The Compelling Nature of HBO’s ‘The White Lotus’


Anna Ferranti '24, Writer

The White Lotus has exploded in popularity recently, garnering massive attention among teenagers and adults alike. The show was created by HBOMax and became one of their most popular series to date. ‘The White Lotus’ is a limited series about different parties on vacation at a luxury resort. The vacationers in the first season are comprised of a fighting couple on their honeymoon, a solo traveler overcoming her grief, and a family dealing with arguments and tensions. The show is like a window into the lives of the upper class, following the events of each day they experience on their vacation. Many viewers have expressed sentiments of confusion about the show’s popularity; as a major criticism of the show is that nothing actually happens. But what makes the series so infectious and entertaining, despite the perceived lack of plot?

The first reason why The White Lotus is such a popular show is because as a society, we love witnessing the lives of the elite. This phenomenon can be seen in various outlets of life. Our societal obsession with the Kardashians is a prime example; we love watching the drama and spectacle of the upper class, even if they aren’t doing anything particularly interesting. ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ ran for 20 seasons because viewers never got bored of being able to experience the Kardashians’ life. The same idea applies to ‘The White Lotus’. Although the characters may not even be doing anything particularly interesting, their lives still feel novel to us because of their immense wealth. 

Additionally, the score in ‘The White Lotus’ makes even the most mundane of interactions seem monumental. The music by composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer is deeply unsettling. It contributes to the mounting dread when watching the show. As viewers, we feel like we are trapped in a pressure cooker along with the characters, waiting anxiously for something bad to happen. A simple scene can be completely transformed by the music layered over the back, adding a new layer of subtext and making the audience analyze everything we see on a deeper level.

Above all, ‘The White Lotus’ conveys complex social dynamics. The series uniquely juxtaposes the oppressors with the oppressed through their close proximity on the show. The resort feels like a social study, with each micro-interaction packed full of nuance. There are countless interactions that express complex dynamics within society. Rachel and Shane’s relationship, Tanya and Belinda’s relationship, Olivia and Paula’s relationship, and the relationship between all of the guests and staff as a whole illuminate unique areas of privilege and oppression. There are all kinds of intersecting power structures that make the show deeply engaging to watch. Rather than using on-the-nose statements or platitudes, ‘The White Lotus’ develops its message on class, race, and gender through the complex relationships between various characters.