Analysing The White Lotus — Season 1

This contains spoilers about season 1 of The White Lotus.


The White Lotus Season 1 (2021) is about freedom:

  1. Black masseuse is exploring an opportunity to become free of her job enslavement.

  2. Trophy wife realises the deal she signed—marriage with assholic Shane—was actually her enslavement.

  3. Sophomore non-white girl wants to help non-white guy find freedom.

  4. Hotel manager enslaved by the rich guests wants to feel the little bit of freedom he has left by rejecting their few too crazy requests they have.

  5. Rich single woman wants to become free of her—alive and now dead—mother.

All five have their own quest for freedom and all five realise it during their stay at The White Lotus. All but one fail:

  1. Masseuse is betrayed.

  2. Wife doesn't trust herself enough.

  3. Sophomore girl takes away even the little amount of freedom the non-white guy had.

  4. Hotel manager is killed by his master.

But, Tanya McQuoid, the rich, single woman, is brave enough to show her insanity to BLM Greg and the universe rewards her. She finds true love and through that—and a little bit of emotional exploitation of the masseuse—manages to escape her mother's looming shadow above her (or at least we can assume so).

There is another person who wins his freedom. He takes a leap of faith so audacious that no member of his deathly family can comprehend his motivation. We don't know if he really planned it but as soon as he is out of the sight of his masters—the last and best moment possible—he escapes.

Both he and Tanya act. They are brave enough to make a leap of faith into the unknown. Life is for them and for them only! Interestingly, they are the only two main characters who talk about death:

"I don't want to go home. Everything sucks at home. It's all dead—I wanna live!"
— Quinn Mossbacher


"Death... is the last immersive experience I haven't tried."
— Tanya McQuoid

Hotel manager Armond also decides to live, just before this decision leads to his death. Yet what he (and Tanya) lack, and Quinn has, is the strength to become radically uncomfortable in order to enjoy true freedom.

"I'm thinking... I'm not going home."
— Quinn

Tanya had already lost everything before her honest explosion to Greg; and Armond was already going down, he just wanted to go with a bang. But Quinn had everything. The wealthy and comfortable American life which—with not much work—could mean he could be rich enough to go to Hawaii every year and enjoy Hōkūleʻa to his heart's content. Just not until becoming eighteen. Just not now. But the drive for freedom, just like eros, and just like inspiration: is not on demand. He was wise enough to know that—consciously or not, it doesn't matter, he acted on his desire driven by the will to live.

– "Quinn, is this about your phone?"
– "Mom, I don't care about a phone. I don't even want a phone!"

Even that "a", the indefinite article in his phrasing, is important. "I don't care about a phone". It's just one of many.


When Quinn says he wants to stay, his father, Mark, says "this is absurd—I can't even tell if you're being serious". It can only be a joke to want to stay.

His mother is equally puzzled and interprets it as a tantrum about his phone.

Shane, the newlywed husband, cannot fathom in any dimension that his wife doesn't want to be married to a young handsome rich guy as the trophy that she is. "What is going on? Why are you doing this?", he asks.

The feeling of confusion is shared among the characters who are completely oblivious to freedom. All three feel free, not because they are, but because they can't even see their shackles.

Shane does not think he's "a baby throwing a never-ending tantrum" about the room. He thinks he's restoring justice. He doesn't think he is "coddled" by his mother; he thinks this is motherly love.

Mark and Nicole, Quinn's father and mother, are lost in the West's materialist dialectic and its work ethic. They care about $75k jewellery and safe boxes and all inclusive holidays to Hawaii. Nicole feels she is a successful woman in a male-dominated culture. Mark wants to buy a boat to satisfy his son's (perceived) desire to paddle a canoe.

Everything is in place in their minds, and unsurprisingly, all three believe they have won the game of how to live. For this reason, they are not forced to doubt the game's rules, like everybody else.

"Like, people have been coming for me my whole life. I'm just playing the hand I was dealt. Like, yeah. It's a great hand. And that's not my fault."
— Shane Patton


Pablo Picasso said "art is the lie that enables us to realise the truth". In this instance: this TV series is a lie because someone made it up but through it we can see the truth of our world.

What if the opposite is true? What if art is the real part in this discourse and what we think of the real world is actually a lie?

What if the true real world is a Matrix-style desert, where nothing has any meaning? Unless we give one ourselves. Unless we adopt a story, the one we like the most. What then, is the meaning we choose to give to the world? What then, is the story we choose to follow and live by?

Shane, the newlywed husband, and Mark and Nicole, the parents, didn't choose. They just adopted the one that was given to them. This story suited them great, so they didn't think there was any need to doubt it.

Belinda, the masseuse, Rachel, the trophy wife, and Paula, the non-white sophomore choose their own story but they don’t have the strength to live by it.

Armond chooses it and almost follows it. Tanya chooses it and follows it eventually. The legendary Quinn chooses it, follows it, all that while fearlessly pushing away the deathtrap of comfort.


Addendum: I’m writing a book on democracy, which explores ideas like these ones. If interested, read more here.