August 2023 was officially TV season for the gays: Not only did we get the second series of Heartstopper, but the film adaptation of the 2019 LGBTQ+ novel Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston finally arrived on Prime Video.
The story centres on Alex (played in the film by Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the US president, and Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), a British prince. But when the pair, who have had a long-standing feud since their childhoods, are forced to stage a truce for the sake of international relations, romance blossoms.
I first heard about the New York Times bestselling book on BookTok but put off reading it until the beginning of 2022, worried it would not meet my expectations. When I finally did, it absolutely exceeded them. In fact, it has become one of my all-time favourite books, and I have read it several times since.
This was unexpected, as never in my life have I liked rom-coms or anything remotely romantic. All the romantic comedies I came across growing up, whether books or movies, mainly featured cisgender, heterosexual couples. The only LGBTQ+ characters were the comedic sidekick, or the token gay best friend – present for makeovers or advice but not much else. There was never a main character I could understand or relate to. In the rare cases that a story centred LGBTQ+ people, they were one-dimensional and the story ended in tragedy.
In fact, we rarely get the representation we deserve as LGBTQ+ young people. That’s why – outside of catching up on all the great queer TV shows we’re getting right now – I actually volunteer with Just Like Us to speak in schools. The charity runs an Ambassador programme to help bring much-needed LGBTQ+ talks into secondary schools right across the UK.
Of course, highlighting struggle is important in fiction, but LGBTQ+ people deserve positive and joyful representation too. It never seemed possible for there to be a queer prince with a happy ending, a love story like a fairytale. Red, White & Royal Blue changed this for me.
It brings well-loved, epic rom-com drama, from enemies to lovers, to royalty, to forbidden romance, but with characters who are relatable and tangible for queer people like me. Red, White & Royal Blue opened a whole new genre to me that I had previously not enjoyed, and in the process I discovered so many other amazing stories and learned so much about myself.
It’s great to know that people around the world will be able to enjoy this representation. As soon as it was announced that the novel would be adapted to screen, I began excitedly watching out for any news. Though all fans will have had their ideal cast in their heads, I can now confidently say that Nicholas Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar Perez have more than convinced me. In every trailer, clip and promo we’ve seen, I could feel their chemistry and how well they fit into their characters. They bring the exact energy I imagined the characters in the books to have, and now I could not imagine anyone else bringing them to life on screen.
Red, White & Royal Blue has brought some vital LGBTQ+ representation to the rom-com genre. (Prime Video)
Additionally, having Matthew López write and star in this film is a big win. Not only is he a talented writer, but he also brings his own lived experience of being queer and Latinx – like the character Alex – into this movie, which will add another layer of authenticity and depth. The author of the book, Casey McQuiston, has also been involved in the writing, so I trust that this adaptation is in safe hands. Add in the legendary Uma Thurman as President of the US and Stephen Fry as the King of England, and honestly, what could go wrong?
Red, White & Royal Blue is one of my favourite novels and I cannot wait for other LGBTQ+ young people to enjoy this story on their screens as much as I have.
If you’re LGBTQ+ and 18-25, get involved in Just Like Us’ Ambassador programme and be the representation you always needed by speaking in schools.