Warning: This article contains spoilers for Red, White & Royal Blue.
Based on the bestselling novel by Casey McQuiston, Red, White & Royal Blue has gotten viewers buzzing since it dropped on Prime Video Thursday night. But it’s not the sex scenes between the film’s leads, whatever Uma Thurman’s Texas drawl is trying to do, or even the quirks of the rom-com genre that RWRB plays into. Instead, it’s a moment of emotional intimacy that has become almost unavoidable as it’s been memed and become something like a Rorschach test for anyone watching—especially people watching out of context.
In a scene set a little more than halfway through the film, U.K.’s Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) and FSOTUS (First Son of the U.S.) Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) are on vacation at the Claremont-Diaz family’s lake house in Texas.
They’re in an environment where everyone around them—Alex’s dad, both of their best friends, and their respective security details—knows about their relationship. Alex, having already come out as bisexual to his parents (who were both nothing but supportive), is hopeful about what the future holds for him and Henry as he paints an idealistic picture of life post-November after his mom (hopefully) wins the election. And it’s here that the scene that grabbed Twitter’s attention span plays out.
“I thought maybe next summer we could come back here for, like, a couple weeks,” Alex says. “We can be naked and have sex anywhere on the property we want. We can walk through Austin holding hands, and it won’t even matter if anyone sees us. I can take you around to all the places I grew up, and you can get to understand my life a little more.”
As Alex says this, Henry had mostly laid back and listened, his face showing small signs of panic as Alex describes his hopes. But when Alex tells him that he’s never felt that way about anyone, Henry starts to have what looks like a full-on panic attack.
“It’s like there’s a rope attached to my chest, and it keeps pulling me toward you,” Alex continues. “And it feels so right.”
Henry enters the water before Alex can continue his love confession, choosing to head home as soon as possible. And we soon discover the reason behind Henry’s retreat isn’t because he doesn’t return his feelings. It’s because Henry doesn’t think it’s possible for them to be able to love each other the way they want to when he’s been encouraged to repress himself for the good of the Crown.
Some are using the scene to compare Galitzine and Zahkar Perez’s different acting styles.
“Red white and yellow blue is so funny because one lead actor thinks he’s in call me by your name and the other one thinks he’s in riverdale,” @evemmore wrote.
Others imagined what else might have caused that level of devastation outside of an attempted love confession.
But some people think it’s unfair to compare the two actors’ acting abilities when they’re each conveying very different emotions for a reason.
“everyone saying they’re in 2 different films and like they’re literally expressing two completely different feelings in here?” @Nomartito wrote. “one character is deeply scared of coming out and the other one is about to say i love you to him.”
If you don’t know that context, it’s kind of jarring seeing the juxtaposition of two actors attempting to pull off two very different levels of emotions in one scene. One of them in the blissfulness that comes with being in love, the other so terrified at the thought of being loved that way that he’s ready to throw it away at the drop of a hat. One is happy as can be while unaware of how upset the other is.
And that it’s serving as a commentary on how Alex and Henry are on different wavelengths (and the confusion it leads up to later on) only proves its effectiveness.