The Velvet Café

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Who’s the freak?

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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