Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cold & Flu, Snow & Movie Review: The Wealthy Really Are Different, Y'All

So along with this Snowpocalypse ( six inches of snow over an inch of ice, knocking out the power in nearly 80% of Fort Smith, though not here at our place), I have come down with a very achy and unpleasant flu.

But at least I have heat!  And electricity.  Which allowed me to watch this documentary, recommended (sort of) by TYWKIWDBI:  The Queen of Versailles.

Let me recommend it (sort of) to you.  It's the tale of David Siegel, who you may remember from the 2012 election, when he made the news for a threatening email sent out to his employees, saying that if they didn't vote for Romney, he might have to fire heaps of them when Obama got re-elected.

He's also the guy who sexually harassed his son's fiancee.

In the film, you will see him routinely objectifying and demeaning women -- he straight out says that his wife is not his equal, but just another child. You will also see how Siegel routinely uses other people, including his own son, as objects and tools to obtain his goals.

It is not only women, that is, he turns into tools and objects; but it clearly is women he sees as toys and tools he can do with as he pleases.  All through the movie he treats his wife (and his children) like some expensive and amusing trinket, like one of the Faberge eggs his wife has purchased by the dozen for their ridiculous house: something to play with when he's in the mood and cast aside when he's grumpy.

And this is how he treats all the women in his life.  His son from his first marriage tells about how his mother was treated -- how they lived in poverty even though David Siegel already had millions at that point; and there is just a heart-breaking scene with the children's nanny.

The documentary does a good job of showing the complexity of the situation, by which I mean it doesn't paint David Siegel as a cartoon villain; but it does let you see how the pursuit of wealth has damaged and isolated him; how it's let him and his family come to believe incredible things about how the world works; how it's harming his children; and how controlling that much wealth does, in fact, move people into a different category.

There's this one scene where David Siegel is talking about his debt. He is literally millions of dollars in debt at this point. He's got assets, mind you -- a jet, that half-finished house, the Versailles the movie is named for, all his wife's $75,000 dollar purses -- but he can't sell any of them, so.  And he's talking about how he's buying up his own debt, through third person puppets, more or less.

So he owes twenty million dollars.  And he pretends he's this third person.  And the bank is going to sell the debt, since they can't collect from it.  And Bank of America and whoever sells the debt, for pennies on the dollar, as they do, for three million dollars, to David Siegel himself, though they don't *know* it's him.  He's deeply amused by this, as who wouldn't be?  It's quite a move, and all he had to do was get someone to lend him three million dollars.

It's how he stays afloat at the end of the movie, too -- how he keeps his business going, how he's *still* a rich fucker, influencing politics, buying Congressmen.  Someone is always lending him millions, because he's one of the 1%.

"I worked hard* for everything I have," he says at the start of the movie.  "I earned all of this."

I'm sure he believes it, too.

*His business, by the way, is selling time-shares in condos -- convincing people who really can't quite afford it to buy one weekend a year in Las Vegas or Florida or wherever, with low down payments at high rates of interest.  Rubes, he calls them.  You remember when everyone was claiming it was Fannie Mae selling houses to the blah people that causes the crash?  Yeah.  There's another lovely scene where Siegel's employees are hounding these rubes for their back payments after the economy has tanked.


Victoria Gaile said...

Thanks for the synopsis, and also for the link to TYWKIWDBI - what a cool blog!

Hope you feel better soon.

delagar said...

TYWKIWDBI is very cool! I got lured over there by their frequent rock posts (like this one

but they're always having great posts.)

Anonymous said...

I saw a few minutes of this "movie" on Hulu and was so horrified and repulsed by these people that I couldn't continue. Good blog though! --L