Paper on Titanic in popular culture


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Allison Lane

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Hi everyone!

I am super excited--I get to write another term paper on the Titanic. This time it's for a class on Contemporary America, and my professor has okayed my wish to write my paper on the Titanic as viewed through popular American culture. So I figured I'd come over here and float some ideas and stuff.

I'm going to stick with movies made about the Titanic, and my professor says they have to be American movies, so does that count A Night To Remember out? (Wasn't it a British production?) And I'm actually wondering if I should just stick to James Cameron's movie alone, since I plan to explore stuff like why he would choose to make his movie at that particular point in time, how it was made reflects on American culture at that time, historical accuracy vs. storytelling, and the like. I'm thinking that applying those questions to only the Cameron movie might provide enough fodder for a 12-15 page paper. Anyone think I should include others? (I'm fixing to head over to the Internet Movie Database to get a good list.)

Also, this is probably me being uppity, but I would like to write my paper with the aim of getting it published here, like my previous paper was. If anyone thinks this is a bad idea, please let me know.
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If anyone has comments or suggestions or wants to point me in the direction of a good source of information, I would greatly appreciate it.


-Allison L.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Allison,

The only bad idea is the one never presented. ;) As an editor and writer, I feel an impulse to respond here, so please bear with me.

I'm afraid that ANTR is, in fact, a British movie (strange. Wasn't there a similar debate regarding the ownership of Titanic - British or American?). Still, you have a lot to work with while dealing with just the American movies, and there four or five. You could possibly talk about how Americans have perceived Titanic and then show how the movies reflect and cater to those perceptions. You may also include the perpetuation of Titanic myth as carried on through Titanic movies and how those myths affect popular perception. I guarantee you that a lot of how Americans today see the Titanic is due to the story's portrayal in the movies, which are a major influence in today's world. Finally, another idea could be how Hollywood sensationalizes the Titanic. You could discuss how and why Hollywood does this as opposed dealing strictly with fact. Many reasons for this last one have been discussed here on these forums, so you can obtain countless sources from here and then add your own perspective, which is encouraged above all.

As for dealing with Cam's movie alone, you wouldn't want to restrict yourself, as his movie tells only part of the story, so-to-speak. If you develop general points that aren't pertinent to one particular movie, you can extract and present examples from all the American movies to substantiate your points.

Just so you don't forget any of the American movies, here's a list:

1) Titanic (1953) - Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb, Robert Wagner, and Audrey Dalton.

2) SOS Titanic (1979) - Susan Saint James, David Warner.

3) Titanic(1996) - a two-parter starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, George C. Scott, Roger Rees, Marrilou Henner, and Peter Gallagher.

4) Titanic(1997) - Cameron's version, starring Leo DiCaprio, Kate Winslett, and Billy Zane.

5) There was also one about a stewardess. I can't remember the title, but you can do a search on half-ebay or Amazon, and you'll find it. It was late-1990s, I think.

There were also countless television references, including Time Tunnel, from the 1960s, which entertained the story of a man (James Darren) who went back into time to try to prevent the disaster. However, if you wish to stick strictly to the movies, then the above list is your best bet.

Glad I could help. Take care and good luck.
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Mark Hopkins
Senior Creative Nonfiction Editor
River Walk Journal
http://www.riverwalkjournal.org

Department Exec and Senior Fiction Editor
Entertainment, Literary Works, and Journalism
The Cheers
http://www.thecheers.org
 
Jun 12, 2004
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ADDENDUM:

Ooops! I almost forgot Raise the Titanic (1980). This work wasn't actually about the Titanic or its story, but, as the title suggests, the main feature was a fully-intact ship that supposedly held plutonium in its cargo hold. This was, of course, before the ship was found in 1985, so there was an ongoing belief that the ship had sunk in one piece. Still, you may discuss this belief and use examples from this movie to substantiate that point.

Take care
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--Mark
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Allison!

Mark pretty well covered the subject. I would only add a few films that, although they aren't specifically about the Titanic, borrow heavily from the Titanic's story and legend. They are: "The Poseidon Adventure," "The Last Voyage," and "The Cassandra Crossing" - which is horrid, but it does include Straus surrogates.

You might try to track down a copy of Rod Serling's Night Gallery episode, "The Lone Survivor." It should be out on DVD by now.

There was also a 50s television series, "You Are There," hosted by Walter Cronkite, where reporters would do "interviews" with people (actors, really) involved in historical events as they were happening. He did one on the Titanic, but I don't have a clue as to its availability. If anybody here does know, I'd love to hear from them.

Best wishes with your project!

Roy
 
Jun 12, 2004
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The title of that fifth movie, about the stewardess, is The Chambermaid on the Titanic (VHS release, 1999), starring Olivier Martinez and Romane Bohinger.

There is also a movie called Titanic Chronicles (VHS release, 1999), which, believe it or not, is a re-enactment that revolves around the American Inquiry. This stars Titanic veterans Marilou Henner and Tim Curry (both of the two-part 1996 Titanic).

As of this point, there are no other American movies on the Titanic. Roy's suggestions on TV references are excellent ones. Please look into them, although I'm not sure I'd agree with The Poseidon Adventure (1971), Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1978-9), The Last Voyage (1960), and Cassandra Crossing (date unknown). Although they were no doubt inspired by the Titanic story, they are not Titanic. However, some of the myths, attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs revolving around the Titanic may have influenced these movies, such as, for example, the argument between the Captain of the Poseidon (Leslie Nielsen) and the 'company rep' over speed. This obviously mirrors that supposed 'discussion' between Captain Smith and Ismay regarding the speed of the Titanic. This is just one of many possible references. I hope it inspires you.
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Take care.

Mark
 
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Allison Lane

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Thanks so much, guys!

I was indeed planning to examine the Titanic as a kind of modern myth perpetuated by the media, since the basic set rule for the paper is to analyze a thing or era based on how popular culture sees it. And I am hoping to use the forum to help me, though my professor and I aren't really sure how to credit that in a bibliography, and I'm afraid I would get accused of stealing ideas and the like.

>>As for dealing with Cam's movie alone, you wouldn't want to restrict yourself, as his movie tells only part of the story, so-to-speak. If you develop general points that aren't pertinent to one particular movie, you can extract and present examples from all the American movies to substantiate your points.<<

This is true. However, I'm afraid that if I decided to tackle all the movies in turn, the paper would swell into something resembling a doctoral thesis.
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Maybe I just need to rethink my format. And jeesh, why am I already stressing, the thing's just barely been assigned.
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>>There is also a movie called Titanic Chronicles (VHS release, 1999), which, believe it or not, is a re-enactment that revolves around the American Inquiry. This stars Titanic veterans Marilou Henner and Tim Curry (both of the two-part 1996 Titanic).<<

You know, I saw that on the IMDB and was wondering about it--I thought perhaps someone had just taken scenes from the TV movie and compressed them into some kind of short documentary. (Is that actually the case, or not?)

Thanks muchly thus far and I'm sure I'll be here quite a bit over the course of the semester.
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-Allison L.
 

John Clifford

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Hi Allison. Good luck on your project.

Another area of Titanic's influence, that you might want to include, is how Titanic was used in humor, especially in television sit-coms.
For reference, you can look up the "TV One Liners" thread in the Titanic on TV topics page; included in that discussion are the various one liners we remembered hearing.
 
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>>You know, I saw that on the IMDB and was wondering about it--I thought perhaps someone had just taken scenes from the TV movie and compressed them into some kind of short documentary. (Is that actually the case, or not?)<<

You know, that's one thing about which I am uncertain, as I haven't had the chance to see it yet, although I am determined to, so I can't really say. It's an interesting thought, though. If you find any information on that while doing your research, be sure to share? I'd be grateful. I'll also do likewise.

Take care

--Mark
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Mark!

>>Although they were no doubt inspired by the Titanic story, they are not Titanic.

Just so, Mark. And that's precisely why I mentioned them. :)

>>Another area of Titanic's influence . . . that you might want to include, is how Titanic was used in humor, especially in television sit-coms.

Hi, John!

Yes, yes, yes!

And just today our newspapers carried an op-ed piece by Paul Krugman with the following quote (N.B.--I do not want to veer off into a debate of contemporary politics!):

"There's an iceberg in front of us, all right. And Bush wants us to steam right into it, full speed ahead."

Krugman didn't even have to mention the Titanic and it's obvious to everybody what he's referring to. Look for more examples of the same thing -- they're all over the place.

Roy
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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I think there's virtually a book in and of itself examining the political jibes, both in print (e.g. cartoons) and in verbal quibs! Years ago, when we were working out a few lines for our State Minister to use in Parliament, the media advisor suggested one referring to the Titanic (something along the lines of remarking that X had the look of the Captain of the Titanic). I thought it rather flat and a bit trite, and in the end it wasn't used.

Good luck in your paper, Allison! It's certainly a fertile ground for exploration.
 
May 1, 2004
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There's a book called "Down with the Old Canoe" by Steven Biel (W.W. Norton, 1996) that discusses how the disaster was treated in American culture.

The Titanic sinking seems to be a standard icon for newspaper cartoonists whenever a political or major technical disaster occurs. (Nixon's resignation or the Challenger blowing up) I think I've seen our former Prime Minister's [of Canada] face jutting out from the bow of the ship - or was it chisled on the iceberg?

I hope we'll be allowed to read your paper after submission.

Marilyn P.
 
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Allison Lane

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Hi guys--

Some updates related to my paper:

I am attempting to compile a list of questions for a survey-type thing I intend to give to people I know, dealing with how movies on the Titanic (specifically the Cameron one I suppose, since it'll be the only one most people nowadays have seen) have influenced their view of the actual historical event, and I would very much like suggestions.
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The only ones I've been able to formulate so far have to do with the issue of class (as in, "were you even aware there was a second class?") and whether or not Murdoch committed suicide.

Also--I don't know if this is taboo or not here, but as I can't afford to buy my own copies of the movies, would anyone be able to make me some? I have only Cameron's film and need the 1950s "Titanic", SOS Titanic, Raise the Titanic, and that 1996 miniseries.


-Allison L.
 
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