All Things to All People
Typing ‘titanic‘ into Google will return well over 20 millions results. With this snapshot alone it is easy to see that she was always far more than a mere shipping incident.
Having done my fair share of travelling in my time, and more often or not wherever I visit – Orlando, London, Belfast, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, etc. – I am not long standing by a hotel check-in desk until my eyes are drawn to those banks of leaflets and flyers that all tourists love. One will catch my attention particularly: a photograph of the Titanic, either in her prime, or of her decaying wreck. Her outline of four yellow and black-topped funnels are as recognisable to us all, as any of the best corporate logos. But this is no logo. It is the haunting profile of a ship that had not only piqued my own interest over two decades previous, but follows me everywhere I travel and to my continued surprise learn there is yet another Titanic artefact exhibition in town.
But what is this global fascination about the Titanic? And why do I any many others have walls lined with over countless books on the subject? I certainly have no idea exactly how my interest in Titanic was sparked, but I do when and that I have spent many hours over the past 20 years researching it.
Until James Cameron’s movie, possessing an interest in Titanic was a very solitary affair. No more than a fringe curiosity, and one that was only explored in a tucked away shelf in a specialist bookshop. But since 1997, everyone interested in the genre either before or following that moment, poured out of the woodwork and my private obsession was in fact, what it was to my eyes at the time, shared by most everyone else too. I was both amazed and disappointed that my own specialist interest was in fact an incredibly mainstream one.
But that got me thinking. Titanic is certainly far more than movie fans simply jumping on the latest bandwagon and wanting to learn all there was to know about the ship behind a tragic tale of forbidden love. Yet for some reason this is a ship whose story all of us somehow know all about. That It is instilled in us from birth. It takes more than 11 Oscar nods to embed an event into modern psyche, yet it’s neither the film nor the books, it is the monument to and the last act great of chivalry, that took place that fateful night in April 1912: the altruism, the loss, the scale, the arrogance, the casualness, that unsinkable Edwardian Jerusalem.
I once read that behind Jesus and Coke, Titanic is globally the third most recognised word of all. Cynicism tells me to be cautious of that, but thinking about it, who does nor will know come to know of the existence of Titanic. The disaster is after all, not a biblical event, but it may as well have been one.
And proceed into her next 100 years, there is one thing that we can all be sure. For whatever you didn’t know about Titanic – you certainly made up for it in 2012.