White Privilege on Display in “The White Lotus”


Since we’re paying for a plethora of streaming services (HBO, Hulu, Netflix, etc.), I decided it was time to actually watch something on one of them. HBO’s “The White Lotus” was my choice.

Six episodes, six hours of witnessing the power of white wealth, privilege, and entitlement, skewered and served up with huge doses of cynicism, cringe, and above all, entertainment.

Entertainment because streaming services producing original content really have the framework down: collide a cast of characters into each other in a visually interesting setting and follow each of their mini-plots to climax and conclusion.

In this case, vacationers descend upon The White Lotus resort in Hawaii. Anchoring the series is the Mossbacher family: mother, a successful tech executive; father, a beta male undergoing a health scare; obnoxious college-age daughter and her POC friend along for the trip; and teenage son, seeking meaning and purpose after losing his phone.

The resort manager, who steals every scene he appears in, is a recovering addict who slides into darkness again. Shane, the husband of a newlywed couple, a rich kid and momma’s boy, gets into an ongoing confrontation with the manager because the suite his mother paid for isn’t good enough. Shane’s wife starts thinking she made a mistake marrying him.

Finally, there’s the sad heiress vacationing by herself and come to scatter her mother’s ashes. She mistreats the employee who runs the spa, reneging on a promise to help her start her own spa service.

Throw all these characters together and you get clashes of race and class. It’s part drama, part comedy: what we call dramedy.

What’s unusual is the opening sequence in which we discover that someone has been killed, then the narrative flashes back to the vacationers arriving at the resort. We think we know who got killed, but the concept is dropped until near the end. So while watching each episode, we either try to figure out who died and who dunnit, or because we’re absorbed in the storytelling, we forget that it even happened. I did a little of both: while watching each episode, I was immersed enough in the storyline that I didn’t wonder who got killed. Only afterward did I mentally start investigating.

Overall, the casting and acting were top-notch, the plots reasonable and at times uncomfortable, and the viewing experience entertaining but not mind-blowing. It’s worth watching if you happen to be paying for HBO, but not something that will get you to sign up.

A second season is coming out at the end of the month, with a mostly new cast, and instead of tropical Hawaii, we’ll be staying in Sicily. At some point, I’ll tune in.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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