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Reviews | ‘White Lotus’ didn’t care about toxic masculinity after all

Grim tales of class warfare in paradise were a major movie trend in 2022.

In ‘Triangle of Sadness,’ which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the social hierarchy of a luxury cruise ship is turned upside down after a shipwreck leaves plutocrats and role model influencers dependent on the survival skills of a Filipino toilet attendant. “The Menu” is a satirical horror film about high-end food culture in which the celebrity chef of an exclusive restaurant on a private island exacts revenge on his clientele. “Glass Onion,” the sequel to 2019’s murder mystery “Knives Out,” is also set on an island, this one in Greece, where a tech billionaire named Miles Bron, clearly based on Elon Musk, has gathered his ragtag group of amorals. friends during the acute phase of the pandemic.

These films, critical darlings, knock you over the head with their politics. There is an element of wish fulfillment in all of them; they seem aimed at upper-middle-class people who both envy and hate the wealthy. The jokes are aimed at a very online audience who are ready to laugh at their own privilege, but probably wish they had more.

It’s no surprise that professional influencers feature in two of those movies, and – here’s where to stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers – a guy who can’t help photographing his food meets a terrible end. in the third. The movies give shape to the murderous feelings that social media stirs by bombarding us with images of the world’s luckiest people indulging in mind-blowing places.

In some ways, the first season of the HBO series “The White Lotus,” the caustic, multi-award-winning comedy-drama set in a luxury resort on the Maui coast, was a prototype for those films. It skewed the monstrous entitlement of wealthy people who see themselves as themselves, like Shane, the old-school real estate agent who melted away because he was only given the second-best suite. But, unlike recent rich-eater cinema, “The White Lotus” denied its audience the satisfaction of any kind of karmic reward. At the end of the first season, the staff suffered the most, while the negligent guests walked away largely unscathed. The nauseating political punch came from recalling the power dynamics that should have been evident from the start.

Throughout the second season of “The White Lotus,” this time set in an opulent Sicilian hotel, creator Mike White hinted that there would once again be an ideological arc in the series. The season – which opened with the discovery of a corpse floating in the Ionian Sea – seemed obsessed with masculinity as well as money. First there was the Di Grasso family, whose three generations represented three approaches to manhood. Albie was the overly nice guy convinced that gender is a construct. His grandfather, Bert, was a staunch chauvinist. Caught between them was Albie’s father, Dominic, both compulsive womanizer and self-proclaimed feminist, unable to reconcile his ideals and desires.

Then there was Cameron, the obnoxious finance brother, and his college roommate, the nerdy and reserved Ethan, whose tech startup made him rich. Cameron cheated on his own wife with Lucia, a prostitute; urged Ethan to cheat on his wife, Harper; and may have slept with Harper himself. There was every reason to believe that a settling of scores was approaching for some of these men, a settlement that would put their power struggles and the privileges that protected them in a new light. The repeated shots of the testa di Moro vases – which depict a Moor beheaded by her lover when she learned he was married – seemed to herald the consequences of sexual betrayal.

But in the end, the elements of “The White Lotus” most ripe for TikTok’s deconstruction were red herrings. The most significant foreshadowing turned out to come from Cameron’s wife, Daphne, enthusiastic about true crime on “Dateline”: “I love it. Husbands murdering their wives. It happens a lot during the holidays. While the Deaths in the finale were dramatic, the motive behind them completely mundane, and the other subplots, which seemed to be heading for violent climaxes, turned out to be pretty innocuous vacation adventures.

No moral framework determined who won and who lost. Tanya, after taking control of her life by shooting the gay aesthetes who conspired with her husband to have her killed, got excited with a boss claim – “You get it” – and then died in the most stupid possibly. Her husband, Greg, an awful man, presumably derives his fortune. The brave and friendly Lucia did very well too. There was no reward for Cameron; after nearly drowning Ethan in a fight, he and Daphne dined with Ethan and Harper as if nothing had happened, toasting the good life. All of this was absurd in the existential sense of the term.

In this season’s second episode, Portia, a clumsy young personal assistant, complained to Albie about feeling oppressed by the internet. “I just want to live,” she said, adding, “I feel like I just want to meet someone who totally ignores the talk.” If “The White Lotus” is once again a cultural harbinger, then in 2023 we’ll see a series of films that attempt to transcend politics rather than comment on it.

nytimes Gt

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