Citizen Kane was titled American at one point. Seeing its values demonstrated time and again over the decades since its release, it's no wonder. The film is quintessential and speaks to our inner drives. The series of myths we tell ourselves are couched within its scenes. It is a textbook on what being American is.
In it we see the best and worst of ourselves, yet also the fabric of what makes us unique. It hints at why America has been successful and warns us about our failings. The greatest among us - those we exalt as models of success and high stature - can only be enigmas. Only an enigma could withstand being deified or damned.
Among many things, it depicts a news media that roots around in the refuse of mankind, libeling the men and women it focuses on as fascists, terrorists or talentless hacks. Likewise, it exalts them for virtues they will never have. One minute a hero and the next the villain of a scandal, forced to submit to the interests of a wealthy establishment or lose everything they have fought for.
Rather than our news having reached a new low, the film underscores how little things have changed. It weaves the tale of the self-made man, who is anything but self-made. He or she is a fiction, as much a product of our imagination as a news story; made more of wish fulfillment than fact. It is the story of a Howard Hughes, a Ronald Reagan, a Barack Obama or a Donald Trump.