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk"guardian.co.uk/a copy; 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our a href="http://users.guardian.co.uk/help/article/0,,933909,00.html"Terms Conditions/a | a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/help/feeds"More Feeds/a/divp style="clear:both" /

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