‘The White Lotus’ Proves Why We Can’t Stop Watching Rich White People & Their Chaotic Lives

Photo: HBO
HBO Series The White Lotus

Why do we love seeing toxic and privileged people suffer? Because we find it comical and fascinating to see a satirical take on the filthy rich.

There are few things we love more than we love to see than inside the dramatic lives of the top one percent, who are among the most self-absorbed worst people you've ever met.

We have seen this trope explored in shows like "Gossip Girl," "Dynasty," "Mad Men" and in reality TV shows like "Real Housewives" or even sometimes in "90 Day Fiance." 

This trope is explored excellently through HBO's new series "The White Lotus" — directed by Mike White. There's something about rich white privileged people rotting in their own toxic privilege that gets people excited and raving about a show. 

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What is HBO's 'The White Lotus' about?

The six-episode HBO Max limited series is described as a social satire that follows the exploits of various hotel guests and employees. Starting with the top employees we have hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett), spa manager and hopeful spiritual adviser Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), and new starter Lani (Jolene Purdy).

Then the wealthy guests include mourning motherless middle-aged narcissist Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), the incompatible pair of newlyweds Rachel and Shane (Jake Lacy and Alexandra Daddario), and the stereotypical rich suburban family controlled by two powerful female leads (Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, Sydney Sweeney, and Fred Hechinger).

'The White Lotus' satirizes class structures.

"The White Lotus" reminds us that the rich would rather be miserable than lose their fortune. Throughout the show, they are reminded that they have terrible instincts and heavy baggage that don't just magically disappear from going on a vacation. 

The show has perfectly crafted modern media's critique on white privilege. It also perfectly captures rich white people's complete and utterly disconnect towards the working class and people of color. 

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The show covers a wide arrange of social issues like misogyny, white feminism, racism, and classism. It also discusses the issues of colonialism and capitalism as The White Lotus, a hotel for the elites, was built on native land which was stolen. 

"The White Lotus" doesn't aim for us to be amazed over how wealthy these people. Instead, we are invited really to understand why the rich and white privileged are so doomed by their inherent competitive nature and greed. I mean, they can't even escape even on a delightful island vacation without their demons following them. 

'The White Lotus' takes on the effects of historical classism and colonialism.

The show also explores the underprivileged and working-class as they too are trying to hold and gain power through the rich. The difference is that these lower classes can never escape as they don't have the means to do so.

"The White Lotus" comments on how much humans don't like to sacrifice anything when it comes to accumulating money, wealth, and power because doing that can be more painful than unhappiness itself.

It's one of the most interesting dark comedies that explore privilege, wealth, and existential anxiety in a more critical way. The show also comments on Hawaii's long-lasting colonial damage through the complicated dynamics of an island that doesn't proportionally benefit its native people and heavily privileges tourists. 

Some of the plotlines that explore these tropes are Rachel and Shane's very complicated relationship and Shanes never-ending fight with the hotel management over being checked into the wrong room — the Pineapple Suite, not the Palm Suite.

Tanya's overbearing relationship with Belinda, a hardworking Black woman, who holds onto a false promise Tanya gives her about creating her own business. Tanya takes advantage of Belinda's skills to help guide her through her mother's passing.

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Privilege is inescapable in 'The White Lotus.'

There's also the young rich daughter Olivia and her friend Paula who embody the two different sides at play here. Olivia is a person born into wealth and who may want to escape but will never truly know how it feels to be without privilege.

Paula embodies the generational and racial divide on the island. As a person of color, Paula is able to point out the blatant issues she sees like the Hula dancers dancing for white tourists and discovering the hotel stands on native land that was stolen.

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Rachel's situation is also a display of white feminism. She has the privilege and choice throughout the series to stay or leave her rich husband because she doesn't feel a spark with him and doesn't want to be a trophy wife. 

And everyone is obsessed with Jennifer Coolidge in 'The White Lotus.'

Jennifer Coolidge's performance of Tanya is often funny. However, Coolidge makes sure that Tanya as a character is not laughable. Instead she is mainly undignified and very manipulative.  

Tanya's character proves that even if the rich want to prove to other people they can change or help in a positive way, they are always going to be stuck in their ways and will never change. 

The one thing that separates Tanya from the other rich white privileged is that Tanya actually knows herself and admits she's a "straight-up alcoholic lunatic."

However, even though she and the others believe they somehow changed in the end for the better, they actually ended up worsening the lives of the working class through their outrageous actions. We learned throughout the series that the wealthy's freedom comes at the expense of others. 

Is there going to be a season 2 of 'The White Lotus'?

HBO recently revealed that The White Lotus will have a second season where it will leave Hawaii and follow "a different group of vacationers as they jet to another White Lotus property and settle in temporarily amongst its inhabitants," and we're excited to follow along when that comes out, as long as, Jennifer Coolidge is in the cast again.

Though season one of "The White Lotus" brought lots of drama and critical discussions about wealth and the issues of inequality in the world, Mike White isn't finished just yet with the series.

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Megan Hatch is a writer at YourTango who covers pop culture, love and relationships, and self-care.