an American's Reflections - Stephen Lapeyrouse’s website

“Titanic’s” Titanic Historical Statistics: – 000,000,001

Titanic theatrical release poster (1997)
Titanic theatrical release poster (1997)

I shall not go to see the Hollywood film “Titanic”. And if I were to summarize why, the most central reason would be because – anyone who attends to the news daily, cannot avoid having learned about the film, its contents, producers and actors, style, contents, and historical statistics, etc. – the film and its contents are unimportant. One might include my decision in a maxim for our time: if millions, or hundreds of millions, like it, then there must be something fundamentally flawed about it. Stereotypically sentimental? Shallow? A predictable plot and script? Excellent thrills and excitement (and sexy scenes of course), but little serious substance or memorable depth?

In addition to the tremendous and dubious expense in making this film – the most expensive in the entire history of the known Universe*? Or only “Second Place”? A mere “Third”? – is there nothing better in 1998 to do with ca. US$300,000,000 than spend it on a mass entertainment movie the conclusion to which has been known since 1912?

“Titanic” has been continually spoken about in term of dollars (the true universal “value” of our pecuniary world “culture”, the real motor of our globalizing “civilization”): e.g., how much it cost to produce. The reports from the BBC and Voice of America radio programs vary from $200 to $350 million dollars for the film. But it is not really important how accurate the figures are; what counts is the size! It must be big . . . very big. The statistics should be “awesome”, enormous. It must be the most . . . “Number 1”, or “Number 2” at least! And then there were, after the film’s release, the weekly reports: how much money was taken in (in comparison to other “blockbusters”) in such grand historical categories as “the first day”, “the first weekend”, “the first week”; inside US cinemas; in France, Japan, etc., etc., etc. One almost could gain the feeling from the radio reports that the news programs (and special programs on “culture”) wanted, from their reports (like cheerleaders for a team) for more people to go to the film, so that the numbers would continue to grow in size, making this an even greater event in World History! What sort of shallow culture do we live in, and what kind of stupid “news” and “values” do we have, which imagines that the first film in the history of Mankind to have earned a billion dollars is something significant? So what? World herd statistics! (Statistics for the sunken, mythical civilization of Atlantis – near where the mythologized historic ship Titanic actually lies? – are as yet unavailable.) Let us rewrite the question – not: ‘did you go to see “Titanic” (the most profitable film in all of Human History)?’, but rather: ‘were you a part of the crowd (which paid unusually high prices to help make its producers very wealthy, to put them (temporarily) in the “Number 1” spot in the history of civilization, with a film for the masses)?’ For those who have gone to see the film: is it deep and interesting? Unforgettably so? Did it give you deeper ideas of life, history and mankind, to ponder on for the remainder of your life? (Or even just for the evening on which you “experienced” it?) Do you feel proud to have been a part of these grand, historical statistics?

The man who coined the expression “American Dream”, American historian James Truslow Adams, wrote: The theory of mass production breaks down when applied to the things of the spirit. So what does this say about our culture and society, in relation to this Hollywood film? I am interested in deep ideas, insights and experiences; but everything I have heard for the past months on the BBC and the Voice of America about the film “Titanic” disinterested me in it completely. Entertainment . . . perhaps excellent escape; but the film could not be much deeper than its producer, and interviews with him revealed a mind not nearly deep enough to fathom the actual story and destiny of the unsinkable British liner Titanic in the deeper history of Man. Will the hundreds of millions of people worldwide, who are now famous for having “participated” in the most expensive film in history, with the largest numbers, the greatest profits**, the most Oscar nominations***, tied for the most Oscars****. . . will they remember this great event in World History in Spring of 1999? Will they then still be reflecting on the titanic film “Titanic”? Or will they be, in Spring 1999, attending the next, newest “most expensive”, “most profitable”, “most Oscar-nominated”, etc.”, film in World History? Hoorah! Hoorah! Onward and Upward, Mankind!

Perhaps the fact that so many people worldwide were pleased and satisfied to not only enjoy the film “Titanic”, but to celebrate its greatness in numbers (cost, income, Oscar-Nominations and -Awards, etc.), rather than to be offended by this shallow idea of value, is as good an indication as many in our time, that our blithe culture and complex civilization are heading purblind towards an unexpected, future, catastrophic disaster. But, as with the ship Titanic, this little-noted “telegraph warning” will make next to no difference in what will happen.

So, I have no interest in this titanic film. And if I ever see it, it will only be sometime in the future, when I am dreadfully bored, or someone rents the film and coerces me to watch it! And then I shall watch it as a mirror of mass psychology.

To me, there is one really interesting, intriguing, unknown “statistic” about the film “Titanic”: how many individuals, who knew about the film, were not interested in seeing it, and did not go! Since there are apparently no official figures on this truly interesting statistic, I shall begin them here: “Titanic’s” titanic historical statistics: minus 000,000,001, and counting . . . ?

First published in the magazine English, #17, May 1998, p. 15.


* Figures are valid only until March 1998 AD Back to text

** Over the shortest period of time, before March 1998 AD Back to text

*** Until 1998 AD Back to text

**** “Titanic” only tied with “Ben Hur” for the most “Oscars” in world history, and one could discern the great disappointment that history was not made in this great category – “the most Oscars” – as well. Back to text