In The White Lotus Season 2, The Di Grasso Family Represents Three Unique Generations Of Masculine Rot

HBO's "The White Lotus" is back again, and Mike White has managed to assemble yet another cast of fantastic actors playing absolutely awful people. The show's second season finds us in a whole new location with a mostly new group of characters, with the exception of the return of Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya and Jon Gries' Greg.

Three of the new characters are the men of the Di Grasso family. We have Bert, played by F. Murray Abraham, the sexist and inappropriate grandfather of the trio. Then there's Dominic, played by Michael Imperioli, Bert's son and a Hollywood producer who's earned the ire of the women in his family. Finally, we have Albie, played by Adam DiMarco, Dominic's son and a recent college graduate.

The three men are in Sicily to reconnect with their roots and to visit the town where Bert's grandmother was born. It's a noble cause for a trip, and seemingly normal enough, but as the show goes on, the absence of Dominic's wife and daughter becomes glaring. Dominic has done something, presumably some womanizing, to earn the hatred of both his wife and his daughter. And while the old-fashioned sexist Bert tells his son that he needs to mend fences with his scorned family members, young Albie condemns his father's actions, saying he's only still on the vacation because he sees himself as the peacemaker of the family.

What Mike White is doing with the Di Grasso men is exhibiting three generations of men in a family who seem to reflect changing attitudes toward women. But as more information about the characters is revealed, it seems that less has changed than we may have believed at the show's beginning.

The harmless relic

"The White Lotus" has never pulled punches when it comes to its male characters, unafraid to portray many of them as horrifically toxic and sexist. But with the Di Grasso family, that toxicity is at the forefront, with the three men serving as a chart of how these misogynist attitudes have both changed and stayed the same over the years.

Firstly, there's Bert, the patriarch of the Di Grasso clan. Bert is representative of old-timey, unchecked misogyny. From his first appearance on the screen, Bert has been acting inappropriately toward every woman he's encountered. He flirts uncomfortably with Valentina as she greets them getting off the boat to the resort, and he makes uncomfortable comments about Tanya's young assistant, Portia. He's unrepentant and refuses to stop, even when Dominic demands it, but his behavior can sometimes be waved off because of his age and demeanor. Bert's actor, F. Murray Abraham, addressed this in a GQ interview:

"He's completely out of step with the present day. One of the reasons I think he gets away with some of the outrageous things he says is that he's so innocent about it. And he's not ashamed. He's not censoring himself."

Bert faces almost no consequences for his actions because of his demeanor. Even Portia, one of the young women he acts creepily towards, calls him "adorable." Because of his age, and the fact that he was born of a different generation, he's able to get away with a level of sexism others cannot. And if you try to argue for the innocence of his actions, he dispels that argument when he admits to Dominic that he, too, cheated on his wife countless times. He's from a time when men faced no consequences for their misogyny and because of that fact, he still doesn't.

Stuck between two eras

Then there's Bert's son, Dominic. Dominic is nowhere near as outwardly sexist as Bert. He constantly tells his father to stop and apologizes to others for his behavior. Dominic is young enough to know that such behavior doesn't fly anymore, but, as we come to learn, the sexist worldview of Bert's time is still evident in Dominic's actions.

Dominic is representative of the first generation to receive pushback on their sexist attitudes. Dominic engaged in the same sort of behavior Bert did his whole life, having cheated on his wife many times. But unlike Bert, who remained married for many years, Dominic's wife and daughter have seemingly cut him out of their lives. While the specifics of what Dominic did that served as a final straw have not yet been revealed, I'm expecting it to be something fairly horrific.

Dominic is established to be a Hollywood power player, which draws some obvious parallels to the #MeToo movement and figures like Harvey Weinstein. Dominic existed in a transition period between eras, from when he could philander and treat women however he pleased, to the point where that behavior was deemed unacceptable. Now Dominic is being punished for his actions. Despite his massive financial success in his profession, Dominic has to live life in a broken family — something Bert's generation never had to worry about. Dominic's actor, Michael Imperioli, spoke on Dominic's deep unhappiness in a GQ interview:

"You have somebody who's achieved a lot of success in his career, worked hard for it, and felt that the fulfillment of that would bring him a certain amount of satisfaction or completeness. But the reality is that it's anything but that, and he's unraveling."

As the world changed, Dominic did not adapt, and now all of his success means nothing.

The bystander

Now we land on Albie, the youngest of the Di Grasso men. On the outside, Albie seems very different from his male relatives. You hear Dominic's wife (played by Laura Dern) on the phone describe Albie glowingly, referring to him as sweet and sensitive. He doesn't visibly carry any of the sexist attitudes of Bert or Dominic, and during a dinner with Portia, he talks about how much he hopes to not have the same relationship with women his father does. Albie says he doesn't want to make anybody uncomfortable.

But as the layers of Albie have begun to unfold, we begin to question some of his motives. Why isn't he as angry at his father as his mother and sister? He claims he's just playing peacemaker, but if Dominic really did something so horrible that it made his wife and daughter not want to talk to him, should Albie really be giving him the benefit of the doubt?

Albie's also somewhat dismissive of his grandfather's sexism. While Dominic is only telling Bert to be quiet because he fears the social ramifications of his bad behavior, at least he's trying to get him to stop. But Albie never really does anything to discourage his grandfather. Once again, you can say that he knows his grandfather's an old man and mostly harmless, but does that really justify him standing idly by?

The dangers of the 'nice guy'

But it's during his dinner with Portia that some cracks begin to really appear in Albie's nice guy facade. Up to this point, Albie had been portrayed as a fairly suitable (if somewhat awkward) potential love interest for Portia.

As the two converse over their meals, potential red flags are raised. Portia asks Albie about the situation with Dominic, asking him directly why he's not as mad at his father as his mother and sister are. It takes Albie a few seconds to answer, and his justification is fairly weak. If he were truly very mad at his father's actions while reluctantly playing a peacekeeping role, the affirmation of his anger would have been quicker and more assertive.

Additionally, Albie makes a remark that sounded some alarm bells for anyone aware of the culture of "internet nice guys" that has become prevalent in recent years. Albie comments that, while he believes himself to be a nice guy, women don't often want to be with guys who are nice to them. This implies an attitude of entitlement and a belief that his being "nice" deserves to be rewarded with romantic attention from women.

Furthermore, the dinner with Portia highlights the difference between what the two were seeking. Portia is pretty clear that she is just looking to "have fun," while Albie talks about how the type of women he gravitates toward tend to be "pretty, wounded birds." This shows that while Portia is just having fun flirting, Albie wants to see himself not as a companion, but in a savior role, rescuing a woman from whatever he perceives her problems to be. This difference in desire is shown again when Albie requests to kiss Portia at the end of the night, a request she fulfills but without much enthusiasm.

The structures stand

A theme that has stayed consistent on "The White Lotus," even as it's undergone its literal change of scenery, is one of complicity. Even those with the best of intentions are complicit in the societal structures that allow one group of people to subjugate another, whether it be rich vs. poor, men vs. women, or white vs. non-white.

In the Di Grasso family, we see a family grappling with the consequences of a drastic shift in one of those oppressive structures. Bert and Dominic are relics of a time when the structure was different, and they stood in even higher positions than they still do today.

However, the show is also clear that while the structure has certainly shifted in a positive direction, it has by no means been completely destroyed. Even someone like Albie, who seems to have good intentions, is still a part of that structure. These oppressive systems are clearly exhibited in the show's other characters as well, from Ethan and Harper to Greg and Tanya.

As the season continues, I'm excited to see continued commentary on these generational divides. While I think it's clear the message is that not as much has changed as we may think, it will be intriguing to see how far the show is willing to take that theory, especially in terms of Albie. If I learned anything from the first season, it's that on "The White Lotus," the structures tend to stay in place.