What Did Daphne’s Photo Moment Mean On The White Lotus?
In the most recent episode of The White Lotus, That's Amore, Harper confides in Daphne that she suspects “something happened” while they were in Noto. At this point, Ethan has told her everything that happened while she was gone — if you count his slightly self-exculpatory account that "one of them tried to kiss me, but I freaked out, so nothing happened." But, Harper doesn’t believe that she knows everything.
Knowing that Cameron has cheated on Daphne before, Harper brings the suspicions to her. Daphne seemingly encourages her to go on the offensive, to cheat back — but her language is vague. She says that she has a trainer in the city, Lawrence, who has “blond hair and these, like, big blue eyes." She offers to show Harper his photo, but when she hands her the phone, it’s a picture of her children. The older of the two, a son, has blond hair and big blue eyes. Harper is taken aback, and tells Daphne it's just a photo of her kids. As she says, “Is it? Whoopsie. We'll find it later,” and takes her phone back, her expression is difficult to read. "The point is," she concludes, "maybe you should get a trainer." Neither says anything after that.
The moment is startling in its ambiguity. Did Daphne mean to show Harper that picture? If so, what does that mean? Did Daphne show Harper that picture by accident? If so, what does that mean? Either way, I have a few theories:
If Daphne purposely showed Harper the picture, there are a few different things that it could mean. One option is that Daphne is encouraging Harper to cheat on Ethan, but making a point about being discreet with it. By showing her the picture of her kids, Daphne is functionally saying, "Of course I wouldn’t keep his picture on my phone.”
The main flaw with this theory is that we know that Daphne likes to play mind games with Cameron. When Daphne planned the overnight trip to Noto without Harper's knowledge, she told Harper that she made the plans in secret so that she could surprise Cameron when it was already too late for him to do anything about it. She likes messing with his head, which seems to rule out this kind of discretion. But, she has also said that Cameron has a temper with a long fuse. There may be a limit to how much Cameron can take before that fuse runs out, and Daphne cheating might be a bridge too far.
On the other hand, it's possible that Daphne meant to show Harper the picture of her kids, but that she’s making a point about how they, as women, can find fulfillment within the constraints of their marriages. Essentially, her perspective may be that, while men can cheat, women find meaning in raising their children. Cameron has temporary flings, Daphne has her relationship with her son. You can't really ignore the gender dynamics at play in the marriages of the series' ultra-wealthy characters. Though Harper is a successful lawyer and we don't know much about Daphne's background, both of them seem to have gained most of their money through their husbands' careers. To maintain access to that wealth, Daphne may be saying, you have to play along and find happiness where you can get it. Like, in your relationship with your children.
The other possibility left open by Meghann Fahy's ambiguous delivery is that Daphne didn’t mean to show Harper the picture. In this read, the moment is nevertheless revelatory about the different priorities she and Cameron have. He gets to cheat. As a man he is unencumbered by domestic responsibility. She, meanwhile, is bound by the need to take care of her children. Building on that, you can read it as Daphne genuinely encouraging Harper to cheat on Ethan, but revealing through the photo that cheating will never be as easy or no-strings-attached for a woman as it is for Cameron.
The moment also functions as a reminder that while the resort setting and their vast wealth positions Cameron and Daphne as carefree, their behavior has implications for other people. To borrow from F. Scott Fitzgerald's assessment of the extremely wealthy, "they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…."
Though you can dismiss the issues in Daphne and Cameron's relationship as being between two consenting adults, That's Amore reminds us that parental relationships have major consequences for the children. Given that the conversation between Bert and Dominic makes this tension explicit — that Dominic doesn’t know how to act as a husband because Bert constantly cheated on his mother — the nod to Daphne's children may, primarily, be a reminder. The actions of these morally uninhibited characters will be met, eventually, with reactions.
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