Quantcast

Titanic: the unsinkable cultural phenomenon

Published: Monday, April 16 2012 10:34 a.m. MDT

Passengers participate in a memorial service, marking the 100th year anniversary of the Titanic disaster, aboard the MS Balmoral Titanic memorial cruise ship, at the wreck site in the North Atlantic Ocean, early Sunday, April 15, 2012. Cruise ship passengers and crew said prayers Sunday at the spot in the North Atlantic where the Titanic sank 100 years ago with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press

Related article: Utah man follows passion for Titanic history

Related article: Free Lunch: Legacy of Titanic's only Utahn will be passed down for generations

Related top list: Tragedy remembered: Artifacts tell stories of life aboard the Titanic

Commemorations over the weekend marked the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic, the massive ship that crashed into an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York Harbor, killing 1,517 people.

One hundred years later, the event is still a source of fascination in American culture. And thanks to the anniversary, the unsinkable ship that sunk has re-emerged as a talking point in the media.

"Titanic," the 1997 feature film that won 11 Academy Awards and became the second-highest-grossing movie of all time, was re-released in 3D in theaters last week. It is currently in third place at the box office.

Why are so many people — viewers of the film and voyeurs of the actual event —captivated by a hundred-year-old tragedy?

A new study reported by the Atlantic may help explain some of the enduring fascination, at least for the movie. An article published in Communication Research said watching tragedy on film can actually make viewers happier, because it calls attention to the happy aspects of their own lives.

"Tragic stories often focus on themes of eternal love," the study's lead researcher said in a statement, according to the Atlantic, "and this leads viewers to think about their loved ones."

But while "Titanic" the movie has retained cultural resonance after 15 years, relics of the events themselves are treasured too, after a century.

The Los Angeles Times, in a feature on Wednesday, reported that a number of cities and museums are generating traffic thanks to Titanic-related material. Halifax, Nova Scotia, where some Titanic passengers are buried, hosts tourists who come to see the rows of graves marked April 15, 1912, according to the Times. Titanic-related exhibits are currently on display in Las Vegas, San Diego, Branson, Mo., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. And a New York auction house is expecting to claim millions after selling 5,500 artifacts from the ship itself.

Some experts, the Times reported, think the crash holds so much interest because of the grandeur of the ship and the extreme wealth of the passengers. Others insist the fascination lies in the story's undercurrents: that the flashiest of new technologies can be brought down by the simple power of nature, or how survivors cope with that degree of tragedy.

Whatever the underlying cause, "Titanic-itis" is widespread. In Davis, Calif., for example, a regional theater company is staging the Broadway show, "Titanic: the Musical," through May 6. And on April 14, the anniversary date of the crash, the audience will enjoy an 11-course feast replicating the last meal on the ship, according to the Suisun City Patch.

"At each performance audiences will be assigned the name of a passenger aboard the ill-fated ship with a short bio on the passenger, what class they traveled in and the chance to see if their passenger survived," reported the Patch.

Related article: Utah man follows passion for Titanic history

Related article: Free Lunch: Legacy of Titanic's only Utahn will be passed down for generations

Related top list: Tragedy remembered: Artifacts tell stories of life aboard the Titanic

EMAIL: lmarostica@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS