By Danny Tyree
My fascination with the RMS Titanic began on September 9, 1966.
That’s when the premiere of the short-lived ABC science fiction series “The Time Tunnel” plunged its heroes into the middle of that maritime disaster.
“The Time Tunnel” has long since slid into obscurity; but the public’s fascination with the sinking of the luxury vessel continues, buoyed by the fact that the 100th anniversary of the event is coming up April 15.
Part of the fascination stems from the unveiling of new details of the tragedy. Take, for instance, the theory that the captain rammed the fateful iceberg in SELF DEFENSE. (“I could’ve sworn the berg was wearing a hoodie!”) Recently released documents from the National Archives show Pres. William Howard Taft opining, “If I had an iceberg, it would look like…”
The Titanic (which was 882 feet 9 inches long and burned 600 tons of coal a day) intrigues others with the POSSIBILITIES. After viewing “National Geographic” footage of the vessel’s wreckage, Al Gore reportedly remarked, “If only I had something like that with WINGS, I could fly it to speaking engagements on the evils of carbon footprints…”
Hollywood certainly knows the possibilities of the Titanic mythos. AMC is pondering a “The Treading Water Dead” zombie series, A&E bankrolled a “Steerage Wars” pilot and CBS optioned “Two And A Half Lifeboats.” (Certainly that “women and children first” claptrap will be put to the test when The Hub unveils “Are You More Indispensable Than A Fifth Grader?”)
The Titanic incident fascinates because of the remarkable restraint of the press at the time. Even in those days of “yellow journalism,” not one reporter took the White Star steamship line president’s “I like being able to drown people” comment out of context.
Many find it fascinating to think how the legend would have died down with a little 21st century “spin doctoring.” The public would have heard disclaimers such as “We meant to say unsinkable-ISH,” “Tickets clearly say ‘Your mileage may vary'” and “You say ‘watery grave,’ we say ‘new Chicago voting bloc.’ Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to.”
We are fascinated by the way the fate of the Titanic has entered our language. Certain endeavors have long been described as “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.” Granted, more recently the phrase has been supplanted by “proving who’s the most conservative GOP candidate.”
We are fascinated by all the candlelit vigils, recreated 11-course meals and moments of silence planned to commemorate the Titanic. (Hmm…sink a ship and get 60 seconds of Bill Maher keeping his mouth shut. No! Bad columnist! But tempting…tempting…)
The real-life stories of the ritziest aristocrats and the most dirt-poor immigrants continue to fascinate. Of course if your spouse or kids try to share with you the minutiae of THEIR real-life stories, you’re apt to say, “My program is on. Go away or I’ll smack you with this oar!”
It’s inspiring to watch the Titanic hoopla instill a love of history in people who might not otherwise care. Of course not everyone is cut out to be a history buff. (“It’s so cool to learn about the flesh-and-blood people who inspired James Cameron’s blockbuster movie! Dude! Maybe we should learn about the real people behind the story of ‘Avatar’…”)
*Sigh* Time Tunnel, take me away!