'White Lotus,' white lies: The Lavender Tube on hit series and a serial liar

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday December 13, 2022
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Theo James, Aubrey Plaza, Haley Lu Richardson and Jennifer Coolidge in 'The White Lotus' season 2
Theo James, Aubrey Plaza, Haley Lu Richardson and Jennifer Coolidge in 'The White Lotus' season 2

"The White Lotus" is everyone's favorite guilty and super gay pleasure and the season finale has plenty of fans barely able to refrain from posting spoilers online. The HBO comedy-drama anthology series follows guests and employees of the fictional White Lotus resort chain, where stuff happens. Season one is set in Hawaii, season two, is set in Sicily (Don't worry, no spoilers!).

The series was supposed to be a limited six-parts-and-done show but it was so massively popular that a second season was ordered and now it has just renewed as a continuing series, much to the delight of ourselves and an impressively gay audience. Oh, and it won ten Emmys, too.

As star Jennifer Coolidge tweeted, "Portia, these are some high-end gays!" accompanied by a photo of her character, Tanya McQuoid-Hunt, in full evening dress with four of the male cast members in the midst of the villa. (Portia is Tanya's assistant, played by Haley Lu Richardson.)

"The White Lotus" likes putting Coolidge in the midst of a bunch of wealthy or pseudo-wealthy gay people as she dresses to the nines and tries to find her way to inner peace.

Oh and did we mention that there are gay sex scenes? Yes. That, too. Plus there are so many perfect Tanya bon mots in this series. A fave? Coolidge saying, "Seppuku... I can relate." It's one of the best TV moments all year. You will find yourself saying it, too.

The cast includes Tom Hollander (yes!), Lukas Gage, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, Theo James, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Connie Britton, Murray Bartlett and more.

Can't get together with family for the holidays? Don't want to? Binge "The White Lotus." We can't wait for more seasons. In each of them, Coolidge should show up at the latest resort like a soignee Jessica Fletcher and let the murders begin.

Mallori Johnson in 'Kindred'  

'Kindred' spirits
FX's "Kindred" is adapted from Octavia E. Butler's critically acclaimed novel of the same name. It's the latest TV series to focus on enslavement and Black trauma. But "Kindred" is not exploitative nor intent on achieving white guilt (although if you are white and the violent panoply of images of slavery doesn't make you want to throw yourself into anti-racist work, ponder that). Rather "Kindred" is a horror story about something acutely horrific.

Dana (Mallori Johnson), a young Black aspiring writer, discovers secrets about her family's past when she finds herself mysteriously being pulled back and forth in time to a 19th-century plantation where she is a slave.

Dana is struggling to become a writer and to deal with the loss of her mother. She is adrift and unmoored when she meets Kevin (Michah Stock) who soon becomes her travel companion through time, which complicates things, as in the 19th century Kevin is not Dana's lover, but her owner.

The series' focal point is Dana, and Johnson gives an astonishingly nuanced performance for a newbie actor. What we see in her and through her is how generational trauma is transmitted. And that's a takeaway you won't be able to leave behind.

"Kindred" is not easy viewing, but it's compelling, well acted and carefully directed through the lens of a Black woman, Janicza Bravo ("Zola"). It's also a supernatural suspense and mystery, but it's also deeply provocative and well worth your time, and is streaming on FX and Hulu.

TV writer and serial liar Elisabeth Finch  

Fabulist, Grifter, Monster
I'm still reeling from the sudden death of my beloved wife, Maddy Gold from cardiac arrest related to her treatment for a rare, extremely aggressive cancer, which I wrote about for QueerForty.

So when lesbian TV writer Elisabeth Finch came back into the news a few days ago, I really got in my feelings about cancer, about Finch and about that whole art-imitates-life trope.
Philadelphia Gay News

A long-time devotée of "Grey's Anatomy," I had read Evgenia Peretz's extraordinary two-part series in "Vanity Fair" on Finch, one of the show's key writers. Finch had spent a decade writing for some top-tier shows, like "True Blood," "The Vampire Diaries" and then "Grey's Anatomy," where she wrote 13 episodes and produced a phenomenal number; 172. Finch was moving toward being a major lesbian name in TV writing and producing.

Peretz detailed how Finch had spent a dozen years in television writing as a cancer patient with multiple other disabilities. The spoiler alert/plot twist is that all of those illnesses appeared to have been invented. Finch had also apparently lied about having a kidney transplant, part of a leg removed, about her brother committing suicide and about having been allowed by the FBI to scoop up body parts in the horrific Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting.

In March, Finch was put on leave from ABC's longest-running prime-time series when her estranged wife, Jennifer Beyer, informed the show's creator, Shonda Rhimes, that Finch was a pathological liar who had used some of Beyer's own experiences as Finch's own for her writing on the beloved series.

In fact, the rare bone cancer Finch claimed to have, chondrosarcoma, had been part of a major story arc on "Grey's Anatomy," written into a main plot line starring Debbie Allen by Finch herself, who was often deferred to as an expert on cancer because of all her experiences with the disease.

An investigation was launched into Finch. She refused to turn over her medical records or be examined by independent doctors. She decided to resign and the show ended its investigation. There have been no charges to date.

On December 8, in her first interview since this all went down, the former "Grey's Anatomy" writer admitted she lied about having cancer and confirmed that she's "never had any form of cancer." https://www.cnn.com

This is after a decade of talking about, writing about and documenting the disease she claimed to have. In a sorry-not-sorry explainer that sums up more than four hours of interviews, Finch said, "I know it's absolutely wrong what I did ... I lied and there's no excuse for it. But there's context for it. The best way I can explain it is when you experience a level of trauma a lot of people adopt a maladaptive coping mechanism."

Finch was addicted to inventing tragic stories in which she starred (Vulture).

By all reports, Finch led a seemingly charmed life growing up in the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Her brother —very much alive— is a doctor who Vanity Fair reports wanted to talk to Finch's doctors to try and ascertain what could be done to improve her chances.

Her mother wanted to fly out to Los Angeles to care for her. Staff and co-workers on "Grey's" gave her perks and lots of support. All while Finch had shaved her head, taped a fake catheter to her arm, worn make-up that gave her skin a grey-green tinge and just lied and lied and lied, even inventing a pregnancy she had to "abort or die."

Finch said, "What I did was wrong. Not okay. F***ed up. All the words."

Now, Finch says not that she is sorry for how she abused the trust of everyone in her life, humiliated Rhimes and made Disney look bad for supporting her, but instead Finch said of the "Grey's" writer's room: "I really miss it. I miss my fellow writers. It's like a family and ... one of the things that makes it so hard is that they did rally around a false narrative that I gave."

Yes, they did what people do around people with cancer; they tried to make Finch's life easier. What does Finch want to do now? She wants to write for "The Handmaid's Tale" which she says "would be a dream."

Finch said, "I love what they're doing in the world of redemption and what redemption looks like."

I'm speechless; utterly, totally, gobsmackingly speechless.

Brittney Griner and her wife Cherelle Griner (photo: Instagram)  

Freed Brittney
Brittney Griner is back in the United States and it's a stupendous holiday gift to see her out of Russian captivity and home where she belongs. In my other role as news reporter, I have covered Griner's story since her wrongful detention was first made public by Russia on March 5.

At times mine were the only stories in the news about her. I talked to the State Department every week, to her attorneys, to White House sources. I was interviewed by other media about her. I kept BG's story alive when others had moved on. (CBC)

My last story about her was a week before her release, in which I detailed the conditions in the notorious Mordovia penal colony where she was being held. (Philadelphia Gay News)

Watching President Biden and BG's wife Cherelle speak from the White House —a scene shown on every network as breaking news— about the prisoner exchange that made it possible for Griner to come home was truly amazing. This was a Black lesbian who was the focal point of the nation. That was its own history.

It also signaled again that Biden is committed to LGBTQ people and our families, and to us being family. The State Department was always responsive to me over the 10 months I reported this story, as was the office of the White House press secretary. Maybe having out LGBTQ people in your administration really does matter.

And to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), whose tearful assertion that "real" marriage is only between a man and a woman, a rant she gave during the House debate over the Respect for Marriage Act: Cherelle Griner fought like mad for her wife to come home. Cherelle pushed Biden to meet with her. And she helped get her wife home. Hartzler may not approve, but the Griners marriage is as "real" as it gets.

Nice Noah'n you
Finally, if you missed Trevor Noah saying good bye as he signed off "The Daily Show," here's his tearjerking paean to Black women. Amen.

So, for the surprising everyday villains, the joy of the season and anything that gets you through to New Year's that doesn't hurt anyone, including yourself, you really must stay tuned.

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