Thankfully everything goes right in Red, White & Royal Blue
A case for the cheesy happily ever after where the son of the US President falls for the British prince
words Darshita Goyal
Picture a world where the two most powerful institutions in the world are bound together by a love story; not trade deals or big money, not even arm twisting or PR, but saccharine, can’t keep our hands off each other, capital L, love. It’s likely that the image in your mind stars a man and a woman. After all, most frothy storylines like this are hetero, and even more white. But for a moment, shake your head and let that image disappear. Done? Now read the first line again, only this time picture two men in this whirlwind romance.
One, painfully beautiful and poised, the grandson of the British monarch and the other, equally beautiful – with dimples as deep as the ocean – but louder and more boisterous, the son of the US President. This wholesome goodness forms the delicious premise of Red, White & Royal Blue, a queer romantic comedy that's out now. Directed by Matthew Lopez, the fuzzy film was adapted from Casey McQuiston’s best selling book of the same name. In fact, when Red, White & Royal Blue (RW&RB) first premiered in 2019, it took TikTok by storm. The hashtag has over 500 million views while both protagonists, Prince Henry, played by Nicholas Galitzine, and Alex Claremont Diaz, played by Taylor Zakhar Perez, have their own fandoms with an abundance of raunchy fanfic.
Let’s start by saying that the movie does not disappoint, it opened with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and very passionate (read: horny) praise on Twitter. With its central enemies-to-lovers arc, the plotline alone is frivolous enough to draw in hordes of viewers longing for a big budget and rich in eye candy rom-com. But truly, what makes RW&RB shine as bright as it does, is how it mixes reality with magic. The love story is set in the midst of very real political contexts without any of the boredom and pressure that real world politics induces. The film begins with a wildly public, wildly messy kerfuffle between the two high-ranking protagonists. Despite having nepo baby fame in common, for reasons unknown, Alex and Henry do not like each other. Their first on-screen interaction, full of snubs and cheeky banter, is at the wedding of Henry’s brother - the heir to the throne.
In tandem, the duo anoint each other “the world’s rudest person” and “the world’s most irritating person” before entering a pissing contest over who is taller (they’re both a little over 6'), who is the bigger snob and who is more entitled. This mightily privileged debate ends with both Alex and Henry on the floor, covered in mounds of very expensive (£75,000 per the Prince!) wedding cake. Given their consequential roles in global politics (lol the monarchy), this very public falling-out taints the growing trade relationship between the US and UK. And how does one fix the economic alliance between two countries? By getting the two spares – who have no role whatsoever in either government, merely diplomatic frippery – to pretend to be besties, of course.
That may sound like a complaint, but it’s far from it, this lack of Debbie Downer logic makes RW&RB much-needed escapist fodder. When real life is so hard: climate change, political unrest, lack of human rights, patriarchy and prejudice, dreamy fiction serves a rare and soothing balm, fulfilling all the happy endings that we’re striving in vain for IRL. So when Ellen Claremont Diaz, the First Lady of the US and Alex’s mum (played by Uma Thurman) instructs her son to be shipped off to the Brits so he can pose gleefully with Henry, no one questions the legitimacy of it all. Instead you dig deeper into that tub of popcorn, ready to let the upcoming lovey-dovey drama sweep you into its warm, comforting embrace.
And that’s precisely what it does. Somewhere in the midst of that pretence, the two very hot men go from frenemies to friends to frisky to full on soulmates, and each stage is portrayed with buttery cringe and hilarious chaos. Separated by an ocean and a catastrophic time difference, Alex and Henry spend their days and nights texting each other. The prince expounds the pressures of being born into privilege and not having the freedom to be anonymous. The President’s son, who is part Latino and grew up “normal”, delves into the mammoth changes he hopes to bring in the world with his new found power. Their late night phone calls are pictured with the two characters imagining their partner (ish) lying next to them in bed, staring into their soul.
It’s the kind of all-encompassing love that you see budding in a Hallmark Christmas movie, except this time it’s queer. Even when Alex and Henry share their first kiss, it’s all bells and whistles. At a New Year’s party, the pair lock eyes while the rest of the crowd, dancing to Lil' Jon get lower and lower, leaving just the two star crossed lovers in sight, with the sexual tension at an explosive high. This undeniable attraction grows into the core of their relationship. Sex is how they express their affection - they want, no... need - each other so badly that the magnanimity of the two institutions that they represent falls short before it. In a montage of secret rendezvous, we see Alex and Henry rip each other’s clothes at the polo grounds, the golf course, formal luncheons, state dinners and everything in between.
While RW&RB is often mentioned in the same breath as Netflix’s teen queer romance Heartstopper, the former is adult enough to spell out just how important sex is, and that’s refreshing. Unlike many gay romances, the movie does not stop short at mild kisses and insinuations of sex. Watching Henry trace his fingers along Alex’s body as foreplay – a scene so common in straight relationships – emerged as a winning reminder that queer sex doesn’t have to be shielded from mainstream audiences. From Alex claiming to be as hard as Big Ben to Henry saying he went to an English boarding school and is hence an expert in “lovemaking”, the movie leaves little to the imagination.
The film also moulds the fluffy tropes of Yank vs. Brit banter to its advantage. Like when Alex is asked about his kiss with Henry, he recalls, “He grabbed my hair in a way that made me understand the difference between rugby and football.” As their love grows stronger and the pair are outed to the world through a nonconsensual media breach of privacy (what else), they decide to fight their fate. Through the movie, the tension is built towards this big revelation: how will the monarchy accept a gay prince? But when the conflict finally arrives, it’s wrapped in tense humour, with Stephen Fry playing the confused King of England. The entire British populace gather in support of the grand love story. No, literally, a mini pride parade assembles before Buckingham Palace demanding that the prince be allowed to love who he wants, irrespective of gender or nationality.
To see the British public unite in their ask for equality and, more so, to see the archaic institution of the monarchy succumb to the asks, was like winning vicariously. If not in real life, at least for these two hours, everything goes right. Beyond Alex and Henry too, the film weaves optimism into other layers of the plot. McQuinton crafted President Claremont Diaz’s character after Hilary Clinton’s loss. Here, the President is earnest and involved. When she learns her son is bisexual, she sits him down for a sex ed lesson and explains what bottoming is. Unafraid of losing re-election, a quality of bravery we rarely see in any politician, she tells Alex to fight for his love.
Even the President’s husband, the Senator, was very carefully chosen to be of Mexican descent to further drive home this overarching message of fair opportunities. All the supporting characters in the film also find love. Sure, it’s the two Brown people and the two Black people who end up together but hey, it’s a start. The important thing is everyone finds a happily ever after and you leave the theatre feeling a little more hopeful than when you entered. And in today’s world of chaos, this is a win.
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