The Queen of Versailles

Do you ever go to bed in the evening thinking; “If I win the lottery tomorrow, it would definitely solve a few problems in my life.” I know I do – I have a list of things that would improve my life if I had an unlimited source of gold. It has nothing to do with being unhappy in that very moment, it’s just a dream that I think we all, at some point, wander off to from time to time.

What if I had a million dollars or what if I never had to work another day in my life, I can buy or do whatever I want! What would you do?

I know very well what I would do, and I think most people have an idea or vision of how life in financial richness would look like – what possibilities and opportunities it would bless us with, and that’s why watching the 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles left me speechless.

How dumb can a person get?

The documentary follows a billionaire couple, Westgate Resorts time-share mogul David Siegel, trophy-wife Jackie and their 8 (!) children, as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles. During the next two years however their empire, fuelled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, collapses due to the economic crisis.

We get to see how this dysfunctional family, the parents in particular, are so blinded by blinking dollar signs that they’ve lost all forms of life perspective; the house they live in while building the Versailles mansion (which was to become the largest single-family home in America) is also massive but because they had to let go of most of their staff during the recession, the home soon turns into a major disaster with too many pets which are not being looked after and eventually die, excessive amounts of toys and clothes which the wife simply cannot stop loading up on. One scene shows us how the kind-hearted nanny from the Philippines carries a new children’s bike into the garage where you cannot even fit a car because there are already at least 20 other bikes piled on top of each other. The nanny is tearing up in another scene because she hasn’t seen her own children back in her country for many years, but she hopes to go back one day with enough money to build a house for them.

It’s all about material extremes, and what scares me the most is the fact that the 12 year old daughter is still obese despite the fact that they could afford the healthiest food in the world, the other girl has severe acne, one boy prefers to sleep in the small room that belongs to the nanny because that’s where he feels safe, and the ultimate white-trash image is of the mother showing up in a black limo outside a McDonald’s drive-thru. A billionaire eating fast food chicken nuggets, ignorance at best.

The lingering feeling after watching this documentary is disgust, money does not come with a beautiful soul and common sense, that’s for sure. But it was entertaining and worth watching, and I think it teaches us a good lesson that, deep down, we already know – life is not a competition about who has the biggest house or who has more things than the other!