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James Cameron's 1997 Titanic holds proprietary reign over my generation's "memory" of the historical tragedy. So it seems like a bold move for Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows to be crossing into such protected territory. But Julian Fellowes is clearly a bold guy, and he's just finished a four-part miniseries about the intertwining lives of doomed voyagers on the second-saddest cruise trip in history. (Katie Holmes' obviously takes first prize. Zing!) The fact that his stuffy British class drama has been as much of a gossip-column darling as, say, Madonna and her gladiatorial forearms, suggests that his risk-taking can pay off.
Those of us who've been living vicariously through Downton Abbey will remember that the show began with news of the sinking of the Titanic, and the death of some unseen Crawleys. Unfortunately for us Abbey nerds, Fellowes says this wasn't the foreshadowing of Crawley cameos in his Titanic series. But on the plus side, the upcoming miniseries promises a similar sprawling class-study to the one that's already captivated U.K. and U.S. audiences.
Of course, the main concern is over ownership of the Titanic phenomenon. Nowadays, the word "Titanic" itself is more likely to evoke half-ironic nostalgia for saccharine '90s filmmaking than a calamitous historical event. Jack and Rose's Titanic might be too great a cultural behemoth to allow room for other popular interpretations. For me, "Titanic" calls up every time the unmistakable Celtic pan-flute/country-lite guitar of "My Heart Will Go On" resounds from an office elevator speaker. It's every time I went whale-watching as a kid and clung to the railing and awkwardly had Sharon, my middle school partner-in-chubbiness hug me from behind and pretend to be Jack. It's every time I fogged up the window of my car with a mediocre teenage blowjob. Without Kate, Leo, the unsinkable Kathy Bates, and that original score that sounded like a synthed-out seafaring chorale of classically-trained vaginas, it's hard to tell whether I'll be able to submit myself to a new fictitious Titanic narrative.
But we'll find out in a month: the program is being released as a centennial memorial (celebration?) of the tragedy. The first episodes will be aired on ABC on April 14, with the concluding episode airing on April 15. Between these airings, sometime one hundred years ago, the Titanic will have officially sunk, and sometime fifteen years ago, Jack will be penetrating Rose for the first and last time in the back of a period Jeep as James Cameron makes a note-to-self from behind the camera about helping Leo hone his pelvic thrust.