Anatomy Of A Blockbuster
Edited by Kevin S. Sandler and Gaylyn Studlar
Rutgers University Press
|Kevin S. Sandler and
Gaylyn Studlar have accumulated essays written on why TITANTIC is the most successful film
ever made. The reasons why a global audience flocked to see James Camerons film are
listed from a variety of perspectives, which should open your eyes to new theories
explaining why this film touched the public on such a massive level.
In an overview introduction by Studlar and Sandler called The Seductive Waters of James Camerons Film Phenomenon the two editors cover the vast scale of how TITANIC took the world movie going by storm. They also explain that TITANIC success overflowed into lucrative ancillary markets. They go on to capsulate each chapter that follows.
Floating Triumphantly: The American Critics on Titanic begins the essays, Matthew Bernstein examines fifty-four American newspaper and magazine reviews to articulate viewer response to the film.
Justin Wyatt and Katherine Vlesmas write The Drama of Recoupment: On the Mass Media Negotiation of Titanic. In this chapter they state that the public first learned of TITANIC because it was the most expensive movie ever made. The budget functioned as a constant reminder of the films quality and popularity; the press refocused its attention of the films record-breaking gross, and the studios used the budget as a marketing tool.
Selling My Heart: Music and Cross-Promotion in Titanic, Jeff Smith examines how the soundtrack to TITANIC was instrumental to the films popularity. Smith details how the largest segment of the audience to purchase the TITANIC soundtrack was girls fourteen and under. You will be astonished at some of the statistics of how popular Celine Dions single "My Heart Will Go On" was. The films theme song broke broadcasting records by racking up the largest number of radio performances measured in one week. According to data provided by Billboards Broadcast Data Systems (BDS), Dions single logged nearly 9,500 spins from some 223 different radio stations during the first week of February 1998. Some stations where playing the song as many as seventy-three times a week or once every two hours. Then Smith goes on to speak about how James Horners score was designed to take advantage of the theme song and that the orchestral mix with synthesizers and vocals neatly positioned TITANICs soundtrack to straddle several niche markets.
I have to say that the chapter Almost Ashamed to Say I Am One of Those Girls: Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the Paradoxes of Girls Fandom written by Melanie Nash and Martti Lahti is an astounding essay on how important Leonardo DiCaprio was to TITANICs popularity. Here are just a few of tidbits within the essay that will flabbergast you: TITANIC drew a 20 percent repeat audience against 2 percent norm. Two months after its release, 45 percent of women under twenty-five had seen the movie twice; and 76 percent of all repeat viewers planned to see it again. Time magazine estimated that girls generated 30 to 40 percent of TITANICs $580 million U.S. gross. Here are one of the comments made by a teenaged girl that shows just how obsessed these girls were with DiCaprio; "I have seen TITANIC 7 times now and I think its brilliant and when ROMEO & JULIET was out at the cinema I saw it 8 times. I now have that on video and watch it regularly."
Peter Lehman and Susan Hunt write Something and Someone Else: The Mind, the Body, and Sexuality in Titanic, which essays TITANICs ability to appeal to young girls while not alienating the male audience in the process. TITANIC has this appeal because it draws upon and deviates from two divergent literary and cinematic praxes: the love story wherein a working class man awakens the sexuality of an upper-class woman, and the male action-adventure films of the 1980s and 1990s.
In the chapter Women First: Titanic, Action-Adventure Films, and Hollywoods Female Audience Peter Kramer states that TITANIC marks Hollywoods "long overdue return to the big-budget romantic epics of the past."
Alexandra Keller feels the success of James Camerons films resides in his consistency of "vision" in a blockbuster culture his ideological and narrative concerns, an aesthetic and visual style, the sheer size and expenditure of his projects but these auteurist markings are ultimately unthreatening and apolitical as the filmic event and its spectacle overwhelm any notions of critique. Size Does Matter: Notes on Titanic and James Cameron as Blockbuster Auteur is where Keller writes that Titanic allows viewers to float with ease, leaving them with the impression that they have participated in something of vital importance and global significance through the very act of consumption.
When you read Heart of the Ocean: Diamonds and Democratic Desire in Titanic by Adrienne Munich and Maura Spiegel, you will find out that they feel if everything in Titanic functions as spectacle than the diamond necklace (the Heart of the Ocean) unlocks the secrets Titanics popularity.
Ship of Dreams: Cross-Class Romance and the Cultural Fantasy of Titanic by Laurie Ouellette links the Titanics phenomenon to the films textual and extratexual reaffirmation of the United States as a classless society at a point in history when socioeconomic trends and policies undermine that very illusion.
Vivian Sobchack cleverly states in Bathos and Bathysphere: On Submersion, Longing, and History in Titanic that the film narrative structure and poetic mode enable viewers to submerge themselves into a factitious and historical past without getting ideologically wet.
In The China Had Never Been Used! : On the Patina of Perfect Images in Titanic Julian Stringer compares contemporary cultures fusion of nostalgia and consumerism to Camerons Synthesis of two contemporary film genres the high concept film and the heritage film to explain Titanics international success.
Noting this book was published in 1999, the paragraph that follows sums up Diane Negras essay Titanic, Survivalism and the Millennial Myth. "I think it is reasonable to claim that the proliferation of disaster-based fictions and reenactments of the mid-1990s says something about our cultural awareness of the upcoming millennial transition. While we could map a history of American cinema as it intersects with awareness of national threat science fiction films in the Cold War 1950s, disaster films that fault corporate malfeasance as the consumer and antinuclear movements gathered strength in the 1970s, and so forth we could also note that there are specific social variables that shed light on the meaning of our current disaster narratives and the specific kinds of fears and pleasures they activate.
The last essay, It Was True! How Can You Laugh?: History and Memory in the Reception of Titanic in Britain and Southampton, Anne Massey and Mike Hammond assert that TITANIC offered a rich ground for exploring issues of national identity and personal and public memory.
I dont think all of the issues addressed in these essays were necessarily in James Camerons mind when he made the film. That being said, its very illuminating to hear what these people think are some of the reasons that made TITANIC the most successful film of all-time.