*Queen of Versailles*

by on August 15, 2012 at 1:08 am in Economics, Film | Permalink

I enjoyed this movie, although I didn’t think it lived up to its most enthusiastic reviews.  It is striking how much economics the film contains.  The implicit macro model of the crash emphasizes the credit channel, rather than the monetary channel.  Repeated cuts to nominal wages fail to work because credit/liquidity is a complementary factor of production.  There is another implicit model of lender asymmetry, namely that your old lenders may try to drive you under, to get the collateral, and competition from new, less informed lenders cannot step in to fill the gap.  The fixed costs of bankruptcy are high.  The male protagonist in the movie is a Caplanian pro-natalist, and a satire of such at the same time.  Habits are formed, and then unformed, and possibly will be formed again.  The wealthy are not so different from the rest of us.  Someone didn’t read Aristotle, or for that matter Markowitz and Tobin.

Rick August 15, 2012 at 2:06 am

It is striking how much economics the film contains.

So here’s what it didn’t portray:

- An aging boomer corporate concubine being kicked out on the street who had moved to NYC when she was young, basically for no higher function than to raise the (fertile) female to male ratio in NYC for the benefit of traders who would soak GI-generation geezers of their real estate equity during bogus IPOs—sending them copies of Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” in lieu of anything of value. She then returns to her hometown where she hopes to get back together with her high school sweet heart but he’s become a meth freak. She then faces the remainder of her years, childless, friendless and destitute.
- Guy in his early 40s who lived in apartments in Silicon Valley for years as a corporate eunuch who, during the final years of his soon-to-be-dead career saw a bit of hope for stock options but instead ended up $100,000 in debt to the IRS for “alternative minimum taxes” and no prospect for future employment. He goes back home to live with mom and dad after training his H-1b visa replacements from India. He finds a job competing with call centers in India for a few months but then faces the rest of his life working minimum wage at Walmart. He tries to get together with the rejected corporate concubine. But with the biological clock having run out on his sex drive as well as her fertility nothing comes from it but a couple of damaged people further damaging each other when they can least afford it.
- A glimpse of a rare acquaintance of theirs who hit the jackpot during the big DotCon returning to his high school reunion to meet the above two characters and lecturing them on how they’re succumbing to bitterness.
- A young guy who left a state university to go to Silicon Valley during the height of the DotCon to live in hovels. He goes to raves in San Francisco for entertainment where his erstwhile girlfriend, whom he met at his DotCon company, is pursued by 4 other guys from the same company. She goes home with the VP con artist and he becomes the butt of continuing jokes at work. Unable to find any other social outlet he continues going to the raves and while on some sort of hallucinogen suddenly discovers, much to his amazement, he’s GAY. The DotCon bubble then bursts and he goes home to live with his parents with his own $100,000 in debt from the “alternative minimum tax” on his worthless stock options, to slowly lose his mind to AIDS neuropathy. He struggles in vain to find someone, anyone, something, anything that will have sex with him.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—where’s the humor? Can this be a comedy? How could you sell something like this?

You haven’t heard the proposed punch line:

The US dollar loses its status as the world’s reserve currency, a pandemic hits and The Man, having found out he’s not The Stud he thought he was, loses His collective mind and nukes Iran, Syria and any other enemy of Israel as His psychotic attempt to restore some semblance of familiarity to the world. Then to The Man’s surprise nukes that had been, over decades of His open borders policy, smuggled into the urban centers of the US and Europe suddenly go BOOM. Not even the talking heads are left to tell us about how “hateful” the people who did this are.

All of the above characters join in the fun and have a good laugh while finding some bitter-sweet meaning to life.

It’s at once a tear-jerker, uplifting and side-splitting comedy.

j r August 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Dude, there’s a whole wide world outside of Chateau Heartiste and Steve Sailer blog posts. You should check it out sometime.

Rick August 15, 2012 at 2:09 am

It is striking how much economics the film contains.

So here’s what it didn’t portray:

1. An aging boomer corporate concubine being kicked out on the street who had moved to NYC when she was young, basically for no higher function than to raise the (fertile) female to male ratio in NYC for the benefit of traders who would soak GI-generation geezers of their real estate equity during bogus IPOs—sending them copies of Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” in lieu of anything of value. She then returns to her hometown where she hopes to get back together with her high school sweet heart but he’s become a meth freak. She then faces the remainder of her years, childless, friendless and destitute.

2. Guy in his early 40s who lived in apartments in Silicon Valley for years as a corporate eunuch who, during the final years of his soon-to-be-dead career saw a bit of hope for stock options but instead ended up $100,000 in debt to the IRS for “alternative minimum taxes” and no prospect for future employment. He goes back home to live with mom and dad after training his H-1b visa replacements from India. He finds a job competing with call centers in India for a few months but then faces the rest of his life working minimum wage at Walmart. He tries to get together with the rejected corporate concubine. But with the biological clock having run out on his sex drive as well as her fertility nothing comes from it but a couple of damaged people further damaging each other when they can least afford it.

3. A glimpse of a rare acquaintance of theirs who hit the jackpot during the big DotCon returning to his high school reunion to meet the above two characters and lecturing them on how they’re succumbing to bitterness.

4. A young guy who left a state university to go to Silicon Valley during the height of the DotCon to live in hovels. He goes to raves in San Francisco for entertainment where his erstwhile girlfriend, whom he met at his DotCon company, is pursued by 4 other guys from the same company. She goes home with the VP con artist and he becomes the butt of continuing jokes at work. Unable to find any other social outlet he continues going to the raves and while on some sort of hallucinogen suddenly discovers, much to his amazement, he’s GAY. The DotCon bubble then bursts and he goes home to live with his parents with his own $100,000 in debt from the “alternative minimum tax” on his worthless stock options, to slowly lose his mind to AIDS neuropathy. He struggles in vain to find someone, anyone, something, anything that will have sex with him.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—where’s the humor? Can this be a comedy? How could you sell something like this?

You haven’t heard the proposed punch line:

The US dollar loses its status as the world’s reserve currency, a pandemic hits and The Man, having found out he’s not The Stud he thought he was, loses His collective mind and nukes Iran, Syria and any other enemy of Israel as His psychotic attempt to restore some semblance of familiarity to the world. Then to The Man’s surprise nukes that had been, over decades of His open borders policy, smuggled into the urban centers of the US and Europe suddenly go BOOM. Not even the talking heads are left to tell us about how “hateful” the people who did this are.

All of the above characters join in the fun and have a good laugh while finding some bitter-sweet meaning to life.

It’s at once a tear-jerker, uplifting and side-splitting comedy.

Nick August 15, 2012 at 8:55 am

The Hairpin did an insightful interview with the director a couple of weeks ago that you might enjoy:

http://thehairpin.com/2012/07/the-queen-of-the-queen-of-versailles

Nancy Lebovitz August 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

That reminds me– Magic Mike (a recent movie about male strippers) has an amazing amount about entrepreneurship. One of the main characters is saving money to start a furniture business, and there’s quite a bit about the point of view of the owner of the strip club.

Ted Craig August 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

You had me at “satire of such.”

Kent Guida August 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

“Someone didn’t read Aristotle” is the right tag line for most discussions about happiness and the good life, especially those about the role of “equipment.”

Urstoff August 15, 2012 at 11:21 am

Should it be the tagline of the movie?

“The Queen of Versailles: Someone Didn’t Read Aristotle”

David Silver August 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I love it when Tyler does posts like this that extract the abstract economic concepts from a work of art. It makes me think.

rkw August 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I liked it. I felt like the main characters were really, really dumb, but the people I was with said they seemed more risk-loving and greedy than dumb.

Oh, and the lawsuit story followup is a good read too: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/movies/the-queen-of-versailles-and-its-lawsuit.html

Brian Donohue August 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Sounds like a remake:

“Well, Mom, remember my dream of owning a big house on a hill, and how I used to wish for a living room with a plaster lion in it from Mexico? And how I always wanted a large-seat dining table in a dining room with original paintings by Michelangelo and Rembrandt? And remember how I always wanted a rotating bed with pink chiffon and zebra stripes? And remember how I used to chitchat with dad about always wanting a bathtub shaped like a clam and an office with orange and white stripes? Remember how much I wanted an all red
billiard room with a giant stuffed camel and how I wanted a disco room
with my own disco dancers and a party room with fancy friends? And remember how much I wanted a big backyard with Grecian statues S-shaped hedges, and three swimming pools? Well, I got that too.”

Later:

“Pay to the order of ’Iron Balls’ Mcginty, one dollar and nine cents!”

Navin R. Johnson August 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!

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