The social dynamics of Trump's Citizen Kane

In the 2002 Errol Morris documentary on film, Donald Trump reviewed Citizen Kane - the story of a boy taken from his parents by a wealthy guardian, who eventually uses his inheritance and media empire to buy validation. In the documentary Trump had an immaculately candid moment.


"I think you learn in Kane that maybe wealth isn’t everything, because he had the wealth but he didn’t have the happiness. The table getting larger and larger and larger. With he and his wife getting further and further apart as he got wealthier and wealthier…perhaps…I can understand that."

Trump speaks with a faint smile of recognition. He is reviewing Citizen Kane, but in doing so Trump gets to tell us that, for him too, life isn't all that great either. What we "learn in Kane" isn't meant to be what life truths we can discover about the real world from the film. Instead, the mechanism is reversed. Trump is hinting to us that from his experience of his private life and large wealth, he has found truths he now spots in Kane. He points to the idea that he has had wealth without happiness. Trump gently rolls the problems around in his mind as he nods down, side to side and then, looking at the camera, a trace of difficult knowing appears which he greets with a smile - "...perhaps...I can understand that." And while it's clearly not all enjoyable to go through in explaining, he's still does it at some length. The smile is to the audience as much as to himself - an honest smile in openly revealing the limitations of his own life. My life is limited - there it is.


"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."

The paradox of Trump's Citizen Kane is of course that even as someone who does have a tremendous amount of wealth, here he does not have his guard up. He does not front a life story of perfection. Trump is opening the gate to his thoughts and letting his private self flow out to the camera. In doing so, the social dynamics between himself and the public is an artefact of human congruence, and tragic honesty. In mulling over the similarities with Kane, the realisation seems too apparent to keep to himself.



The social dynamics of Trump's Citizen K
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