Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Do We Romanticize Tragedy?

So I know this is probably gonna rub a lot of people the wrong way... but have you ever noticed how we romanticize tragedy? Don't get me wrong, I love good stories, but seeing a pin recently on Pinterest made me wonder if in 100 years or so someone will write a romanticized story of 9/11. Subsequently, will a group of people create fake accounts for the people in that story?

Think about Vietnam War movies or World War II movies. My generation loves those highly played out and generally inaccurate accounts.  And maybe it is just because Titanic had such a romantic plotline that people have latched onto those characters. I haven’t gone searching for any memes or fake role playing accounts for other movies, but let’s think about this for a minute.

I wasn't around to hear of friends or family members dying in those wars. I didn’t deal with economic crises in those times or worry about the draft. Or, I didn’t hear about a tragedy killing 1,502 people.

I've been around for our "War on Terrorism", and I was devastated when I saw that the Pentagon had been hit. I remember bawling when I saw the side that had been hit was in my dad's department. But, as we all know, that side had been evacuated for remodeling. I certainly didn't know that then. These are tragedies of my country alone. In my generation, Hurricane Katrina took the lives of over 1,800 people. Compare that to the 1,502 that drowned, froze, or died in some other horrible way on the Titanic.

  •  85 years following the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio movie was released.
  • 54 years following World War II, Saving Private Ryan was released.
  • 29 years following the first troops setting foot in Vietnam, Forrest Gump was released.  
  • 19 years from the supposed time period of the movie (1968), Full Metal Jacket was released.

 So, I’m asking myself how long will it take for me to find Hurricane Katrina as a “moving” or an “emotionally intense” movie? Or what about 9/11? I know there were movies made about it, but I didn’t see them. I certainly wasn’t ready to relive it.

Is 85 years how long it takes for it to be okay to make fake accounts and joke around about people dying? They aren't alone, I mean there are plenty of fake Hitler accounts.
Have you given it much thought? I'd love to hear you guys weigh in. Seriously, I would like your input. Anonymous is cool as long as it's not hateful.


  1. I think we romanticise them to hold on to the importance of the story. 'History' isn't very exciting. If you didn't live through it, you often don't feel moved by it. it's just this thing that happened.

    But we, as writers, know the power of a good story. The 'idea' of a world war is not one many people will care about decades later. But give that idea a story, and a character we care about, and suddenly people are interested, and maybe they think about what it meant for people, and start to get a glimmer of an idea of what it might have been like to live it. We can't empathise with a nameless, faceless group of people. But we can empathise with a character we care about, and imagine what it would have been like to walk in their shoes. World War II is a vague concept for me - but what notion I REALLY have of what it might have been like to be there comes from movies and stories.

    Humanity has little interest in history, but we love a good story. Stories resonate with us, stay with us, change us.

    1. Thank you for answering my question. You are right, I see this now. I couldn't see this when I saw the joking around. But, I'm pretty sure you just restored my faith in humanity.

  2. I did a google search "romanticization of tragedy," specifically with Titanic in mind, to see if anyone had written anything about this topic, which is how I came across this article. I am appalled by Hollywood's romanticization of real life tragedies. I feel it creates a fantasy aspect to events that cost innocent lives. This numbs people to the fact that these were real events that can still happen to us at any given moment; the idea of fantasy creates a stigma that such a tragedy could never happen to us. I also feel that profiting off a "sweet," "happy," "romantic," story line does not honor and memorialize the actual victims of the event. I prefer to see movies based on a tragedy that highlight the actual horrors of the events. I understand that from the other perspective, creating characters that audiences feel an emotional connection to will cause them to feel connected to actual victims of the tragedy, but I think basing stories on actual people and occurrences create the same effect, such as in "Hotel Rwanda," based on the real story of a hero in the Rwandan genocide