Shortly after winning the Golden Globes, we can’t help but take this space to talk about The White Lotus, its extraordinary success and how it is not the simple tv series it might seem. In 2021, HBO was churning out one limited series created by Mike White and made up of a respectable cast: Connie Britton, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Lacy, Sydney Sweeney, Steve Zahn, Molly Shannon and Jennifer Coolidge, which we will talk about later. The premises of the show were really attractive but perhaps no one, not even the showrunner himself, would have expected the success and resonance of this edgy black comedy. So much so that HBO has decided to renew it for a second season, set in Italy, and a third, in production.
Satire, tearing off layer after layer and cutting deep into the heart of this rotten fruit, is the knife White uses to talk about the society we live in. A society divided between those who “can” and those who “can”: where the former are the privileged few who can change the world as they please, while the latter are the many who manage to stay afloat. The bourgeoisie is the distant memory of a past in which society was truly divided into several equal parts, today it is only the new aristocracy. Mike White’s talent lies in knowing how to talk about these topics with total fluency and having fun doing it. And it is precisely by virtue of this fun that the message of The White Lotus manages to reach even louder, for all those ears that are willing to listen.
Within the idyllic setting of the White Lotus, a luxury resort chain, a caravan of masks – in the theatrical sense of the term – with their relative clichés are presented to us on their respective descending journeys. From the joyful and hopeful arrival, to the first cracks in the facade of perfection to that spiral of ruin in which someone will have to pay the price. But it is symbolic as, in truth, none of the privileged rich who really commit a crime is then called to serve the penalty. Who is punished is theoutsider. Not only. In a crescendo of injustices, the true heroes and heroines of history face two possible destinies, each equally sad: either they are annihilated or they change sides, breaking their principles.
From this point of view, if the first season of the HBO TV series strikes us for the injustices we witness as the story progresses, the second, however, reveals itself to us as a story by now unhappily known, of which we can already foresee the ending. The formula in The White Lotus it does not change. Indeed, now trained by Mike White, we almost anticipate the absurd ending that the showrunner will give us in Taormina.
If the focus of the first season is money, that of the second is sex but it doesn’t matter because the Red string Of The White Lotus there is always and only power left.
In Hawaii it is the power exercised by the god of money that keeps poor Belinda hanging by a thread, hopeful of being able to make a change in her life, the director Armond (Murray Burtlett), forced to make the best of a bad situation until that dramatic finale , and the newlywed Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), young and naïve. Each of them, albeit in a different way and with different results, is at the mercy of the whims of those who are socially higher up the pyramid. Similarly, a specific and well-structured hierarchy also exists and is visible in Italy.
This time, however, it is sex that regulates the relationships between the characters in the second season. The latter appears in different ways but still remains a steel chain on whose opposite sides we find desire and possession. It matters little whether it manifests itself in the machismo of the Di Grasso men (yes, we are also talking about Albie) or in the emancipation of Lucia and Mia or, again, in the fake relationship between Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and Cameron (Theo James) which ends to bribe even the one between Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Ethan (Will Sharpe).
There is no happy ending or some form of divine justice that, intervening from above, restores order.
The prey can become predators, as happens to the two Sicilian girls. The victims remain victims, as happens in Armond, or they go over to the side of the perpetrators, as is the case with Rachel in Hawaii or Harper and Ethan in Italy. The character of Tanya obviously deserves a separate discussion, played by the newfound Jennifer Coolidge.
Tanya embodies the topos of appearance, of the meaningless and depthless reflection bouncing off the mirror surface. In Season 1, we almost think she might be an unsuspecting victim of the system, as is the case with Alexandra Daddario’s character. But a few episodes are enough to realize that she is not like that at all, quite the contrary. By virtue of her social status and wealth, Tanya treats the world around her and the people who inhabit it as personal components of her dollhouse. She lives in a constant state of delusion that not only has painful repercussions for those who cross her path, but will have fatal consequences for Tanya herself.
Tanya’s ignorance is her undoing. And this is probably the most subtle and, at the same time, most effective message The White Lotus can send us. The TV series created by Mike White is an elaborate, well-packaged and ironic work that hides more than a message to codify and treasure. The showrunner manages to dissect human types with surgical precision and does so by always wearing a big clownish nose.
Leave a Reply