Culture / TV

How HBO’s latest show, ‘The White Lotus’, capitalises on our fear of second-hand embarrassment

The White Lotus

If there's one thing we know about the human psyche; it's that we have an unquenchable thirst for watching other people embarrass themselves. No matter how cringeworthy or soul-crushing, we can't look away. Disguised under the guise of "gosh, I would never do something like that" or "that would never be me." Whether in real life, or played out on screen we live for the anxiety of awkwardness – as long as we're not the ones in the centre of it all, of course. The White Lotus creator, Mike White, knows this well; which explains why his scathing new HBO satire based entirely on second-hand embarrassment has become the talk of the town.

We've all been there – out to dinner with a friend who constantly sends their food back; that one customer who always asks for a discount. The list goes on. But in The White Lotus, White takes society's worst-behaved people, (yes, rich people), and plonks them in an idyllic holiday setting on the island of Maui. Basically, a disaster waiting to happen. What follows is a string of horrifying moments that make you want to scream "can you please stop talking" at your screen. And yet, the first episode had us gripped from start to finish.

Intrigued and want to know more before you commit? Here's everything you need to know about The White Lotus – a show exposing rich people behaving badly.


What is the plot of The White Lotus?

Written and directed by White, the series follows the lives and events of the staff and guests at a luxury Hawaiian resort over the course of a week. The guests are exactly the type of people you would never want to cross paths with – particularly while on vacation.

As the series progresses, we slowly become more entrenched in the chaos – as the demands of the guests become more unreasonable and the patience of resort manager Armond and spa manager Belinda begins to dwindle. Like little fires flickering independently before they collectively explode.

Unlike satirical dramas that came before The White Lotus, this one feels so real – so comprehensible – that you find yourself questioning your own actions. Which, is exactly the response White was hoping to evoke.


Who has been cast in the series?

Like most of HBO's biggest grabs, The White Lotus has no shortage of stars. Resort manager Armond is played by Australian actor Murray Bartlett, while Natasha Rothwell portrays Belinda. Then, you have Connie Britton jumping in as the ultimate Goop-esque website CEO Nicole; her husband Mark played by Steve Zahn and their two children Quinn (Fred Hechinger) and daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney).

The most notable mention goes to Jennifer Coolidge, who is playing Tanya McQuoid; a slightly desperate solo traveller on a mission to spread her mother's ashes by the seaside. Jake Lacy and Alexandra Daddario also make an appearance as a newlywed couple whose honeymoon stage doesn't last long.


How can you watch it in Australia?

As we all know by now, HBO Max is not available to stream here in Australia. You can watch or stream the series on Foxtel, or if you have BINGE, you can also catch it there too. Prepare yourself for chaos by watching the enthralling trailer below.


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