I’ve heard that people either love Las Vegas, or they hate it. I don’t love it. And yet, I recommend you see it – once.
I think in the early days Vegas sought to imitate – perhaps even parody – glamorous locations. As long as Vegas was anything but glamorous, this was easy. But as its reputation grew it became more and more difficult until in the end, the only thing worthy of imitating was … Las Vegas. And so, it became a parody of itself. I’ve no idea quite what that means, but it’s surprising how many people agree with it.
Everything about Vegas is sharper than life. It’s a bit like watching an ultra-high definition TV – or perhaps like being inside one. This is completely unlike other venues. For example, Disney goes to great lengths to create a truly immersive experience. Everything is obviously artificial and yet, every detail is consistent. No one could ever think that Mickey Mouse is real. But when you put him in Disneyland, it somehow works. Vegas is just the opposite. Every detail, taken in isolation, is precisely accurate. But the incongruity of the context destroys any pretext of reality.
By now, you are probably wondering exactly what I’m getting at. I started this post with a picture of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. Or did I?
One picture is the real Eiffel Tower, and the other is the half-scale imitation in Vegas. If you know Paris well, you can probably figure it out. There are a number of clues, but they are subtle. But slightly expand the field of view by taking two steps back, and it becomes clear.
Step back even further, and any fool can tell the difference.
I thought for a long time about the title for this post. In the end, I decided to use an allusion to the Las Vegas ad campaign that says “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Here’s the thing, at least as I see it. The ad implies you will experience something so exciting and dangerous that you will not want anyone to know about it when you return home. And that’s exactly what it will feel like at the time. Much the way that from the right angle you could think you were looking at the real Eiffel Tower. But take a step back to get some perspective, and it’s all harmless fun. Perhaps I’m just not trying hard enough, and there really are forbidden pleasures in Vegas. But somehow I suspect no more so than in any other city.