The books of ‘The White Lotus’: a sharp satire of what rich people read

In HBO’s dark comedy The White Lotus, a character does not survive a Hawaiian resort vacation. But as the mystery unfolds, you might be struck by something less sinister: what everyone is reading poolside.

In the third episode of the series, wealthy real estate brother Shane Patton, played by Jake Lacy, lounges poolside with a copy of Malcolm Gladwells Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. He doesn’t really crack his back, but is more interested in two attractive college students – actors Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O’Grady, who read intoxicating books by Camille Paglia and Frantz Fanon. His incredulous new wife (Alexandra Daddario) watches as Shane wades to the young women to flirt. Too distracted to get used to her copy of Elena Ferrante my brilliant friend, She goes to the bar alone for some well-deserved time.

The selection of books on the nose is a deliberate running gag The White Lotus, says show creator and writer-director Mike White. White, himself a well-read Wesleyan graduate, wanted his characters’ beach reading to say something about who they are — or how they want to be seen.



flash just felt like a normie book,” says White. “It seems like he’s stoking his curiosity, but it hasn’t gone very deep. [Gladwell] is the kind of author who makes you feel smart reading it, whether you are or not.”

Gladwell, the extremely popular one New Yorker The writer, who has published seven best-selling books, has also drawn criticism for the way he popularizes the social sciences. (A Gladwell representative declined to comment.)

Lacy says he imagines Shane packed flash at JFK airport on his way out of town and saw it as a “tool” that could one day make him look impressive at dinner parties.

“This is a guy who just doesn’t feel like exploring any emotional depths or the meaning of his own behavior,” Lacy says of his character in the Cornell hat. “He often thinks without thinking.”

Then there’s the intellectualism of snappy college students Olivia (Sweeney) and Paula (O’Grady). White says his idea of ​​having her read (or at least skim) several heady texts during their week-long trip came indirectly from James Franco, a cast member in freaks and geeks, one of White’s first writing jobs. White recalls that Franco, then college-age, showed up to the set with various tomes—Charles Baudelaire one day, Albert Camus the next.


Courtesy of Europa Editions

White imagined that in addition to Freud and Nietzsche, Olivia and Paula had sought citable theorists like Paglia, Judith Butler, and Fanon for their anti-colonial analysis The wretched of the earth he thought he could influence Paula’s Robin Hood mentality. White says he wanted to make sure these two mean girls aren’t just intimidating because of their beauty.

“They’re the kind of young women I’ve met who are up-to-date on the latest jargon and able to boil everything down to a cultural stereotype in a funny and cutting way — and then add an intellectual approach to it.” White says. “To me, that’s the scariest kind of girl.”

Nietzsche, in particular, is frequently used as a cerebral guide in popular culture, including in performances by Kevin Kline in A fish named WandaRobert DeNiro in cape fear, Paul Dano a Little Miss Sunshine and William Jackson Harper in The good place.

Director Amy Heckerling had clueless Heartthrob Josh, played by a young Paul Rudd – another performatively scholastic college snob – read Basic writings of Nietzsche as he lounges by his stepdad’s luxurious Beverly Hills pool. Josh is far more genuine than Olivia and Paula, who wield wakefulness like a club.

“It’s kind of a roadmap for serious college students trying to figure out how to be a better person,” Heckerling told HuffPost last year. “Whether or not Nietzsche offers that is hard to say, but that one particular bit seems like something a young person can hold on to and play with for a while.”

Actors Jake Lacy and Alexandra Daddario with their characters’ holiday reading


Mario Perez/HBO

Rachel, Shane’s new bride, and her Ferrante are more a commentary on her character’s arc than on the author she chose. And yet it makes perfect sense that she would read my brilliant friend, the first in Ferrante’s tender four-part coming-of-age series chronicling the lives of two Italian friends. Rachel’s working-class heritage makes her suddenly question Shane’s unrelenting sense of entitlement.

“What would someone who is wondering if they are married to the right person read that would compel them to say if they are in the right kind of relationship?” Weiss says. “I love Elena Ferrante’s books, but they’re a bit trendy. Rachel is not someone who will read an obscure book. It made me feel like she’s a smart reader, but she’s also trendy — and maybe a little behind the trend.”

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