Each week, we analyze a movie that illustrates a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who said Netflix can’t help you study? 🎥📖
In a bid to become the most iconoclastic film reviewer on the internet, this week I’m going to tackle Citizen Kane!
Better known to recent generations as the origin story of The Simpsons’ C. Montgomery Burns, Citizen Kane tells the story of Charles Foster Kane (who, presumably, was a citizen of somewhere). A thinly veiled send-up of William Randolph Hearst, Kane was a boy raised up from poverty into unspeakable wealth.
After his poor family’s land is found to contain gold, Kane is sent to the finest schools before entering the wonderful world of yellow journalism. Personal scandals; torrid affairs; politics; his personal life mirrors the stories he reports.
After a long life, he dies, alone, dropping a snow globe while whispering a single word – “Rosebud.”
The death of such a notorious man becomes news around the world, driving a news editor to send Jerry Thompson on a hunt for the meaning of Kane’s final word.
What a story! If he could uncover the meaning behind the final words of a notorious figure, surely that would sell papers. Jerry Thompson is on his way to a Pulitzer, right?
Kane wasn’t the most pleasant man. As we said above, he died…alone. His final words escaped his lips while alone in a room. The maid who was said to have heard them is clearly showing entering the room after the old man had expired.
And thus another film plays with the gap between knowledge and reality, similar to the way the LSAT will.
Many times, on the exam, the LSAT will tell you a piece of information. In our analogy, that makes you the movie-goer. Now that you know the information, it will impart that wisdom on someone who is within the question. But just because you know the information doesn’t mean everyone does, and that gap in knowledge is exploited by the exam.
“But Matt!” you might say. “We can’t question a premise.”
We’re not – we’re simply questioning whether someone is aware of the premise. And the difference between someone’s subjective knowledge and the objective knowledge you have of the question can be the difference between a correct and incorrect answer.
So when you’re taking the test, and a question brings up what someone knows or doesn’t know, make sure that you’re not imparting your own knowledge on to that person!
Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York City. After receiving a science degree from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice. Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here!