Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Pride Month Spotlight: ‘Young Royals’

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2022 Pride Month Series! Each weekday in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQIA+ 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 LGBTQIA+ community and in mainstream media.

Take all the royal drama offered by shows such as The Crown and turn it into a compelling teenage school drama. Then make it gay. Is it any wonder that audiences have been eating up Netflix’s Young Royals?

Set at a Hillerska, a fictional elite boarding school in Sweden, the show follows Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) — known as “Willie” by his fellow students — as he is sent away to the school by his family. Despite his older brother Erik (Ivar Forsling) being in line for the throne, Willie is held to the same princely standards that he is. Unfortunately for Willie, getting into a fight at a party and having pictures of it posted online is about as far from “princely” as his family can imagine. So, off he goes to Hillerska, black eye and all.  

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The official synopsis of the show says:

“Prince Wilhelm adjusts to life at his prestigious new boarding school, but following his heart proves move challenging than anticipated.”

Who is this student that makes him want to follow his heart? Simon Eriksson, a rising star in Hillerska’s choir. He’s a scholarship student — a non-border, half Spanish, and working class. And, of course, a boy.

Young Royals has been a surprise hit for some, as the Swedish teen drama was dubbed into English for Netflix. In many cases, the same actors were kept for the English language version. Dubbed shows can be polarizing, with some fandom purists saying that the full experience is lost when dialogue is translated into a different language — but that certainly doesn’t seem to have slowed this show down. With a 99% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, Young Royals is a hit in any language.

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Let’s take a look at why and discuss Willie and Simon in more detail — spoilers ahead!

Prince Wilhelm of Sweden

Netflix

The prince’s sexuality is never labeled in the show, though he canonically has a relationship with Simon. Ryding has stated that the show not labeling his character was intentional.

Willie’s story and his portrayal are so beloved by viewers because although it has many themes of self-discovery, his story isn’t just “a coming out story.” It’s so much more than that. It’s about who he is as a person, who he wants to be, and what is important to him — or what has to be important to him, whether he wants it to be or not.

Throughout the story, Willie isn’t seen to have much conflict over his feelings for Simon in themselves. He seems to accept them pretty quickly, in fact. Instead, what Willie struggles with is what place those feelings have in his future as a royal. As a younger son, he doesn’t have the pressure to produce an heir, so he may have more freedom in his situation than he would otherwise … at least to start with. When, in the first season’s most shocking twist, Willie’s older brother and heir to the throne, Erik, is killed in a car accident, it changes things.

Simon Eriksson

Netflix

Simon, on the other hand, identifies as gay. This is made explicitly clear right in the first episode when Simon asks his estranged father Micke to get him alcohol for an initiation party at Hillerska.

Micke: I remember what it was like to try and impress a girl.

Simon: I’m gay, Dad.

Micke: Some cute guy, then.

Viewers like the fact that although Simon clearly has a complicated, somewhat unhappy relationship with his father, their estrangement doesn’t center around Simon’s sexuality. In fact, Micke moves the conversation onward without dwelling on Simon’s words at all, simply accepting them. They have problems, but for once, not those problems.

Simon is outgoing and unafraid to speak his mind, but he is also portrayed as kind and understanding. Nonetheless, he is unwilling to be pushed around and, as the season progresses, is unwilling to live in secrecy.

Young Royals didn’t end on a happy note for Willie and Simon, with circumstances and the pressure Willie feels from his family and position coming between them. But with season 2 already announced, viewers are hoping that we’ll see a happy ending still for Wilom.

Whether they end up together or with other people, seeing two such brilliantly realized LGBT+ characters on screen, upfront and proud, makes Young Royals a real treat amongst queer dramas. To keep an eye on news about the upcoming next season, don’t forget to follow Nerds and Beyond, and keep a lookout for the next Pride Month Spotlight!

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