popular culture

The White Lotus

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

 

It’s time to kick the fall semester off in just two weeks. In the start of August, with just a month to the start of the semester, I started looking for podcasts or books or easy-read articles to get my head back in the game, to fire me up. By chance, desperate for something playing in the background as I washed my dishes, I stumbled upon HBO series White Lotus. And boy, did the 6 hour long drama get me exited for deep diving into thick books on landgrabbing, white fragility, decolonizing hipsters, and so on. I am not about to spoil the whole thing, just tell you exactly why this is a good show to get you back into the burning questions of decolonialism:

1. The series starts off with a new group of tourists arriving to the White Lotus, a luxurious hotel somewhere on Hawaii. The employees greeting the new guests have big smiles on their faces as they take care of the guests every need. Throughout the series we get to see the hardships of putting those smiles in place. The self-disipline of these underpayed service personal must be huge – to not crack even when you are in labour, or when you get a presumtios question about you sex life? In the end, after a eventful week (and I wouldn’t count this as a spoiler, since the series start in the end), the rich guests leaves, and the employees of the White Lotus have to shapen up, and start all over with a new group of guests arriving. It is such a good way to end a series that pinpoints just what is so fucked up about class and race differences, and about the industry that is tourism. I spend six good hours being fired up, my dislike for most of the characters growing and growing, just to be left with all of it starting right over – the employees of the White Lotus smiling big at new rich guests who see right through them. Brilliant!

2. The two gen-z drug liberal activist girls giving us a kind of a comment track of the unique ways in which events throughout each episode is problematic is SUCH good satire. They are by far the creepiest of all the characters (and the makers of this series has done a really good job creating unlikeable characters, so that is not to say little). With mild disgust they watch the world around them and do nothing. When one of them is asked for some actual action, all she can do is go into a moral panic. (Which I must assume passes, just like everything else does for these girls).

3. I sincerely hope that this well executed and sharp satire highlighting the problems of colonial tourism and mocking tourists who think they are entitled to every last bit of nature and culture this planet has to offer does not go over peoples heads. What makes this series so good is the fact that the story of Hawaii and its anticolonial resistance is so intricately weaved into the episodes. What if viewers miss it? Hawaii is not done dirty in its depiction, it is beautiful and fiercy, it is ocean and greenery and super goodlooking actors. I hope this series if anything makes people question the tourism industry and not make them long for maitai’s on a white beach. But who knows. Maybe in the end, the wheels on this thing will just keep on spinning and spinning.

Alva Blomkvist

Nomadland, The narrator of movement and settlement

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Nomadland is a movie written, produced and directed by Cloe Zhao and published in 2020. It has wined lots of artistic awards such as Golden Globe 2021 in both Best director and Best motion picture, and Venice Film Festival 2020 in Golden Lion for best film, Fair play cinema and Honorable mention. It stars Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves her home forcefully and lives in her van. Empire, a company town for US Gypsum Corporation disappeared since closing mines and leaving labors. Fran was living in Empire with her husband when he worked in gypsum mines. She lost her husband and it was the start of her nomadic life.

The story of movie is a straight line. It is about a period of a woman’s life. But interestingly the movie isn’t story centric. It is about the trajectory of changing in a woman’s characteristics. Fran is mostly seen in moving during the whole film but just while she is moving, she has settled down. Firstly it looks paradoxical, but it’s real. She has stuck in her memories and doesn’t like to stop and settle down in a real place since she doesn’t feel any attachment and belonging. Memories of her husband are strongly alive in her life and she tries to keep them alive by saving stuff that she and her husband had memories with them. Nostalgia and love of her husband are just like a circle that continuously doesn’t let her to feel belonging to any specific place but her home in Empire. She said that she is not homeless but houseless, and we can see that she attaches to her “home” in Empire. The golden sentence of this movie is a sentence that is quoted from Fran’s father: “what has remembered is alive”. Although Fran tries to leave her memories and start a new life until the end of movie, but the end scene shows that she had a long way to get her home, a long way as a long road.

This movie seems to be more symbolic than a true story of a person. Empire is the symbol of traditional and old-fashioned life of people and Fran is the symbol of people who forced to move because of modern life and modern world. She looks like a particularlist person, a person who attaches to a particular place, things, people and memories. She likes moving but at the same time she brings all her stuff that related to her attachment to old-fashioned world, since she is alive with them, she needs them, because it is her “home”. The movie shows us fantastically the feeling of belonging, the concept of “home” and the influence of having and keeping “nostalgia” in this feeling. Director tries to tell us that we can keep nostalgias for granted since we will see our beloved future at the end of the road and the modern world cannot through away all our belongings. Finally this movie is one of recommendations for those people who want to know better about the concept of “home” and “nostalgia”.

 

Fatemeh Shirazizadeh