Sensationalism in Movies


I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the movie, Titanic, but I loved it every time. The love and the emotions besieging the ill-fated ship known as probably the biggest tragedy of those times, and the exemplary performance of the artists did make me awestruck.

But on hindsight, I wonder what was it actually, that I enjoyed in the movie? The love that a lady discovered in a stranger? The way the unsinkable ship cracked open when it hit the iceberg? The panic stricken people running haywire with the fear of death looming large around their eyes? The Naval officers trying desperately to save their passengers despite knowing they may not be able to save themselves? The kids who stare around innocently unaware of the inevitable eventuality beckoning at their door step? The final showdown of the sinking ship? Or the fact that all of this actually happened sometime ago?

With a beautiful music and a touching screenplay, one of the greatest tragedies of the last century becomes a worldwide sensation and a mass hit with Academy awards pouring through the roof. But what gets lost amid all the noise of this sensationalism is a thought about the people who actually underwent the trauma. Well, I wonder if I could have brought myself to watch the movie so many times if I were one of those kids who managed to live through that ill-fated day?

The world does sit back and watch when the media broadcasts something sensational, but in the midst of it all, the thought behind the gruesome reality and the people who had everything from their life to their future at stake, takes a backseat.

Talking about a tragedy is one thing, while living through it, is another. When memories of a panic haunt the mind, its hard to sit back and watch their melodramatic incarnation conceived by a bunch of people who were eons away from the actual happening. Trauma has a bizarre flavor to it. Generations of evolution has made the human olfactory system sensitive to the odor of approaching death. And when one manages to survive through that perilous stink, you won’t expect him to bring himself up to sit back in an air-conditioned cinema hall enjoying the emotionally histrionic screenplays re-enacting those moments.

Imagine just managing to survive through a trauma and years later looking at someone on the giant screen with a glossy make-up and gloated artificial tears trying to act out what you went through in the past! Sometimes it’s just good to leave the past where it belongs. As the old lady says in the closing scenes of the Titanic, “It should remain where it is. For that’s where it belongs”.


8 Responses to “Sensationalism in Movies”

  1. 1 prat

    “Trauma has a bizzare flavor to it”.
    So very true.
    I often wonder about kids without human rights. Kashmir, Rwanda. What will they grow up to be? Will they learn the joys of street cricket?

  2. 2 Kishore

    The pity is, we kids who grow up with all those joys seldom sit back and give a thought on how gifted we are!

  3. In “The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters”, Julian Barnes has done a study of the painting called “The Raft of Medusa” by Gericault. He analyzes an idea similar to the one you have discussed here.. about the relationship between catastrophe and art. About how catastrophe acquires beauty in the hands of an artist.

    I have never ever read anything like that in my life.

  4. 4 Kishore

    >>catastrophe acquires beauty in the hands of an artist

    Yep.. so long as the artist and the victim are not the same person.

  5. You’re right. When the victim attempts to make art out of his suffering it becomes sublimation. It is truth.

  6. 6 Kishore

    >> When the victim attempts to make art out of his suffering

    Go tell that to the woman who lost her 4 children and husband to the Tsunami.

  7. 7 usha

    I agree with you that it is almost blasphemous to try to capture the enormity of a personal tragedy without an idea of the feelings and sufferings involved. But most good directors do their research and try to keep it as close to facts as possible. Sometimes seeing some things on the screen makes a greater impact than just reasing about it – I felt it when I watched gandhi and while watching some of the BBC war documentaries. But when it is all sensationalised, it trivialises a tragedy and hence unacceptable.

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