Alexandra Daddario’s White Lotus scene with Sydney Sweeney was about revenge and primal power struggles, according to her.
Alexandra Daddario recently described her most talked-about scene from the first season of The White Lotus as being about “sort of… revenge” and a “constant power struggle.” According to an interview with Men’s Journal, the Percy Jackson star went in depth about the scene in which her character Rachel attempts to get into conversation with Sydney Sweeney’s Olivia and Brittany O’Grady’s Paula, only to be passive-aggressively mocked by the younger women. That is, until Alexandra Daddario stands up to pull off her polka-dotted coverup to reveal her toned body, shocking the teenagers. Daddario said:
Rachel taking her clothes off and showing off her body at the end, sort of as revenge, it’s so funny because it’s a constant power struggle. The show’s all about this constant power struggle between all different types of people. It’s animal instinct… We’re all the same at the end of the day, this instinct to win. ‘I see that I’m being judged,’ or ‘I see that I’m in a conversation that I’m not winning, so what’s my trump card?’ And that’s what Rachel feels. The response she gets from her looks is such that she knows it’s there. And in this one situation, she’s like, ‘OK, here!’”
This particular scene was a highlight of the first season of The White Lotus, the anthology comedy-drama by Mike White that unexpectedly became a huge hit for HBO. It is also very representative of the show as a whole, in which extremely privileged tourists stay at one of the titular resort chain’s locations and find their lives collapsing in some way or another. The interaction between Alexandra Daddario, Sydney Sweeney, and Brittany O’Grady is played out without overt conflict but is deeply antagonistic all the same.
In The White Lotus, Alexandra Daddario’s character is a freelance journalist on her honeymoon with her much wealthier, entitled husband Shane (Jake Lacy), who spends most of the show in an escalating series of arguments with the hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett, who won a Primetime Emmy for the role). Sydney Sweeney is the daughter of a famous CFO (Connie Britton), who makes claims to notions of social justice but abandons them as soon as they become inconvenient, while Brittany O’Grady is her slightly less-wealthy high school friend along for the ride.
As Alexandra Daddario notes, the scene works best when viewed through the lens of a constant power struggle, with subtle assertions of moral superiority being the weapon Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O’Grady wield against her. The irony of the situation is that these two particular teenagers are much wealthier than Alexandra Daddario’s character, who has only recently married into money and is struggling with her feelings about it. Over the course of the scene, the two younger women gradually imply that she is a trophy wife who married a man willing and able to pay off her student loans.
Interestingly, Alexandra Daddario’s trump card against the girls essentially leans into that same implication, that her physical beauty gives her value. By disrobing in front of the girls and shocking them with her bikini beach body, she is also forcing them into acknowledging (at least to themselves) that they also view her as having value for her body.
Both Alexandra Daddario and Sydney Sweeney were nominated for Primetime Emmys in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie, losing to their co-star Jennifer Coolidge. The second season of The White Lotus moved the action to Sicily, with Coolidge being the only returning star. However, there is always the possibility that Alexandra Daddario will show up for more fantastic scenes like this in the upcoming third season.
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