By Sorenya Miller
“Being a prince is not a punishment, it’s a privilege.” Those were the words said to Prince Wilhelm by his mother, the queen. Clearly, she does not understand the added pressures of being born in the Gen Z era. Young Royals is a Swedish teen TV drama centered around the life of Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, who must navigate the world of being a teenager while discovering his sexuality and being in the spotlight.
After a scandal, Wilhelm is forced to leave public school, and attend the more prestigious private boarding school, Hillerska. In this show, Wilhelm and the other characters actually look like teenagers. I mean this in terms of many of them having acne, which is a very common thing that occurs to teens when going through puberty. I have seen some teenager drama shows like Riverdale where the characters look super grown and definitely not 16 years old, so that was a good thing to see.
Moving on, the series starts off with Wilhelm attending a party where things get ugly quickly, and he ends up in a fight, resulting in him being sent to Hillerska. It would have been interesting to see how Wilhelm assimilates to the public school setting, since he’s a royal trying to be a commoner. However, the show fast tracks to his start at Hillerska. You know you are attending a fancy school when they have a rowing and horseback riding team. At Hillerska he is surrounded by the richest teenagers in Sweden and an annoying cousin, August. Although August is Wilhelm’s cousin, he is not a royal but a rich snob who willingly tasks himself with looking out for Wilhelm. However, August is lowkey jealous, a secret druggie hooked on ADHD pills, and super shallow.
In the classroom, Wilhelm is expected to have great grades but is not allowed to speak freely, especially on political issues, even if it’s for class. This shows the powerlessness he has in using his own voice and essentially is a mute for most things. Not only that, but he is also constantly reminded by his mother that he has a public image to keep up, thus ruling out another aspect of normalcy. Outside the classroom, he is being constantly monitored by August who tries to make him hang out with his clique of friends, do the same activities as him and be an elitist. August’s controlling behavior is very infuriating and Wilhelm only tolerates it because he is the only family he has at the school.
Besides trying to avoid August, Wilhelm has to walk on eggshells, especially when he starts to develop feelings for another student, Simon. With Simon he can be himself and let down his guard. For Wilhelm’s sake and image their relationship has to be clandestine. Besides, a royal coming out as gay would not go over well with the public, particularly when being a royal is a very traditionalist role and Simon is not even well-off like the other students; this creates another dilemma for Wilhelm. You would think being a royal in a modern world would be much different and more open.
Furthermore, in the show it seems like Wilhelm cannot catch a break. After the death of one of his closest family members (you will have to watch to find out who), he still cannot express his true feelings on the issue and has to read a script the royal family prepared. This shows the point again of how his life is being controlled. Even when it comes to social media, he has to watch what he posts and can’t have those around him post him either.
In essence, the concept of fitting in is elusive for Wilhelm. The role that was bestowed upon him comes with responsibilities and requirements. However, having that one person who gives off the feeling that you matter and sees the real you is the key to staying sane as a royal. What makes this series work well is the chemistry between the characters, and the common but well-executed storylines. The themes that emerge throughout the series are love, betrayal, death, acceptance, and friendship. Young Royals takes you on an emotional roller-coaster and will even make you apprehensive to see the last episode.
As for final notes, the location for the show was amazing, especially the Swedish landscape. The directors also skilfully switched backgrounds to show the lifestyles of the rich and posh and those of lower-class citizens. In addition, the background music was also great, and the songs that played corresponded well with each scene. Plus, the wardrobe of Prince Wilhelm was similar to one of a real royal, and he stayed in character throughout the entire series, down to his mannerisms. Young Royals was a great show and I can’t wait to see Season 2!