You know how, every once in a while, there’s a show that’s suddenly all over your tumblr dash, and you think, what is this show and why have I never heard of it before? That’s what happened to me with Young Royals, and it only took a few days of seeing pretty much every single scene in the form of gifs for me to finally cave and check out the first episode.
I binged that show in one day.
This is the show’s official synopsis from Netflix:
When Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) arrives at the prestigious boarding school Hillerska he finally gets an opportunity to explore his true self and find out what kind of life he really wants. Wilhelm starts dreaming of a future filled with freedom and unconditional love far away from the royal obligations – but when he unexpectedly becomes next in line for the throne his dilemma is heightened as he has to make a choice. Love or duty.
If you read that – or watched the trailer – and thought “that sounds a lot like Red, White and Royal Blue,” you would be correct. I’ve also heard it compared to Skam and Elite, though I personally haven’t watched either of those shows. It’s very fanfic-y, in the best way, and seems perfectly designed to go viral on tumblr.
Tumblr convinced me to watch this show, but if you don’t have the luxury of seeing hundreds of gifs cross your dashboard every day, I’m here to pass on the message. Watch Young Royals. Please.
Here’s why I think it’s worth watching.
Teenagers that actually look like teenagers
Tired of watching teen shows where the actors are all in their 30s and have perfect skin? This is the show for you!
The main actors in Young Royals are 18 and 22, and everyone else in the cast is around that age. The characters have acne, and they wear the same few clothes every day, and they actually look like real people. It’s a really nice break from what we’re used to seeing, and it makes the whole show feel a lot more grounded.
An autistic character played by an autistic actress
I can’t personally pass judgement on the accuracy of Young Royals’s portrayal of autism, but everything I’ve heard from autistic fans so far has been very positive. Sara is a complex character and she has personality traits outside of being neurodivergent, but her neurodivergence is never brushed over or forgotten. It does shape her storyline in the show, but it’s never demonized or stereotyped. It’s just really clear that a lot of care went into writing this character and bringing her to the screen.
Queer characters who are allowed to just exist
Yes, Wilhelm’s sexuality is a big part of his storyline, but not as much as you might think. The show doesn’t label his sexuality, and it really works – he’s allowed take his time exploring that side of himself, and just to exist without having to immediately explain himself, and that’s something I really appreciated about the show.
A great sibling dynamic
Not enough people are talking about how much Simon and Sara’s relationship rules.
Royals aren’t generally a huge draw for me, but I know a lot of people do deliberately seek out these types of stories. Young Royals explores the pressures that can come with being royalty, and how holding such a position can really limit your life choices. It’s very clear throughout the show that Wilhelm has a lot of mental health issues that come from being a prince, and yet the show never goes too far in trying to make you feel bad for privileged rich kids (more on that later). It’s a lot like Red White and Royal Blue in that respect.
Yes, the main love interest sings. Yes, he is excellent at it.
Awkward first kisses
Remember what I said about this show having teenagers that actually look like teenagers? This extends to the show’s approach to romance and sex as well – the kisses are awkward and realistic and very, very cute.
Alright, so, obviously a show about teenagers isn’t going to have perfect communication, but as TV couples go, Simon and Wilhelm are pretty good. They communicate their boundaries. They talk about their issues. They don’t play mind games with each other. It’s very refreshing.
The popular girls aren’t what you might expect
The clique of attractive and popular girls is one of the most pervasive and tired tropes in teen fiction. As soon as a show introduces a character like this, it’s like the story writes itself. Oh, I’ll bet the popular girl is thin and blonde, right? I’ll bet she’s really mean. I’ll bet she picks on the nerdy kid. I’ll bet she’s secretly talking shit about her friends behind their backs. It’s not that those kinds of people never exist in real life, but the trope gets pretty boring after a while.
Young Royals doesn’t do that. For one, the popular girl is midsized and half Black, which is a nice break from the stereotype, but she’s also not that mean. She has a really compelling arc throughout the first season that establishes her as a complicated but very sympathetic character. And there’s a very specific trope that the show subverts with her story, that I was really surprised by but really appreciated.
A little bit of politics
I went into Young Royals with pretty low expectations regarding the show’s treatment of wealth and class, and those expectations were definitely surpassed. The show actually does a really good job of demonstrating how kids born into wealth are given advantages in every aspect of their lives. It also showcases the dangers of putting these kids in environments where they’re constantly surrounded by people like them and never have to have their beliefs challenged. Two of the main characters are not wealthy, and the story focuses really heavily on how that affects their experience at this school for rich people.
I might be the only person who cares about this, but there’s one character in this show who only ever speaks English, even though everyone around her is always speaking Swedish. Every one of her conversations involves one person speaking to her in Swedish and her responding in English, and it continues like that. Everyone understands her. She understands everyone. They just never speak the same language. This is never explained. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen that represented in fiction, and as someone who definitely does that sometimes, it cracked me up. A fundamental part of the bilingual experience that people don’t talk about enough.
The English dub is done by the same actors
I would personally recommend watching this show with subtitles, but if you do want to watch the English dub, I have heard that it’s pretty good, with the same actors doing the voices.
This is definitely just a me thing, but in case there are any fellow horse girls reading this: yes, there are horses, and yes, the riding scenes are actually pretty accurate. Everything the riding instructor said was something that an actual riding instructor would say. It was a nice little detail that I appreciated!
Young Royals is now streaming on Netflix worldwide.