Thursday, June 24, 2021

Pride Month Spotlight: Alex and Henry of ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’

Welcome to the seventh installment of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media. Today’s spotlight shines on two unlikely lovers who dominated the world of queer literature during quarantine: Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor of the massive bestseller Red, White & Royal Blue (RW&RB)!

Note: Spoilers ahead for Red, White & Royal Blue.

RW&RB follows an unlikely love story of two mortal enemies. Alex Claremont-Diaz is the first female President’s son, a politically active and smart college student whose nemesis is Prince Henry, the seemingly perfect Prince of England. They’ve hated each other since meeting at the Rio Olympics, with Alex even having a dartboard with the Prince’s face on it. When the two get in a fight that is captured by the press, they are forced to do damage control by pretending they are actually best friends. But as time passes, both Alex and Henry find that they aren’t so different after all. They each push each other in unexpected ways, with Alex realizing he is bisexual as Henry shares the secret that he is gay. But can their relationship survive public scrutiny?

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As far as representation goes, RWRB hits a home run. Alex is relatable as he comes out to himself, working out his complex feelings for Henry along with his sexuality in general. Alex is given the time to unpack his bisexuality in an often humorous way, from discussions with his close friend Nora (who is also bisexual) to finally coming out to his mother via discussing the impact his relationship with Henry will have on international relations. Her main response is to create a PowerPoint with the title “Exploring Your Sexuality: Healthy, But Does It Have To Be With The Prince of England?” as her son dies of embarrassment. But Alex receives support and love from everyone in his life, even if his public role means he faces more scrutiny than most. When he eventually comes out publicly as bisexual in a speech to the nation, there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

“But the truth is, also, simply this: love is indomitable. America has always believed this. And so, I am not ashamed to stand here today where presidents have stood and say that I love him, the same as Jack loved Jackie, the same as Lyndon loved Lady Bird. Every person who bears a legacy makes the choice of a partner with whom they will share it, whom the American people will hold beside them in hearts and memories and history books.

America: He is my choice. Like countless other Americans, I was afraid to say this out loud because of what the consequences might be. To you, specifically, I say: I see you. I am one of you. As long as I have a place in this White House, so will you. I am the First Son of the United States, and I’m bisexual. History will remember us.”

Henry’s coming out journey is also handled with grace. Unlike Alex, Henry has known for a long time that he is gay, and his biggest worry is coming out to his conservative family who have made it clear that they see his sexuality as something to be ashamed of and hidden, particularly since he is a prominent member of the royal family. For Henry, choosing to publicly date Alex would mean breaking out of the narrow life he has resigned himself to for years. One of his biggest fights with Alex occurs when Alex challenges him to fight for what will make him happy. The next day, Henry shares with Alex that their relationship has made him re-evaluate what he wants from life.

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“I’m … not good at saying these things like you are, but. I’ve always thought … ever since I knew about me, and even before, when I could sense that I was different — and after everything these past few years, all the mad things my head does — I’ve always thought of myself as a problem that deserved to stay hidden. Never quite trusted myself or what I wanted. Before you, I was all right letting everything happen to me. I honestly never thought I deserved to choose … But you treat me like I do.”

Henry’s journey to realizing his own worth and finding love with Alex is heartwarming to read and realistic, and you root for him to get everything he wants out of life.

RW&RB was successfully released in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was during quarantine in 2020 that it became a sensation. Strong word of mouth reviews from fans propelled the novel to become a national bestseller, and it’s easy to see why. While the romantic comedy genre has seen many stories like this before, it’s rare for LGBTQIA+ characters be given the same treatment. It combines nearly every trope from enemies-to-lovers to the fake relationship, with the fairytale fantasy of falling in love with a prince as an added bonus. As author Casey McQuiston stated in an interview with The Advocate, “The idea that anything is over or done to death is silly, once you start imagining the possibility of stories that aren’t cis, het, white stories. Maybe we feel like we’re done with YA vampire romances, but have you read one by a Black author? Have you read a queer one? I don’t think you can declare any trope dead until everybody’s had their chance to have a crack at it.” Fans who love RW&RB agree: there is something special about this story that draws the reader in and doesn’t let go.

RW&RB is built for rom-com lovers, but it’s the unique characters at the center that have made it a hit. Alex and Henry are dynamic, funny, and real, jumping off the page from the moment we meet them. Both are positive depictions of the LGBTQIA+ community, and both deserve to be highlighted as part of our Pride Spotlights. Be sure to check back each day this month for more of our Pride series!

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Jules
I am a nurse and dedicated nerd from Boston, MA. When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing, or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find me on Twitter @juleswritesblog for more nerdy nonsense.

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