How White Lotus Season 2 Is More Political Than Ever

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The White Lotus Season 2.


Mike Whiteit is The White Lotus was a small miracle when it debuted last year; although the production was limited by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, White was able to create a searing and politically relevant examination of our fascination with the upper class and its privilege. While it was funny, moving and disturbing at the same time, The White Lotus felt like it was a hit that couldn’t be recreated. Luckily, White hasn’t made any mistakes so far in the show’s second season. The first season analyzed many aspects of privilege, but season 2 specifically turned to political indifference. This seems to be a particularly timely topic during an election year.

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The second season of The White Lotus brings back the characters Tanya McQuoid (Emmy winner Jennifer Coolidge) and her husband Greg Hunt (Jon Gries), but the rest of the cast is entirely new. We are introduced to the young couple Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne Sullivan (Megann Fahy), who invited Cameron’s college roommate Ethan Spiller (Will Sharpe) and his wife Harper (Place Aubrey) to join them. Tanya’s young assistant, Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), struck up a friendship and possibly romance with college graduate Albi Di Grasso (Adam DiMarco), who is on vacation with his father Dominic (Michel Imperioli) and grandfather Bert (F. Murray Abraham). Given that the first episode teased another deadly situation, it’s possible that at least one of these characters won’t make it out alive by the end of the season.

White has a deft way of dealing with ignorance; not all characters are as rude as the characters on Succession, and they do not see themselves as “privileged”. However, it is clear that anyone who can afford the entrance fee to a White Lotus resort is not living on the same plane of existence as everyone else. Different social classes have different versions of reality, and one of the benefits of wealth is not having to pay attention to current affairs and politics.

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Daphne and Cameron’s Privilege is on full screen

White-Lotus Season 2-Aubrey Plaza, Meghann Fahy, Theo James and Will Sharpe
Picture via HBO

It’s clear from Daphne and Cameron’s relationship that they’ve both been living well-adjusted lives for some time. Ethan and Cameron only met because they were paired up as roommates. As Daphne raises their children, she is pretty much submissive to her husband. Harper finds it hard to relate to her due to her complete lack of interest in any substantive conversation.

Cameron specifically denounces attempts by the media to create political indecision and provoke controversy. This suggests that Cameron is privileged to be unaffected by current events, and he later reveals what he has done with his position of power. It is implied that Cameron sexually abused several women in his employment office, as he discusses the number of ‘false allegations’ regarding accusations of misconduct. He only admits that “some” accusations in general are legitimate because of the pressure he feels from Harper. Cameron is essentially confirmed to be guilty due to his predatory actions towards Harper.

Cameron’s behavior is clearly reprehensible, but it’s interesting how White compares his comments to his wife’s. While Cameron may avoid tough reporting because it’s a reminder of her own mistakes, Daphne doesn’t seem to really care about anything beyond what her husband asks of her. Harper and Ethan are beyond shocked when she mentions she doesn’t watch the news. what else are they supposed to talk about? It’s a hilariously awkward moment that White uses to make a larger point.

There’s an interesting moment at the end of episode 2, “Italian Dream”, when Daphne mentions how she scrolls through various charities while under the influence of alcohol and casually spends sums. important. This suggests that while Cameron is aggressive, Daphne has the ability to be empathetic if something is drawn to her attention. She is willing to contribute to someone else’s cause if it doesn’t require any work on her part. It’s an intriguing difference from her husband, who only brings up the “various charities” he’s involved with to make Harper feel guilty.

Harper, Ethan and Portia are closer by contrast

the-white-lotus-season-2-episode-2-will-sharpe-aubrey-plaza
Picture via HBO

Showing how ignorant Daphne and Cameron are also makes the viewer feel more connected to Harper and Ethan. Although Harper and Ethan benefit from the wealth, they are actively working and knowledgeable about current events. Harper’s work representing women who make accusations of sexual harassment requires her to pay close attention to the news cycle. It’s interesting how she refuses to appease Daphne and Cameron’s ignorance; comparatively, her husband says it’s a good idea to have “eclectic” friends. We later learn that part of Ethan’s motivation for making the trip was to prove himself to Cameron, who was his bully in college.

Interestingly, Portia also mentions her reluctance to follow the news. Although she has some advantages, she is basically treated like a second-class citizen by Tanya, who wants to hide her from her husband the whole trip. The viewer has a lot of empathy for Portia, so her feeling of being overwhelmed by current events is understandable. Portia is a millennial in an uncomfortable job situation; she can be forgiven for avoiding stories that might depress her.

Portia’s behavior may also be related to her discomfort causing conflict with one of the wealthier guests. If she is not seen as their equal, starting arguments could have dire consequences. During the Greek theater tour with the Di Grasso family, Portia appears to ignore or accept Bert’s inappropriate comments about the myth of Hades raping Persephone. Either she willfully ignores it, or she has learned to accept that the upper class lives by completely different standards.

While there is a timeless quality to White’s social satire, the specific connections to recent events ground The White Lotus in current social discourse. Even though these characters all go on vacation to escape the problems they face in their daily lives, they are still affected by the same outside world. It will be interesting to see what White chooses to reveal about the world outside these establishments, and how close it is to our own.

New episodes of The White Lotus Season 2 premieres every Sunday on HBO and HBO Max.

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