Thursday, April 5, 2012

childhood obsessions: Titanic.

A while back, I wrote about movies from my childhood. If you recall, Titanic made the list as an obsession of mine. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, let’s dive (pun intended) a little deeper into my pre-teen love for all things Titanic.
Lookin' good, Titanic.
Before Titanic came out, I was certainly familiar with the shipwreck. As a kid who spent the majority of her childhood buried in a book, I knew all sorts of little facts. I thought the Titanic was certainly interesting, but I didn’t harbor (pun intended again – I am on a ROLL) a great desire to learn more about it. That is, until the movie.

As I’m sure you know, Titanic came out in 1997, and I was ten years old. My parents offered to take me to the movie one weekend, and I accepted, having no better plans for my Saturday. I certainly didn’t go to Titanic because of the romantic plotline. To this very day, I couldn’t care less about cinematic love stories. I walked into the movie theatre, not knowing what to expect. It only took the first few seconds of the flashback to 1912 before I was totally sold. I fell in love with the characters, the close, and of course, the ship itself. Going in, I (like everyone else ever) knew how it would end: the ship sinks. DUH. However, I clutched the edge of my seat in anticipation, like I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. It was the most intense movie I had seen up to that point (for a ten year old, that’s not bad), and I was hooked.
You had me at "I'm flying, Jack."
I went to school the next day, eager to discuss this cinematic masterpiece. I found out that my friend Sarah had gone to the movie the very same weekend, and we bonded over our new obsession. We lived and breathed Titanic. We discussed our favorite lines, our favorite dresses, and our favorite characters: Sarah had a soft spot for Fabrizio, while I fancied Mr Andrews, the shipbuilder. Sarah and I even went so far as to cast the roles of Titanic using only members of our fourth grade class (I think I got to be the Unsinkable Molly Brown).

Over the next few days of constant Titanic talk, I decided I was in love with Leonardo DiCaprio. There was a book fair at school within a week of my realization, and they had one of those goofy “all about your crush” books, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. 
Thanks, Scholastic.
I nonchalantly flipped through the book, finding all sorts of photographs showing off his boyish good looks, along with little fact sheets like “this is what Leo says is his perfect date.” I think there was even a poster. Of course, I had to have it. However, when you’re ten years old, it’s still socially unacceptable to have a crush on someone, so I had to do this stealthily. I waited until the very end of the day when the book fair was closing up. No one else was shopping for books, so now was my opportunity to strike. I tried not to blush as I paid for my book, and I hid it in my bookbag until I got home. I kept it under my bed, reading tidbits here and there. The only person I ever showed it to was Sarah, who then introduced me to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

I was also absorbed with the fashion in the movie. Sure, my ten-year-old Midwestern lifestyle had no place for giant hats and beaded gowns, but I wanted them all the same. I was also captivated by the jewelry – not just the Heart of the Ocean, mind you, but every last piece of it. Everything seemed so spidery and delicate; I had never seen anything like it. I wanted jewelry just like it. I was at Claire’s one day – Claire’s was (and likely still is) a mecca for anyone under twelve – when I saw two things: a tiny necklace with an antique-y charm and a tiny crystal…
Exhibit A.
...and a fake Heart of the Ocean. Oh, how I wanted them both. I had approximately five dollars to my name, and I remember very clearly that the fake Heart of the Ocean was $7.99. No dice. I bought the other necklace for $3.99, and believe it or not, I still wear it to this day.
I got the fake Heart of the Ocean
in my Christmas stocking next
year. Classy, wouldn't you say?
My fascination with the Titanic stretched beyond the movie and its actors. At that same book fair, I bought a book full of facts about the ship itself. I have since gotten rid of the Leonardo DiCaprio book, but I know I still have the Titanic fact book somewhere. I learned about how many dishes they had on board and how much it cost to buy a first-class ticket. The book covered everything from the conception of the ship to exploration of the shipwreck. I was simply astounded. I believe this is where my fascination with large ships began, only to be helped along by a tour of an aircraft carrier in Virginia, the New Orleans riverboat tour past the ships on the Mississippi, and trips to see the barges on Lake Superior.

Even so, I was still counting the days until I could own Titanic to watch whenever my little heart desired. My parents had put the soundtrack in my Easter basket, and I’d practically worn the tape out – as the movie’s release date drew closer, I listened to the tape more and more. I didn’t care about Celine Dion; I was more interested in the instrumental pieces (an early indication of my inescapable band dork-hood). When Titanic finally came out on video, I snatched it up immediately. It came with a giant movie poster, which I tacked on my wall straightaway. I have no idea how many times I watched Titanic in the days immediately following its purchase; even if I did know, I certainly wouldn’t want to admit it. Sarah and I watched it so often that we had the lines memorized in no time.

Like all good things, Sarah’s and my Titanic mania eventually came to an end. When Titanic became more of a comedy than a drama, we knew it was over. The acting was so over-the-top, but we hadn’t realized it while in the throes of our all-encompassing love for the film. Sarah and I made the transition from complete adoration to outright mockery. We began substituting our own lines for the lines in the film: many of them made sense to no one but us, but we thought they were hilarious.

Yes, the initial magic of Titanic has worn off. I do look back fondly on my Titanic days; Sarah still remembers a good portion of our made-up movie lines. My friend Bob and I even resurrected the film for one of our famed high school movie nights.
We even attempted a re-enactment of the "toss the
Heart of the Ocean into the Atlantic" scene. Except it was
tossing my fake necklace into a bathtub. Good try, though.
And now, because of the 100th anniversary of the shipwreck, the movie is being re-released in theatres. Honestly, I can’t wait. There’s nothing like the magic of the big screen, and I feel like a ten-year-old kid again. Maybe I’ll even wear my Heart of the Ocean necklace.

Just kidding.

…or am I?  

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