The hotel in ‘The White Lotus’ is the best character on television
The White Lotus is back, baby. Like last time, a group of guests arrived at the resort with a lot of luggage – affairs, sexual addiction, unhappy marriages and, of course, a mysterious corpse. This time the show is set in Sicily, with sensible hotel manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) and her underling Rocco (Federico Ferrante) trying (and failing) to avert disaster at every turn.
Who is the real star of The White Lotus? With the exception of Jennifer Coolidge, who returned as neurotic millionaire Tanya McQuoid, the show’s cast changes each season. So far, we’ve seen cameos of Theo James’ (presumably prosthetic) penis, Laura Dern’s voice screaming on the phone, and Will Sharpe’s abs so ripped they look photoshopped. But most important of all is the White Lotus hotel itself. It doesn’t matter where, it’s a place where wealth, beauty and misery go hand in hand, where there’s a lingering sense that all is not what it seems and something terrible awaits around the corner—maybe even in the next room.
Hotels are having a moment on the small screen. In July, The complex— a dark comedy mystery series exploring an unsolved crime against the backdrop of a posh Riviera Maya resort — fell on Peacock. In 2021, Hulu Nine perfect strangers—with Nicole Kidman, yoga retreat leader turned drug dealer, and a very dodgy Russian accent – received mixed reviews. Previously, Lady Gaga made her television debut in American Horror Story: Hotel, where she performed “La Comtesse” (no, not Countess Luann de Lesseps), with another barely-placeable accent. And who could forget Schitt’s Creek? The sitcom followed a once wealthy family living in a rundown hotel in a forgotten city, capturing hearts and minds in the process.
The White Lotus highlights the obvious narrative advantages of the hotel. It may sound pretty, but the hotel is a “pressure cooker” environment where different characters come together, with all of their personal issues colliding and intertwining. They may be trying to leave their drama at home, but that’s why they call it “emotional baggage.”
Hotels are often the scene of dramatic moments and epiphanies. In the latest episode of sex and the city, Carrie finds herself in an opulent hotel room when she realizes that Aleksandr Petrovsky is not the right man for her. “I’m someone looking for love. True love! Ridiculous, embarrassing, all-consuming love, you can’t live without the other,” she told him. “And I don’t think love is here in this expensive suite of this charming hotel in Paris.”
On Friends, Monica and Chandler had sex for the first time in a London hotel room while attending Ross’ doomed wedding to Emily. And Rachel and Joey’s brief foray into romance – one of the most hated storylines in television history – also began in a hotel room in Barbados. Obviously, taking the characters out of their surroundings, into a place with a free bar, room service, and time to think about their life choices, allows the writers to be more daring.
The White Lotus is the latest in a long line of TV shows that have tried to confuse the wealthy. Of Succession at Billions, the loss and the HBO Gossip Girl reboot – which follows wealthy Upper East Side kids who master the language of “verifying their privileges” – American television is more critical of wealth than ever. (While celebrating, this is America, after all).
Jennifer Coolidge Didn’t Think She’d Live To Hear Your Praises On ‘The White Lotus’
The White Lotus The hotel is central to the series’ exploration of wealth and power. The characters all look different, but are connected by the fact that they can afford to shell out for a luxury vacation. Within the confines of the chic beach resort, we see a specific class dynamic at play between staff and guests: the brutality of how the wealthy use money to protect themselves from consequences and, often, the obligation to act with basic decency. In Season 1, Belinda’s heartbreaking story — which ended with her dream of owning her own spa being crushed — had viewers screaming “Eat the rich!” en masse. And this year, Coolidge’s character is inflicting similar misery on his assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson).
The idea of ”trouble in heaven” is part of what makes The White Lotus hotel such an attractive location, as far as entertainment value goes. The first two seasons both begin with the reveal of a corpse, a mystery that lingers throughout the episodes as we try to figure out which journey will be their last.
The idea that luxury might not be as enviable as it seems has also dominated reality TV lately. There’s the increasingly bizarre dating shows set on desert islands, Bravo’s superyacht reality franchise Under the bridgeand the infamous travels of actors on real housewives, where women fly off to drink martinis and ruin each other’s lives. We also find this idea in films set in hotels, since the adaptation by Stanley Kubrick of Stephen King the brilliant to Wes Anderson’s thriller The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s to the point where if you present a hotel to the public, they immediately expect something bad to happen.
But The White Lotus also feeds on a feeling of escape. Staying in a five-star hotel is an experience many people will never have, and it’s no coincidence that the first season has become hugely popular in a pandemic when most people (except the Kardashians , of course) could not travel. Same for TV shows like sell sunset Where Succession, The White Lotus gives us a satisfying juxtaposition of a beautiful, decadent environment and unhappy, imperfect people. Because if we’re going to watch these rich people with perfect bodies prance around a beautiful cliffside resort in Sicily, having the trip of our dreams, we want to immerse ourselves in the illusion that we’re having a a lot better time if we were them.
The White Lotus Hotel throws familiar dilemmas from year to year. Last season, we saw Shane (Jake Lacy), a spoiled MAGA-adjacent newlywed, develop an obsession with his bedroom. He found himself locked in a battle with hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) after repeatedly asking to be moved to a hotel with even more ornate and garish decor. This year, Dominic (Michael Imperioli) found himself in a similarly tense moment with Valentina, after he demanded that two local sex workers be given access to his room.
‘The White Lotus’ star Haley Lu Richardson got to live her Italian dream