By Lori Perkins
A recent NY Times article suggested that this season of White Lotus was going to be an exploration of toxic masculinity, but as we have now come to the series’ conclusion we see that it is really a much deeper dive into the secret lives of women, which is often the underbelly of good old toxic masculinity.
The men of the Di Grasso Family are the loudest players in the series, so they grabbed our attention first with philandering middle-aged Dom, dirty old chauvinist (how long has it been since I’ve typed that word?) man Bert, and quiet but still horny Albie, along side the yin and yang of obnoxious unprincipled finance bro Cameron and thoughtful yet angry Ethan. And “the gays,” a coterie of European gay men with villas and yachts who display their wealth like pearls before swine. It almost makes you forget Greg, the errant husband who so casually abandons his wife for a lover after a “perfect” day on the Italian countryside. We think their secrets are all out in the open, and so do they.
The women are crafted more subtly -- the aging ingénue melancholy heiress Tanya, her also equally aimless protégée and employee Portia, lesbian wanna-be Valentina and Mia & Lucia, the pair of con girls without hearts of gold (but maybe soft spots?). And then there was uptight but always-right Harper and laid back and smoldering Daphne, the secret keeper and oddball thread that sews this whole wild tapestry together.
Everyone in this show is angry and privileged, even “poor” Portia, who is there with her boss on an all-expense-paid trip to Sicily, where she hardly has to work, and Lucia & Mia, the local sex worker and wanna-be singer, who are paid quite handsomely for their services while they shop in luxury stores with their earnings and plot their own cons. Tortured rich kid/Stanford-student Albie just wants to be loved, but knows it may all just come down to being rich and smart, and equally tortured tech-rich Ethan also just wants to be appreciated, while hapless male escort Jack already knows it’s two sides of the same coin. And “the gays” just want to keep their landed titled privilege at all costs.
The men think they are masters of the universe, so are unaware if their own fragility, which is both painfully and deliciously amusing. The women know the game is rigged, although some are further along in this realization than others. This whole season of White Lotus is an eight-part exploration of how each of them deals with that reality. It is actually beautiful and frightening.
And surprising, which is why we are all still processing the series’ ending of sweet and sour and savory just deserts.