If there’s one thing The White Lotus writer/director Mike White and I have in common, it’s a belief that anyone can be a little gay.
I’ve learned this lesson from being a gender-nonconforming queer trans woman living in 2022. Mike White learned this lesson by being a bisexual Gen-Xer whose conservative dad used to write speeches for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell before coming out as gay. (Yes, you read that right.)
The first season of The White Lotus wasn’t short on queer hijinks with its vaguely gay and overtly toxic teen besties, a surprise gay dad reveal, and some Emmy-winning ass eating from Murray Bartlett. But this season has wisely traded attempts at exploring race and colonialism for a total commitment to sexual politics. It’s what White did best in season one and it’s why, in my opinion, this current season is so much better.
The last episode ended with a now trademark White Lotus gay sex cliffhanger. We also got confirmation that Valentina is a lesbian — which, personally, I’ve assumed since the premiere. And Cameron and Ethan are still always on the verge of at least jacking each other off because straight bros are going to straight bro.
And yet, all this overt queerness, is not what I’m thinking about. Because this show also happens to star Aubrey Plaza and, well, I am just a basic homosexual. Like sometimes the celebrities our community drools over leave me feeling confused, but Aubrey??? Correct. You’re all correct. I’m correct. Anyone who watched Happiest Season was correct correct correct.
Plaza is always fun to watch even when she’s not playing gay. And that seemed to be the case with this season of The White Lotus. Her character, Harper, is married to recently successful tech entrepreneur, Ethan, and most of the speculation has been around whether she’s somehow going to end up in the arms of boring, rich asshole, Cameron.
But then in episode three, Harper has a ladies night with Cameron’s wife, Daphne, and I started to think: wait a second… are these two going to smooch??
Daphne is played by Meghann Fahy who emerged as my favorite character on The Bold Type, a testament more to Fahy’s performance than the character herself. She’s perfect on The White Lotus, as a wealthy woman who has found an inner peace by relying on desire, deceit, and selective ignorance of her world and ours.
This past episode — after much wine — Harper tells Daphne that she thinks their husbands cheated on them the night they were apart. Daphne smiles and says whatever happened wasn’t a big deal.
“And if anything ever did happen, you just do what you have to do to make yourself feel better about it.”
She tells Daphne that she has a trainer in the city with blonde hair and blue eyes. She says she sometimes spends more time with him than Cameron. She asks if Harper wants to see him and tosses her phone over.
Harper looks down to see a picture of Daphne’s kids, the oldest with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Reader, I screamed.
One woman confessing her infidelities — and children’s paternity — to another woman may not seem like flirting. But I’m telling you this scene had an energy!! Prolonged eye contact, chuckles, sips of wine.
Now it’s possible Aubrey Plaza just has sexual chemistry with everyone — especially every woman. But ultimately I do think Harper kissing Daphne would be far more interesting — and more enjoyable to watch — than if she gives in to Cameron’s advances.
The question is… should she?
Harper thinks Ethan cheated. And since that’s his fault for lying to her, maybe that justifies her cheating as well. But I’m not interested in the morality of marriage and infidelity. I’m interested in the morality of Cameron and Daphne.
It’s easy to call cheating unethical. It’s easy to criticize Valentina for abusing her position of power to crush on an employee. It’s easy to say that murder is wrong — whoever those bodies end up being. But none of these acts are as harmful as Cameron’s entire existence, and, therefore, Daphne’s.
The greatest evil enacted in our society is done by rich men who are never faced with the consequences of their actions. It’s a game to them. They ruin our world, ruin lives, and then fly off to a White Lotus. Harper is right in her disgust of Cameron and Daphne. The ways in which she’s being “difficult” are justified. People who cause this kind of harm do not deserve politeness because they are “nice.” The issue is not whether Cameron and Daphne vote — it’s who they’d vote for if they did.
And so, no, worker’s rights lawyer Harper should absolutely not fuck Cameron and shouldn’t even fuck Daphne. Because Daphne is complicit in her husband’s actions. Six years after the 2016 election, we really shouldn’t still be excusing rich white women just because they hate their husbands and have a nice smile.
But, hey, if Harper is looking to cheat, I know a horny manager of The White Lotus: Sicily who could use a more appropriate target for her affections. And if Aubrey Plaza and Meghann Fahy want to kiss on their own time, well, I support that too.