You Probably Have Better Taste In Food Than The Characters In The White Lotus

"The White Lotus" is a sumptuously shot comedy-drama from HBO that has taken the TV world by storm in just two short seasons (via Vulture). The first season won several Emmy awards, and given that Season 2 was arguably the best show of 2022, it is sure to be in the hunt next awards season.

In both installments of the anthology, the eponymous White Lotus is a luxury resort hotel — the first season is set at the Hawaii branch and the second on the Italian island of Sicily. These breathtaking backdrops are the perfect places to watch the dream vacations of the beautiful rich guests slowly turn into the holidays from hell — the central premise of both seasons being that someone will be murdered before the last episode. But "The White Lotus" is far from a simple whodunit, as GQ points out. Instead, it is a dark satire that skewers the politics and power of everyone involved — think social commentary dressed up with sexy stars and sumptuous sunsets.

Filming in Italy has its perks, as Aubrey Plaza from Season 2 explained to USA Today —"Well, we ate a lot of cannolis," emphasizing, "Like, hundreds of cannolis, every kind of cannoli. Seriously. I mean, the food was just the best. It was pretty wild to live like an Italian person for five months." While members of the cast sampled the delights of Italian gastronomy, the characters they play have been infuriating viewers with their poor food choices (via Uproxx).

A study in the poor taste of the rich

"The White Lotus" is a product of the pandemic. In 2020, HBO executives contacted director Mike White, desperate for a way to safely create original content, while respecting the shifting restrictions of lockdown (via GQ). The solution? Shooting in a three-month-long COVID-19 bubble at the Four Seasons in Maui. That explains why none of the characters explored Maui — nobody was allowed to leave at all. 

However, in Season 2, viewers became increasingly incensed with the characters' refusal to explore Italy's food scene, broadcasting their outrage on Twitter. Meanwhile, Laurie Ochoa of The LA Times admitted "screaming at the TV every time a character stepped into the hotel's bland dining room." 

As The Wall Street Journal notes, these VIP guests are presumably veteran travelers, and therefore should know better than to eat at the hotel restaurant more than once on a trip like this. Part of the reasoning behind this is surely practical — everyone eating dinner in the same room means showrunners can focus on the multi-layered story, rather than setting up shots in 10 different trattorias. 

But perhaps, it is also a thematic choice. "The White Lotus" takes a microscope to the excesses of the rich, and is equally unforgiving toward the tourism industry itself. So for the characters in the show, dining at the hotel buffet isn't about food as much as being noticed by the other elite guests.