QUEEN OF VERSAILLES EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE www.facebook.com/docsforschools

Lead Partner
Exclusive Education Partner
Docs For Schools is generously supported by lead sponsor DundeeWealth and exclusive education partner Humber School of Media
Studies & Information Technology. Additional support is provided from The Hal Jackman Foundation, the Catherine and Maxwell
Meighen Foundation, the Charles H. Ivey Foundation, Deluxe, Indigenous Culture and Media Innovations, and through contributions
by individual donors.
Directed by Lauren Greenfield
2012 | USA | 100 min
This guide has been designed to help teachers and students enrich their experience of
documentary film by providing support in the form of questions and activities. There are a range
of questions that will help teachers frame discussions with their classes, activities for before,
during and after viewing the film, and some web links that provide starting points for further
research or discussion. In separate packages, there will also be support materials available with
information regarding general viewing and teaching principles for documentary film and the
fundamental aspects of making documentary films.
The Film
Meet Jackie, former Mrs. Florida 1993 and current wife of
David Siegel, the self-styled king of a vast timeshare empire.
She loves her husband, eight children and shopping. A leggy
blond teetering on high heels, Jackie is thrilled to show
us her work in progress, the largest single-family home in
America. Modelled on the palace of Versailles but arguably
more lavish, it features 30 bathrooms and a skating rink.
At the same time, David is building the largest timeshare
property in Las Vegas, selling average citizens a small piece
of the good life for just a little money down. In 2008 the
financial crisis hits. As their wealth is threatened by the
deepening economic crisis, David’s personality undergoes a
marked shift from boastful billionaire to tired old man, but
Jackie soldiers on with a bright smile. One wonders what it
will take to wake this queen from her American dream.
Educational package written and compiled by Dimitra Tsanos
[email protected]
Viewing the Film with Students
There are important themes in this film that have broad implications for students and their futures.
Take time to activate your students’ background understanding of these themes before viewing.
This will help them as they come to their own understanding and develop their critical abilities.
The following three subsections, on this page, are intended to provide you with a range of previewing, viewing and post-viewing activities. They are followed by a set of questions based upon
the film’s larger thematic domains, some follow-up questions and quotations, sample curricular
outcomes, and a page of web links for further investigation.
Pre-Viewing Activities
Show students the poster from the film, found on the
production company website (http://www.magpictures.com/
queenofversailles/). Discuss with students how effective/
affective the poster is as a media piece.
Have a class lesson about the financial crisis. Define the
term “default” as “the failure to meet the terms of a credit
agreement.” Also define the term “foreclosure” as “the legal
process used to force the payment of debt secured by collateral
(such as a house) whereby the property is sold to satisfy the
debt. Usually means a family needs to leave their house because
they cannot pay their mortgage.” A full glossary of terms can
be found in the PBS lesson plan “Financial Crisis Glossary”
Show students the CBS 60 Minutes clip “House Of Cards”
from 2008 to show how the U.S. sub-prime mortgage
meltdown, in which risky loans drove a housing boom that
went bust, is now roiling capital markets worldwide.
Discuss the impacts the crisis had on the rich in the U.S. The
Economist has a short article and bar graph addressing the
topic (http://www.economist.com/node/12884313).
Have a class discussion on the role of money in the students’
lives. How important is money for happiness? Can money
buy happiness or is there more to happiness than money?
An article from Scientific America titled “Can Money Buy
Happiness?” (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.
cfm?id=can-money-buy-happiness) can be printed and
assigned as a homework reading prior to the discussion.
Print several of the questions or quotations from the
Extension Activities section of this guide on individual
sheets of paper. Have students work in small groups or with
partners to discuss if they agree with the ideas.
Set a purpose for viewing by having a discussion about one
or more of the questions or quotations from the Extension
Activities section of this guide.
Viewing Activities
Have students take notes on, or jot down connections to, one
of the thematic domains in the Big Questions/Ideas/Themes
section of this guide. Ask students to find proof from the film
that supports their connections.
Have students look for themes in the film. Some examples
include consumerism, social class, living beyond one’s means,
family values and money and happiness.
Have students jot down five ideas for discussion, or questions
that the film raised in their minds.
Post-Viewing Activities
Show the students their quotations from the Pre-Viewing
Activity and see if their minds were changed or opinions
altered or enhanced by the film.
Have student complete an exit note (a single small sheet
of paper with one phrase or idea written on it) that
demonstrates one thing they have learned, felt or decided as
a result of watching the film.
Using a projector, present the map “A World Debt” found on
The Economist website (http://www.economist.com/content/
global_debt_clock) onto a screen. Have a class discussion on
government debt around the world by country. Discuss the
patterns of developing versus developed countries.
Have students explore a series of political cartoons and
consider the relationship between globalization and the
economic crisis. Use the Choices Program (http://www.
choices.edu/resources/twtn_economy.php) for an outline of
the lesson along with handouts.
Have students read the simplified breakdown of the financial
crisis (http://welkerswikinomics.com/blog/2008/09/26/usfinancial-crisis-what-is-really-happening/).
Have students create their own superhero comic. Using
software (Comic Life) or an online program like Comic
Creator, students need to research the U.S. financial crisis
and make their own superhero. They will create a six-panel
comic strip, making sure to use real-life players and research
on the topic. The assignment, comic organizer and rubric are
found on the following pages.
The Big Questions/Ideas/Themes
Multiple Perspectives
Culture and Community
What is the subject of this film? Can you determine the
filmmakers’ perspective on this subject? What evidence can
you find in the film to support your view?
Which aspects of a people’s culture does this film focus on?
Why do you think the filmmakers focused on those aspects?
How does this film help you analyze and interpret points of
view about issues that concern people?
Does the filmmakers’ perspective foster respect for diversity
and an inclusive society? If so, how?
How do the images, themes and message of this film help you
understand the filmmakers’ attitude towards the subject?
What do you think might have been the intended audience’s
attitude towards the documentary subject?
Individuals, Societies
and Economic Decisions
Whose story is told in this documentary? Whose story is not
told? How does this story, and the way it is told, help you
understand your own community/life?
What economic systems are at work in this film? What are
some of the causes and effects of the economic decisions
made by the people in the film’s community?
How do the people in this film identify with their community?
What are the common bonds among the people in this film?
What challenges do they face in expressing their identity?
Does money play a part in the decisions being made in the
film and what does it tell you about their local culture?
What film techniques do the filmmakers use to convey the
identity of the people in this film?
What insights does this documentary offer about the ideals
of good citizenship in the community depicted in this film?
How does the film deal with issues of freedom, equality, human
dignity, and individual and collective rights and responsibilities?
Change and Continuity
Power and Governance
What system of government control do we see in this
documentary? How is power distributed within this society?
What are the implications of that distribution on issues
affecting the people’s well-being and freedom?
Global Connections
What global issues are addressed in this film? What is the
filmmakers’ point of view on the opportunities and challenges
of those issues?
Adapted from NFB Documentary Lens: http://www.nfb.ca
How does this film help you understand a community’s values
and its attitudes towards an issue at a particular time?
What changes do the people in the film experience? What
causes those changes? What are the consequences of those
changes for the people in the documentary?
Extension Activities
Additional Questions for Pre-Viewing
or Post-Viewing Activities
How can Virginia, the nanny, leave her family to come to
America to make money? Are the Siegels her family now?
Some people feel they would benefit from having more
money, while others are happy the way they are. If you could
choose, would you want more money? How much would you
really need?
What are values? How do values differ from a rich child to a
poor child?
Why did Jackie tell her kids to start thinking about college
now that they had less money? Why would you not go to
college if you were rich?
How is Jackie caught between two worlds? Use some
examples to explain.
Is Jackie addicted to shopping? What did you think about
their Christmas morning?
Why won’t David sell the Vegas building if it meant putting
their personal life back to normal?
What do you think about the Seigels’ marriage? Do you think
their relationship has been stressed because of their finances?
How has Jackie changed since she was in high school?
Does money define social class? Even though the Siegels are
part of the “upper class,” how is their story similar to many
middle-class families in America?
How do you feel when you watch the lives of rich people
play out on screen? Do you wish you had their life or are you
happy with your life?
Have you ever bought something you couldn’t afford? Why?
Did you regret it or did you enjoy it?
Quotations From the Film to Explore
“The reason why we really want the bigger home—for one
thing, I think my husband deserves it. I think it would be like
a lifetime achievement. I think he’s worked so hard. Even
though this house, which is 26,000 square feet, is so big,
we’re busting out of the seams.” Jackie Siegel
“So you ask me why I’m building the largest home in
America, my answer is, because I could.” David Siegel
“Everyone wants to vacation like a Rockefeller. We show
people how they can. Everyone wants to be rich. If they can’t
be rich, the next best thing is to feel rich and if they don’t
want to feel rich, then they’re probably dead.” David Siegel
“Nothing’s really normal about this life, you know, getting
everything you want, having a huge house and another in
construction, having drivers, you know, it’s like you don’t
really need to worry about money, but at the same time you
do.” Jonquil, niece
“This is our dream home. You can’t cry over things you cannot
change.” Jackie Siegel
“Well, the American dream is raising way up above what
you started with and achieving something way beyond what
anyone would dream what you would achieve and that is
exactly what she has done.” June Downs, Jackie’s next door
neighbour growing up
“He will tell you that the lenders are pushers. They got us
addicted to cheap money and once we were addicted, they
took away our money and now we’re addicts. We have to
have that money in order to maintain the company that we
built.” Richard Siegel, son
“Work is my life. I’m 24/7. I don’t know any other way to do
it. I’m a victim of my own success or failures.” David Siegel
“You can get by without owning a house. You can’t get by
without friends and family. That’s the most important thing.”
Siegel’s driver
“We need to live within our means, don’t spend money that
we don’t have, don’t spend money that we think we’re going
to eventually have, spend what we do have, you know, get
back to reality.” David Siegel, about his wife’s overspending
“I guess I’m in this fantasy world until reality hits.” Jackie Siegel
Post-Viewing Activity: Making a Comic Strip
You will create your own comic strip on the financial crisis in the U.S. The comic does not have to be humorous; instead, it
needs to illustrate and make a point about something in the financial crisis.
In your comic:
• Your main character will be a superhero.
• Develop an interesting plot.
• Use real-life characters.
• Illustrate your story and provide dialogue using the Comic Life software.
• Be sure to have a title for your comic strip and at least six story blocks or slides.
The first slide of your comic must include name, date and title. The last slide of your comic must include a concise description
of the characteristics of your topic that you have represented in your comic.
Scene and actions that occur
Making a Comic Strip Rubric
Knowledge and Understanding
Clear understanding
of issues, superhero
well developed
Limited success in use
of geographic terms
and concepts
Some success in use of
geographic terms
and concepts
Moderate success
in use of geographic
terms and concepts
Employs geographic
terms and concepts
with a high degree
of success
Collection of information
on key players, etc.
Information indicates
limited research skills
and does not include
sufficient research on
own topic
Information indicates
moderately effective
research skills on own
Information indicates
effective research
skills with most
issues examined and
Information indicates
excellent research
skills with all issues
thoroughly examined
and considered
Use of an organizer
A table organizer was
not used or used with
limited effectiveness
A table organizer
was used with limited
A table organizer was
used with considerable
A table organizer
was used with
a high degree of
Media Application
Use of software;
Does not use
application in an
effective manner;
takes away from the
story; little creativity
Was able to use basic
features of application;
some creativity
Makes good use of
application features;
uses application
to enhance story;
Makes excellent use
of application and
all of its features;
uses creative detail
to complete comic
strip in an attractive
manner; frames
compliment story
Total: ______________/20
Examples of Curriculum Expectations
Grade 9-12 English
Developing and Organizing Content
• generate, gather and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose
and audience.
Understanding Media Texts
• demonstrate an understanding of a variety of media texts.
Grade 11
Family Studies
• identify the principles of and techniques required for effective management of personal and
family resources (e.g., time, money, talent).
• analyze the role that responsible consumerism plays in independent and family living.
• analyze how families are affected by global disparities in wealth and resources.
• identify and describe the major expenses of individuals and families throughout the stages of life.
• explain the effects of economic and business trends on the family.
• demonstrate an understanding of the process of decision making in life situations.
• identify the basic principles and techniques an individual would use in effectively managing
personal resources, including talent, time and money.
• describe how economic influences affect the individual.
• identify ways in which financial institutions assist in the management of personal economics.
Grade 11 Economics
• explain how the scarcity of economic resources requires individuals and societies to make
economic choices.
• explain the principles of sound personal financial planning.
• explain how changes in prices, incomes and the cost of living affect the decisions that are
made by consumers.
• compare the different forms of saving and personal investment and the criteria to be
considered when selecting them.
Grade 11 History
• analyze the forces that have influenced American economic development.
Grade 11
and Sociology
• demonstrate an understanding of the social forces that influence and shape behaviour as
described by anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists.
• analyze socialization patterns from the perspectives of anthropology, psychology and sociology.
Grade 12 Economics
• assess the ways in which, and the degree to which, people in Canada and other countries have
become interdependent in the global economy.
• analyze examples of conflicts of self-interest that prevent the achievement of economic goals.
Grade 12
Family Studies
• identify and evaluate the various ways in which the media can be seen as agents of socialization.
Websites and Online Resources
Mag Pictures: The website for the production company for
the film includes a synopsis and the film’s poster.
This blog features an interview with filmmaker Lauren
Greenfield about the film, along with excerpts from the film.
Council for Economic Education, Econedlink: This website
provides a number of lessons that encourages students to
become budget minded. The site includes other resources for
teachers, as well as news articles with support material.
CBS 60 Minutes: A 15-minute video segment titled “House of
Cards” from 2008 shows how the U.S. sub-prime mortgage
meltdown, in which risky loans drove a housing boom that
went bust, is now roiling capital markets worldwide.
PBS: In the News Hour Extra lesson plan titled “Financial
Crisis Glossary,” the objective is to help students understand
the current U.S. and global economic crisis.
Scientific America: An August 2010 article titled “Can
Money Buy Happiness?” looks at new research suggesting
that wealth can impair our capacity to enjoy life.
Various Links for Lesson Plan Ideas,
Media Awareness, Critical Literacy and
Documentary Films
Center for Media Literacy: A U.S. website which
provides several resources for making, understanding
and criticizing media.
Hot Docs Library: Dozens of online Canadian documentaries,
including a number with education support material to aid
with classroom viewing.
Hot Docs’ Looking at Documentaries: A teaching guide
that sets out questions designed to help teachers include
the study of documentary film in their curriculum. Free
PDF download.
Media Awareness: A Canadian non-profit media education
and Internet literacy resource library.
NFB Education: Rich in resources and activities.
CAMPUS: Your online media solution from the NFB.
Ontario teachers—activate your profile today at
The Choices Program: A one-day lesson titled “Globalization
and the Economic Crisis” uses political cartoon analysis, as
well as radio and the news, to analyze the topic.
The Economist: A world debt comparison uses an interactive
map to look at government debt around the world by country.
The New York Times: The website provides a page devoted
to the credit crisis, including an overview of the crisis, an
interactive media timeline, videos of interviews with people
across the United States and links to articles.
The film’s director, Lauren Greenfield, has a website.