If you’re a Belfastion like me then you would have noticed all the hype that surrounded the centenary last week of the Titanic’s sinking somewhere north of the Atlantic.
Now Belfast folk have always bore the tradition of smiling on the other side of their faces in order to make the best of tragic situations – it’s the only way we were ever able to drag ourselves up from the rubble of the troubles and get on with our lives. On even rarer occasions, however, we’ve had the slightly more annoying ability to elevate a sad, tragic or controversial situation into the most over-bloated, inappropriate, pompous kind of parade.
Take George Best for example; a great athlete in his day who accrued great fame and wealth, yes, right before he blew it all on booze and essentially drank himself six feet into the ground, whilst becoming the tabloid‘s favourite monkey boy, even after death. His worst crime? Spawning Calum Best. So aptly, Belfast City Council named the city’s airport after him, because we all know how Georgie-boy loved airports.
Of course this was always a weak attempt from the council to inspire a growth of tourism in Northern Ireland. I can see it now; an American couple with big fat dollars to squander on a holiday. Where do they go? Tahiti? The Bahamas? No! They go to Northern Ireland all for the privilege of a arriving at an airport named after a dead, washed-up, alcoholic ’soccer-player’ they’ve never heard of. Genius.
So I can’t say that I was surprised when, with the approach of the Titanic centenary, Belfast began to buzz again with the prospect of another celebration for something that shouldn’t be celebrated, not exactly. After all, we don’t celebrate September 11th, we remember it. Building a ship that sunk like a brick on its maiden voyage isn’t something Belfast should be shouting at the roof top.
This month it felt like I couldn’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV without being force-fed some tripe about the Titanic. Now, to be fair to Northern Ireland, a significant chunk of the hype has been generated from people outside of our geography.
From America, James Cameron re-released Titanic in 3D, for those who weren’t touched by the movie first time around. Nothing says sad and tragic like seeing a dead and frozen Leonardo Di Caprio at the end of the movie having his fingers snapped away from Kate Winslet’s; now in awesome 3D. The premiere of the movie was appropriately held in, um, London for some reason.
And now to England, where ITV’s big-budget four-piece drama of the same name boasts that it was better than Cameron’s efforts because at the end of each episode they sank the Titanic over and over again, given that each episode took the perspective of a different character. Even more awesome, fvck James Cameron’s 3D!
Not surprisingly, I did everything I could to avoid hearing another thing about the Titanic, refusing to buy a paper or turn the TV on. My plan was going well, until I saw something about the Titanic in the most unexpected of places: the crisp aisle of my local shop.
Yes, it seems even local crisp company Tayto have jumped on the centenary bandwagon by releasing a Titanic themed snack brilliantly named, Titanic Snack. I had to buy it, obviously. Here’s the packaging:
Notice the cutesy graphics of a cartoon ship tugging along cheerfully across a cartoon sea? Do the cartoon inhabitants inside realise that they’re going to die a horrible cartoon death in a few days time? Adorable.
The pieces of snack are shaped like anchors and stern wheels (either of which, had they been used soon enough would have, ironically, stopped the ship from crashing into that pesky iceberg) and the flavour? Salt and vinegar. Because, of course, when we think of the Titanic we think of the sea. What lives in the sea? Fish. What goes well with fish? You guessed it.
I wasn’t so bothered about all of this so far; it was something that I could simply consign to the back of my brain with a quick roll of the eyes. That was until I read the ‘facts’ on the back of the packet. They read as follows:
Belfast was once the greatest ship-building port in the world, and built the most famous ship the world has ever known – the Titanic. It took approximately three million rivets and thousands of workers 3 years to complete all 882 feet and 6 inches of the largest luxury liner in the open seas. On 31st of May 1911 thousands people turned out to watch the launch of the Titanic.
Now you can experience Belfast’s great shipbuilding past at the Titanic Belfast, the worlds largest Titanic visitor experience.
It goes on to list a few amusing, and ultimately pointless facts. Now, there’s something they’ve forgot to mention about the Titanic. Something important… the very thing that made it famous in the first place. What was it?
(I’m going to leave it to you, reader, to pause a moment and allow a tumble weed to pass by slowly, accompanied by a mild breeze.)
Oh yes! Now I remember, it crashed into an iceberg and sank, brutally killing most of the people on board. Why did Tayto forget to mention that little fact? Maybe they ran out of space.
Am I the only one who thinks that the whole world lost the plot? Am I the only one who is a little unsettled by the fact that such an unpleasant point in history has had most of its harrowing points (such as the fact that the people on board lost their lives, that the class politics of the time contributed to the fact that most of the children in third class died needlessly, that the arrogance of the ships captain lead to the crashing in the first place or that there wasn’t enough life boats, that the ship was actually built hastily and from cheap materials) censored out?
It seems that if 100 years passes on a tragedy, then suddenly it’s okay to make corn themed snacks based upon it, that it’s okay for American film directors and English production companies to start profiteering from it. So our grandchildren should anticipate that, in 90 years time, when we reach the centenary of the Twin Tower’s destruction and the loss of nearly 3000 lives, they’ll be able to see Tayto’s contribution: corn snacks cleverly titled, Twin Tower Snacks with pieces shaped like planes and trade workers. The flavour? Oh, I don’t know. Something executive like Cous-Cous or Raman Noodles.
Don’t be surprised if they leave a bad taste.