TV depictions of what constitutes a house for the wealthy can change over time:
And if the “Succession” audience is smaller, the money is, pointedly, bigger. Rewatched in 2023, the idea of luxury in “Dallas” looks quaint, almost dowdy. The aesthetic is Texan country club; the Ewing homestead, the size of a decent suburban McMansion, is a toolshed next to the Manhattan aeries, Hamptons manors and Italian villas that the Roys flitter among.
Some of this is a matter of modern premium-cable budgets vs. the grind of old-school network-TV production, of course. But it also reflects the changed, distorting nature of modern riches. In 1980, American wealth inequality was still near its postwar lows. Since then, the wealth of the top .01 percent has grown at a rate roughly five times as much as that of the population overall. Today, the very rich are very, very, very richer.
The holdings of Waystar Royco — Hollywood studios, cruise lines, newspapers, amusement parks, a king-making right-wing news channel — make Ewing Oil look like a franchise gas station. We know only vaguely how Logan Roy built his empire, but it was enabled partly by the media-consolidation and antitrust deregulation, beginning in the “Dallas”/Reagan era, that allowed his real-life analogues like Rupert Murdoch to make their own piles.
American homes do broadcast messages about a resident’s status and wealth. McMansions are supposed to signal that the owner can afford a big home in a particular style (even if the imitation of traditional styles are odd).
On the other hand, mansions are even bigger, more extravagant, and can be of better build quality. Having multiple such dwellings extends far beyond the McMansion owner in the suburbs.
Another question: do the super wealthy make use of all that square footage and the features or are these part of a real estate investment? The McMansion owner is also hoping to get a return on their investment but the amount of money involved with extra-large properties is at another level.
Courtesy of Architectural Digest, see more about some of Succession’s dwellings here.