American Wealth Gone Wild: A Blistering Takedown of Greedy Kardashian Culture


AUSTIN, Texas — In Generation Wealth, Lauren Greenfield’s latest, the documentarian and photographer behind 2012’s award-winning Queen of Versailles lets her ambition run wild.

In many ways, Wealth is a natural extension of Versailles, a cautionary tale about one family’s efforts to build the largest home in America. This newest documentary widens the scope, taking on a world made sick with overconsumption—but that’s an oversimplification given how much Greenfield takes on in this 106-minute manifesto and career retrospective. The film is, at once, a look back on 25 years’ worth of Greenfield’s work, a deep dive into the lives of her subjects, captured over decades, and a meditation on consumerism, Kardashian culture, and the rise and fall of the American empire.

As a point of access to all of this decadence and decay, Greenfield returns to her early work and her early life: photographs of L.A.’s wealthy and tanned teenagers, inspired by her own private school days. From prepubescent boys surrounded by hired dancers at bar mitzvahs to a high school-aged Kim Kardashian mingling at a dance, these photos capture both a moment in time and a gathering momentum—a trend towards growing up too fast and too rich to function. These escalating displays of wealth and excess are tempered by the teens’ visible expressions of insecurity and self-consciousness. At once, Greenfield managed to showcase these normal, angsty teens and their singular environment. Girls preened in bikinis for boys and kids flashed hundred-dollar bills at the camera.

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