Let’s all pretend we’re in film class right now, and we just got done watching Citizen Kane, because that is exactly what we would be doing in a film class. The professor is asking everyone for their reactions to the movie, about the meaning of Rosebud, and why the parable of Charles Foster Kane still feels so relevant 75 years after it was made. An undergrad named Donald, who only got into the program because his dad is a provost, raises his hand and says if he could offer one piece of advice to Charles Foster Kane, one of the greatest monstrosities in American arts, it would be, “Get yourself a different woman.” Surely not able to believe that someone would boil down the primary conflict in Kane’s life to domestic restlessness, the professor asks Donald to elaborate, and this time he has a sort of meaningful response. “In real life, I believe that wealth does in fact isolate you from other people. It’s a protective mechanism. You have your guard up much more so than you would if you didn’t have wealth.” Donald the undergrad says he can relate to this plight, and to the feeling of being alienated from your romantic partner once you’ve accumulated vast wealth. The professor is slightly troubled that young Donald is wistfully empathizing with a lying, self-serving, megalomaniac like Kane, but he lets him keep talking anyway. Just to see what happens next. “There was a great rise in Citizen Kane,” Donald adds. “And there was a modest fall. The fall wasn’t a financial fall. The fall was a personal fall, but it was a fall nevertheless.” And that’s how the emotional destruction of Charles Foster Kane, thanks to his hubris and inability to love anyone other than himself, was reduced to woman troubles and characterized as a “modest fall.”
None of this actually happened in film class, but all those quotes from Trump are real, and pulled from the footage of a scrapped documentary Errol Morris was making about Citizen Kane, for which he interviewed Donald Trump in 2002. The material surfaced again recently in an article on BuzzFeed, adding to the mountains of “Dear God, no” postmortems on this presidential election. The similarities between the two figures, Kane and Trump, are downright chilling, but at least the fictional people in Kane’s universe had the good sense not to vote him into public office. And for as much as Trump loves the movie, it’s clear he learned all the wrong lessons from Orson Welles’s cinematic opus.