Warning: This post contains spoilers of both the film Citizen Kane and the Red Dwarf episode Me2.
A while back I decided to watch the infamous film Citizen Kane. It’s widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, and I’d never seen it before, so I decided to give it a whirl.
The film was great. I enjoyed it immensely, but a few days later an amusing coincidence occurred.
I’m a massive fan of the 90s British sitcom Red Dwarf. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly mine. For the uninitiated, it’s a sci-fi sitcom about a crew of four incompetents stranded deep in a space on a mining ship trying to make their way back to earth. I noticed that I had one of the DVDs in the disc tray of my PC. I hadn’t watched any for ages. It must have been sat in there for months. Anyway, I decided to enjoy a quick episode. It was the first series disc and for no particular reason I decided to watch the episode Me2.
In one scene two of the characters (Lister and Cat) are relaxing in the ship’s on-board cinema when another of the characters (Rimmer) enters. Rimmer asks what they’re watching. They comment that they didn’t realise he was into films. Rimmer arrogantly claims that he’s actually very knowledgeable about films as he did a course on them in college. They then inform him that they were watching Citizen Kane. “That’s a bit of a coincidence,” I thought to myself. Rimmer then says “Ah, yes. I remember this. Yes, this is definitely Citizen Kane.” It then cuts to a shot of the screen; a cartoon is playing. Previously, I’d always guessed that Rimmer had mistaken the cartoons playing before the film, for the main feature (demonstrating that he was talking nonsense about being knowledgeable about films), but I wasn’t sure. After having seen the film only a few days before I was able to positively say that I was right. Citizen Kane is a black and white film and what was on the screen was a coloured cartoon.
The next day I was thinking about this amusing coincidence. Of all the episodes I could have chosen to watch it just happened to be that one. Then the penny dropped. Citizen Kane is about a man who, on his deathbed, uttered the word “Rosebud” as his final word. The film follows a journalist visiting those who knew him in hope of uncovering why this was his last word. That particular Red Dwarf episode had a subplot about how Rimmer’s last words were gazpacho soup (Rimmer was a hologram who had died long before). Lister then spends the episode trying to find out why those were his last words. When I realised this I couldn’t believe the coincidence. I’d seen that episode so many times before but had no idea of the connection to the film. Clearly the writers were paying homage to the film and weaved the plot line into the story, but until I’d seen the film only a few days before I had no idea.
As I thought further about this I realised that the connection runs deeper. The reason Rosebud was Kane’s last word was that it represented a crossroads in his life. An event happened that sent his life down a certain path; a path that he felt ruined his life. This was also the reason why Rimmer had said gazpacho soup. It transpired that Rimmer, who had always wanted the honour of becoming an officer, had finally been invited to the captain’s table. Gazpacho soup was served. He was unaware that gazpacho soup was meant to be served cold, so he chastised the waiter and made him take it away to heat it. The rest of the guests laughed at Rimmer for his ignorance and he felt humiliated. He was never again invited back to the captain’s table. He felt that it was this moment that stopped him from eventually becoming an officer. In truth, what stopped him from being an office was the fact that he was a dim-witted, backstabbing coward.
Also, as Rimmer died he knocked a snow globe off a table causing it to smash on the floor. This was also taken from the film as Citizen Kane dropped a snow globe as he died and it also smashed.
I found it funny that I’d seen that episode so many times, but the connection to Citizen Kane had always gone over my head. It wasn’t until I happened to watch the film and then happened to watch that particular episode a few days later that I realised.
After looking the connection up, I discovered that the soup story was based on a real event. The two writers were invited to a big TV network dinner where gazpacho soup was served. They were puzzled by it being served cold and nearly sent it back, but hesitated and decided not to. When they later found out the truth they were glad for hesitating and avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation.
Hmmm…now I’m wondering how many other references have gone over my head?