Poll: Should Citizen Kane become required viewing?

citizen-kaneOn the “Hells, yes” side of making Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane required viewing in American high schools, we have my pal Michael Pinto at, who turned in a video-filled essay expressing this exact idea:

There are so many reasons to teach this film—the screenplay alone is a great example of theater, a play with a rightful place in every English class alongside every other classic from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller. What’s wonderful about Citizen Kane is that it’s a film about all of the universal themes like love, greed and hope—yet it’s also a wonderful period piece about the history of the United States.

Adam Sweeney over at Film School took this idea and cutely ran with it, saying: “Tell you what, I will agree that Citizen Kane be mandatory viewing for students in American History classes, but only if the study of Orson Welles’ obesity is covered in health classes. Deal, Pinto?”

Frankly speaking, I’m sorta ashamed that I’m a 31-year old, college-educated, Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Candidate-educated American who has not yet even seen Citizen Kane herself. (I know, and yet, I write for a movie blog. I am aware of the irony.) It’s something I know I should see, and once I get settled into my new apartment, it’s going in my “to watch” pile.

However, I think I’m also going to disagree with Pinto and say that I’m not entirely convinced that the average American teen would be able to appreciate what a motivated high school teacher would be doing by introducing it into the curriculum, thus dooming the experiment to failure. I have a friend who teaches AP high schoolers in the Bronx, and even they aren’t receptive to classic and awesome literature when it’s assigned, saying that having assigned Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles over the winter break “ruined Christmas.”

What I can see, however, is an extra credit project for a non-AP class, where a student could choose between a myriad of films by both American and non-American directors about different periods in American history, compare and contrast the filmed version of events with the real history, talk about critical reception of the film in its day and contrast it with the reception now, etc.

Films they could choose from could include: Birth of a Nation, Avalon, Once Upon a Time in America, Gangs of New York, The Alamo (both versions), Last of the Mohicans, etc. And that’s just the list of Hollywood movies about American history.


Posted on January 4, 2009 at 11:57 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: News

5 Responses

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  1. Written by KitsuneFather
    on 2009-01-04 at 14:26

    Well, for my two cents, making something mandatory almost guarantees it will go unappreciated and ignored, or become hated. I know many a person in my circles who hate certain books because they ‘had’ to read it in school.

    The better thing would be the extra credit idea, or to show it as a culmination to a section on that period of history, if at all, and allow people the option of doing an extra credit assignment on it. Thereby the people who won’t care won’t develop ill will toward it, and those who would care can actually benefit from its showing.

  2. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2009-01-04 at 14:58

    To me, the real magnificence of the film is mostly technical: the film added so many new tricks the film lexicon* that for a FILM History class, yes, it should be required viewing.

    For a History class? Uh, I suppose it depends on the context.

  3. Written by Graehaus
    on 2009-01-04 at 15:00

    I think it should be, I have seen it once in my 37 yrs. And I think it should be shown, it was a great movie. If schools will show the 90’s Romeo & juliet for culture. Kane would be a better choice, it’s filming, acting is all boss.

  4. Written by Steve
    on 2009-01-05 at 00:15

    I actually took a film class in high school and we watched Citizen Kane, and I loathe this movie. While I greatly respect it for its technical aspects and innovative camera work, the story and acting does not resonate with me at all. I loved every movie we watched in that class (Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, Strangers on a Train, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Graduate, Life is Beautiful) but I hated Citizen Kane. I dont know why, but I just do.

    I will admit that if it wasnt a mandatory watch I might have enjoyed it more, but I still cant ignore the fact that I loved every one of the other movies we watched. In fact some of those movies are my all time favorites. Its a very odd situation.

  5. Written by skp
    on 2009-01-15 at 10:43

    The problem with showing movies in high school is that almost no school has a 3 hour period for which to watch the whole movie uninterrupted. Watching a movie like CK in three or four parts would ruin it. Assigning it as a homework assignment is unreasonable as it would be nearly impossible to get all the kids a copy of the DVD/tape and you can’t assume all the kids have a tv/dvd player.

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