The White Lotus (2021-2022): A Ruminative Portrayal of the Decaying Nature of Privilege
Unlike other elements 0f Nature, water is not always the same. It calms you down, whilst working you up. It gently passes by you only to give you a new lease of life. Much like water, our lives change constantly too. “The White Lotus” documents exactly that and so much more.
It is about a stay of a few extremely rich visitors in one of the premium tropical resorts there is in Hawaii. The visitors this show focuses on are as different as it gets- there is a newlywed couple, Shane and Rachel Patton. Then there’s an uber-rich family, the Mossbachers. Lastly, there is a single grieving lady called Tanya McQuaid. They have all come here to spend some leisurely time, however, with them, they have brought a lot of emotional baggage. And now, it is on the staff of this luxurious hotel to help them unwind, with no complaints whatsoever.
Throughout episodes, we get to know them better. Their interpersonal relationships slowly clue us into their life. The newly-wed couple, for instance, is facing problems in fitting footing in their marriage. While Shane has been gifted with all the money in the world, Rachel grew up struggling for it, and hence Shane’s disregard for her career irks her. Tanya, on the other hand, visits The White Lotus with a lot of emotional baggage and regrets, but she finds in masseuse Belinda, what is called true companionship. The Mossbacher family, however, has a lot of things going on with them. While the teenage siblings have their issues to deal with, Mark, their father, is getting bombasted with life-altering information throughout his trip. From an outsider’s perspective, their problems might seem naive, almost non-existent.
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However, the show deals with each of the characters with such finesse that you can’t help but care for them. Although it starts off showcasing the lives of its visitors, the occasional detour into the inner lives of the hotel staff makes the viewing experience all the more insightful. Armond, the hotel manager, always dons a smile and wants to make things easy for his guests, however, he is battling with really complex thoughts and regrets, which makes him do questionable things which he neatly covers in the garb of hotel etiquette. The masseuse Belinda also demonstrates an interesting character arc. Her clients are overjoyed by her service and are seen to have transcendental experiences, whilst she is just living the mundane life of serving them.
The show has an interesting format- while it is satirical in showing the abundance of the wealth all these people have, it is empathetic towards them as well. And never for once does that empathy justify wrongdoings. Olivia Mossbacher, the daughter of the Mossbachers is here with her friend Paula. Both of them seem to have radical ideas about imperialism, and social justice. While for Olivia, harboring these ideas is a choice, because her life is designed by the success her parents got owing to their white lineage, Paula believes in it mostly due to her roots. She is an African American which makes her constantly feel how Olivia just does what she does to garner credibility. Both of them are the perfect mouthpieces of what we understand to be liberal hypocrisy until they are not. And that is the credit of the show. It makes us scratch through all its layers and helps us understand the “core of the onion”
The series has been shot impeccably. Each time the shores hit the beach, and the “hateful blue skies” stare down you, a crescendo of emotions rises which is then melodiously handled by the haunting background score of the show. In episode 4(the show has 6 episodes only), in a dinner scene, we see how the local Hawaiians perform some folk songs and show the hotel visitors some stunts. The conch shells are blown and the music begins. Every note of the music is eerie, as though it is inviting us to a world unknown. A world that is so close to us, but where we are thoroughly out of touch with it, which acts on multiple levels for these people.
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As the music goes on, the camera pans from one table to another where people start unraveling themselves and showing their inner selves. The Hawaiians put on flashy “island” outfits and perform for their colonizers-as though development for them is limited to showcasing their theatrics to these civilized people, but never to become one of them. Satirical undertones are present throughout the show, and it never makes anything apparent. We feel for the rich as much as we feel for the ones serving them. We scorn the selfishness of these entitled people and wish to protect the ones they are subliminally exploiting, but we want them to get their share of happiness too.
The 6 episodes of “The White Lotus” address various issues which are currently plaguing the socio-political discourse of America, but it does so ever so gently without any judgment. And in doing this, it gives us some unique and well-realized characters who we hate with all our might but fear becoming ourselves one day.