Pop Xulture Newsletter # 7 – Thanksgiving & Citizen Kane. 8/30/22
As promised last month, the contest where you can win $25 gift card is here! You just have to suggest a TV show that meets the criteria, more details below. But first, here’s what I’ve been up to.
This month my article on “The Great Wave” was published on Christ and Pop Culture. While reading the article, check out the third picture down by Seth Hahne. I’m giving Seth a shoutout because, although super busy (creating his Piranesi prints), he made time to illustrate a beautiful version of the “The Great Wave” that fit my article.
My co-hosted podcast “Thoughts Beyond Thought” released an episode: “Episode 4 | Unhealthy & Abusive Church Leadership (2 of 2).” This one is the follow-up to “Episode 2 | Sexual Abuse in the Church (1 of 2).” Unfortunately, Travis and I have been so busy we haven’t been able to edit the fifth episode, but we’ll get there.
Okay, now for the $25 gift card contest. Here are the details:
Read the Exclusive article below (so far, so fun, right?!)
Find a TV show that (A.) has a Thanksgiving theme and (B) mentions the film Citizen Kane (other than the two below).
If your suggestion qualifies, I’ll contact you and ask what store you want the gift card for.
I need your suggestions because I’d like to pitch a version of this article to a magazine, but it would feel more balanced with three examples.
Pro Tip: Family Ties, “Citizen Keaton” (S6, E10) won’t work. Good luck!
Thanksgiving Episodes Referencing Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane is an incredible film, but I was still surprised that Thanksgiving shows over many decades would reference it. Why now, eighty-one years after its release, are we still talking about it? Why would Thanksgiving episodes be the right venue to showcase the film?
Rose buds are red, Thanksgiving is tan, let’s explore Charles Kane the newsman!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Pilot
Legendary writer, actor, and director Orson Wells made Citizen Kane in 1941. With as few spoilers as possible, the film tells of the rise of wealthy Charles Foster Kane. The story follows Kane through successes, failures and, possibly most importantly, relationships. And relationships are the cornerstone of the show Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
As the official website summarizes: “‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ follows the exploits of hilarious Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his stoically ever-professional captain, Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), along with their diverse, lovable colleagues as they police the NYPD's 99th Precinct.” Sometimes when a show of this caliber and longevity begins, the pilot isn’t very funny. But the episode that started it all is surprisingly funny.
The subtext of Thanksgiving makes the characters shine, even if they haven’t fully found themselves. As a subplot, Charles wants to take Rosa (some of the aforementioned “lovable colleagues”) on a date. When he learns that she likes vintage films he plans a date to an art house theater. He asks if she’d like to see Citizen Kane, to which Rosa responds, “Citizen Kane is terrible. Pick a good movie.” Charles nervously agrees, lamenting, “Good call. Smart. I’ll do it. I’ll pick a better movie than Citizen Kane.”
Charles’ crestfallen and hopeless demeanor implies there is no better film then Citizen Kane. But why is it considered so great? YouTube channel “One Hundred Years of Cinema” has a perfect summary of its groundbreaking techniques and fantastic storytelling. And, as mentioned above, how the film’s storytelling handles relationships is pivotal to its success.
When I consider Thanksgiving, my first thought is always eating dinner with family and friends. I realize I’m very fortunate to never have spent the holiday alone. But sometimes, even when we’re surrounded by people, we can feel lonely. Charles Kane surrounds himself with people while running a national newspaper (a plot modeled after William Randolph Hearst) and yet, although wealthy and busy and famous and mobbed, he is lonely.
In mere minutes the breakfast montage in Citizen Kane artfully shows the deterioration of Kane’s first marriage. Initially, the scenes are longer as the couple enjoy playful banter, seated next to each other. But each following scene is shorter with increasingly tense, clipped exchanges and the couple seated further apart as the table length[i] between them grows, providing a physical representation of their emotional distance.
Often a meal, whether it be a date like Rosa and Charles’, or a dinner with loved ones, can demonstrate how people are feeling. Their body language, willingness to talk, topics chosen, and desire to stay at the meal once finished eating, can unintentionally communicate a lot. If we are truly thankful for our many blessings (1 Chronicles 16:34), it would be good to use opportunities like meals to lovingly give our loved ones a checkup.
But Garfield’s Thanksgiving centers around a different kind of checkup. In this 1989 special, America’s favorite funny feline realizes he has a vet appointment, and while destroying the note on the calendar, finds out the next day is Thanksgiving. Attempting to skip the vet and jump right into eating, Garfield reminds his human (John) to go grocery shopping. But for as aloof as John is, he still takes Garfield to the dreaded appointment, chiefly to score a date with the vet Dr. Liz Wilson. After repeatedly turning John down and prescribing a diet for Garfield, the Doc finally agrees to eat Thanksgiving at their house.
Once home, Garfield weighs himself on a talking, digital scale with AI voice prompts (a concept well ahead of its time). The scale is asked to guess who is standing on it, and in judging Garfield’s girth, it deduces he must be Orson Wells. That humorous (and meta) touch continues through Garfield and the scale’s conversation. Finally, Garfield defends himself, “It’s not like I’m all that overweight, I can still see my feet.” To which the scale responds, “I’ve seen Citizen Kane eight times.” Furious, Garfield stomps the scale to pieces and it’s final, digitized dying word is “Rosebuuuuud…”
Orson Wells’ masterpiece begins and ends with the mysterious word “rosebud.” In fact, more than a MacGuffin, “rosebud” is intertwined throughout Citizen Kane. I won’t spoil the film for you (plus there are tons of theories on exactly what it means) but I believe “rosebud” functioned as a symbol of a time when Charles Kane wasn’t lonely. He looked back on a distinct moment just prior to his world changing forever and remembered the relationships and companionship he had.
Back in 1941 it probably took audiences aback to watch a story where someone incredibly wealthy wasn’t happy. Even nowadays, plenty of people behave as if they expect money to make them happy and provide meaningful community, although the ultra-rich are continuously quoted as saying the wealthier they get, the more unsatisfied they become. We can work on being satisfied with our current income and lifestyle but sometimes there are forces at work demeaning our body image. We may experience some indirect body shaming through perceived looks or advertisement marketing.
These forces may be unintentional (it doesn’t seem like the scale purposefully shamed Garfield) or well-meaning comments about our physique or health. Or maybe we’re shaming others, especially at a meal like Thanksgiving, when we ask something like, “Are you sure you need another helping?” or “I heard about this great diet you should try.” People are aware of their weight and how they look. If they want to become healthier it will have to be because they want to, not because we’ve been passive-aggressive or nagged them.
In both of the aforementioned cases (Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Garfield) the characters are trying to appease their loneliness. Both involve dates and eating meals together. And, since its inception, Thanksgiving has demonstrated friendliness and companionship by eating a meal together. But as these interesting ties to Citizen Kane have demonstrated, loneliness and self-consciousness may rise to the surface during holidays (especially those focused on food).
We don’t have to wait until the Thanksgiving meal (although its often an opportunity to help those we don’t see often) to be mindful of how others are doing and to measure the health of our relationship with them. Sometimes being intentional in contacting friends and family, using methods they prefer, can help others feel loved and encourage them to get healthy. An added bonus is that intentionality prior to an event can make the event itself much more enjoyable for everyone. Bring on the healing and the stuffing!
[END EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE CONTENT]
Thanks for checking out the contest, reading the never-before-seen article on the weirdness of a couple Thanksgiving shows referencing Citizen Kane, and perusing my Newsletter in general. I hope y’all do the context – I am trying to buy your friendship via gift cards after all.
Thanks, in Him,
-Chris (the Bearded Wonder) Fogle