The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Who’s the freak?

with 12 comments

BI don’t normally watch TV programmes which are about showing people with an odd look or behaviour.

It’s not that I think that people who for instance are extremely fat, shop excessively or are sexually attracted to cars should hide in shame and never participate in public media. But there’s something cynical about most series and films in this category. Sometimes they pretend to have better intentions but in the end it turns out to be yet another freak show.

Their reason to exist is the entertainment value they provide. They bring something for people to point fingers at, saying aloud to each other: “Look at THAT guy! Isn’t he weird/disgusting/appalling?” As far as I’m concerned it’s a modern version of how they used to show up short people and women with beards at circus back in the days.

Coming from this I hesitated a little when I approached The Queen of Versailles. This documentary follows the Siegel family, which has built a fortune on a time-share business. When they’re at their top in 2008 they start a building project of what becomes the largest private home in US. When the world economy takes a huge dive, their private economy shatters and it’s clear to anyone that they need to adapt and change their extreme lifestyle. But it is if they can’t stop themselves or take in the new reality. The shopping goes on and on and on.

The freak show warning bells start to ring, don’t they? People who have their economy under control and never dream of anything unusual can pat themselves on the shoulder. “At least we’re not like THEM”.

However over the course of time it turned into something else. An uncomfortable idea started to grow in my mind.

This film looked as if was about a crazy ex-billionaire couple. But what if wasn’t about them, but about us? Are we really as different as we think? They have difficulties to adapt their lifestyle to the available resources and current circumstances. Aren’t we in the same state of denial? The former beauty que in our case, it’s the climate changes and the needs to make changes in order to secure the survival of the planet that we refuse to see.

The Queen of Versailles is well worth watching. Just bear in mind that the freak at display is you.

The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield, US 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

January 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

12 Responses

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  1. I agree with your premise completely, but in fairness, having an attraction to cars is definitely weird. (I assume you’ve seen the same video I have)

    Not that those people should be social outcasts… at least, not on that basis.

    John

    January 23, 2013 at 3:53 am

    • That IS weird, but I still find the idea to show weirdness as entertainment… weird. But there certainly must be an audience for it; otherwise they wouldn’t show it so often as they do.

      Jessica

      January 23, 2013 at 10:10 pm

  2. Well, after all, David claims that _everyone_ wants to be rich or, failing that, wants to feel rich.

    Sofia

    January 23, 2013 at 6:47 am

    • Yeah. The differences between them and us aren’t as big as we imagine.

      Jessica

      January 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm

  3. It’s easy to laugh at the Siegel’s for struggling when they can afford “only” three maids, or whatever it was. But then, wouldn’t we ourselves complain if our situation changed for the worse, even if we were still far better off than homeless people on the streets? To me, The Queen of Versailles is about perspectives, how we adapt to new circumstances, and, in a way, America at large. Excellent documentary. Very nice write-up!

    Emil

    January 23, 2013 at 9:33 am

    • Thanks Emil! It was excellent indeed. And once again we can thank the Swedish Television. Their documentary department is always on their toes, sending fairly new and talked-about documentaries for free. I think we can consuder ourselves lucky to have them.

      Jessica

      January 23, 2013 at 10:15 pm

  4. I thought it was an interesting documentary and came to almost the same conclusion as you did in my review. Happy to see you keep checking out documentaries Jessica!

    Nostra

    January 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    • I certainly do! I think I’m becoming as a big fan of the genre as you are.

      Jessica

      January 24, 2013 at 11:58 pm

  5. I had a kind of different approch at this documentary but we both liked it.
    http://filmitch.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/the-queen-of-versailles-2012-usa/

    filmitch

    January 24, 2013 at 12:29 am

    • I chose a different approach, but I agree with your post too. My sentiments for the both switched the same way. I got more and more disgusted with the man while I actually felt some kind of understanding of the woman.

      Jessica

      January 25, 2013 at 7:38 pm

  6. I’ve seen the show with the guy attracted to a car. That was interesting.

    I really enjoyed The Queen of Versailles. It couldn’t have worked better if it had been a scripted dramedy. Which it seems very close to being.

    George Watches Things

    January 25, 2013 at 4:35 am

    • It’s really a well told story, which also makes it different from ordinary TV shows.

      Jessica

      January 25, 2013 at 7:39 pm


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