Okay, I don’t have a lot of time as I’ve got to be crawling into bed in a bit, but I thought of this tonight and wanted to get it down before I forgot it.
This thread’s going to be discussing Welles’s Citizen Kane, and will contain spoilers, so if you’ve managed to somehow avoid finding out anything about the film and don’t want the movie spoiled for you before you watch it, then I suggest you leave. After all, it’ll ruin the experience if you find out that at the end Rhett leaves Scarlett!
Okay, so now that all the weenies have left, let’s get down to business. We all know that “Rosebud” was the nickname William Randolf Hearst had for his girlfriend’s clit. The standard story is that this was put into the film as jab at Hearst, and while I don’t disagree, I think that limiting it to solely that, misses an important subtext.
In every porn I’ve ever seen, there’s a character who has some kind of sexual “itch” that they need “scratched.” They then spend the rest of the movie in search of the perfect “scratcher.” CK details the pursuit of who/what “Rosebud” is, other than Kane’s last word. The people with the “itch” are the reporters, the “perfect scratch” is discovering what “Rosebud” is (the clit).
It’s important that “Rosebud” is Kane’s last word. According to experts on death and dying, right before you die, you get really horney. So Kane being a heterosexual is going to be thinking of female gentalia.
Now, in the movie, we know that the sled painted with the word “Rosebud” was given to Kane by his mother. This is symbolic of the time being spent in the womb. When Kane is given a replacement sled by his guardian (a male), Kane is unhappy. This is symbolic of Kane discovering masterbation.
Kane’s first marriage starts out happy, but soon deteriorates. Kane later goes to a warehouse where he’s stored his mother’s things, but never makes it there, encountering the woman who would first become his mistress and the later his second wife. We know, after watching the film, that the reason Kane was going to the warehouse was to retrieve “Rosebud.” Kane’s second marriage is as disasterous as his first, with the wife obviously wanting more than Kane was willing or able to give her. Eventually, she leaves him.
Intercutting all of this, are male reporters intent on knowing who or what “Rosebud” is. The women in the film don’t seem to be all that obsessed with “Rosebud.” That’s obviously because they already know what “Rosebud” is.
The source of Kane’s unhappiness in the film is that he no longer has “Rosebud” and despite trying, he’s unable to rediscover it. Kane’s fall from grace is all because he can’t find the clit!