A hundred years ago to this very day, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City and sank in the North Atlantic, taking 1,517 lives with her. Since then, the Titanic has been portrayed numerous times in a variety of media including film, television, and stage, eventually becoming a worldwide phenomenon after James Cameron’s 1997 film. I first saw Titanic as a girl of 10, and what could’ve been three hours of simple entertainment turned into a life-changing experience. And so, on the centennial of the ship’s sinking, I’ve made a list of eight ways in which the Titanic has impacted my life.
1. Social class
A girl of 10 who was born in Shanghai and grew up in Sydney knew nothing about the Edwardian class system. The film and the historical event introduced me to the British class systems and social hierarchies that still fascinate me today. Without my interest in the Titanic, I may not be in England now, doing a Master’s in 19th Century literature.
2. Research skills
My love for Titanic the film left me thirsting for more about the event. I clearly remember scouring all the libraries in Sydney for non-fiction books about the Titanic and absorbing all the information into my little repository of knowledge. Yup, the Titanic was my first unofficial research project.
3. The fragility of life
You board a ship, expecting to alight at your destination. You never thought you’d end up dying of hypothermia in the middle of the North Atlantic. The disaster taught me at a young age that life is unpredictable, and one really shouldn’t waste it.
4. The danger of hubris
Back then, I didn’t know the word ‘hubris’ existed—but I did know White Star Line was extremely stupid in thinking their ship was unsinkable. Not only is your pride unjustified, it’s dangerous because you’ll install fewer lifeboats than you should. Life lesson: don’t boast about your ship being unsinkable, because it might actually sink.
5. The wonders of dreams
Not everything about the Titanic is gloom and doom—in fact, she was a magnificent creation that was luxurious and shiny and very, very big. It had a gym, a swimming pool, gorgeous dining areas and rooms, and all of this was built in the ‘old days’—to my ten-year-old self, the Titanic was the embodiment of a dream realised.
I adored the soundtrack of the Titanic from the 1997 film, and owned the CDs Titanic, Back to Titanic, and Titanic: The Ultimate Collection. This love for the soundtrack eventually evolved into my love for film scores and Classical Music. Even now, I’m writing this blog post while humming the ‘Southampton’ theme.
While obsessively ‘researching’ the Titanic, I came across a range of different television shows and novels depicting a fictionalised account of the event. From these, I learnt there are many ways of retelling what was essentially the same story. And from the 1997 film, I learnt the stories that stay with you aren’t necessarily the ones with happy endings, and bittersweet is beautiful. This notion has influenced me as a writer (as I’m sure a lot of my fanfic readers and betas can attest to).
Since 1998, I’ve continually re-watched the James Cameron film. With every viewing, I pick up something different and gain a deeper appreciation of the film. About five years after my first watching, I finally realised the significance of the ending. Just two years ago, I felt a deep sympathy for Cal and the set of social expectations that have shaped his character. What makes Titanic so enduring—at least for me—is its re-watchability, its timelessness.
This coming Tuesday, I’ll be watching Titanic in 3D for the first time since its re-release. I will be armed with a pen, some paper, and maybe even some tissues (though I shan’t tell you how many packets I’ll slip into my pocket).
Has any aspect of the Titanic touched or affected you in any way? Leave a comment, as I’d love to know your thoughts!