Does ‘Red, White And Royal Blue’ Live Up to Its Rating?

A while back, Red, White & Royal Blue‘s rating was officially revealed to be an ‘R.’ For reasons of ‘language, some sexual content, and partial nudity,’ the Motion Picture Association does not recommend that anyone under 17 watch the film without parental supervision. Now, that seemed like a plausible and reasonable explanation at the time — especially since it was widely reported that the movie had some intense, sexually charged moments between the leads, Alex (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine).

But the MPA has a history of, shall we say, overreacting to gay sex scenes over straight sex scenes. Show a man and woman in bed and a film will easily get a PG-13 rating. But two men sharing a bed runs the risk of raising the rating higher.

Image via Amazon

It’s still incredibly uncommon for gay sex to be depicted on-screen, so Red, White & Royal Blue represents an anomaly in that way. But its sex scenes aren’t really anything you won’t have seen in your average PG-13 movie streaming on Netflix, and the main objection the MPA had over the film appeared to be one central scene in particular.

Director Matthew Lopez, who’s openly gay, has spoken out about how important it was to make the sex scenes realistic. In conjunction with intimacy coordinator Robbie Taylor Hunt, also an openly-gay man, Lopez directed the leads on a scene that he dubbed ‘the moment of insertion.’ Unfortunately, Lopez has said that that moment would have had to have been ‘eviscerated’ to get the movie down to a PG-13 rating:

“But I also knew that this scene would be talked about—in the way we shot it—and what we all sort of suspected is that it would probably get us an R-rating. And it did! And that rating came with notes from the MPAA on what we could do in order to get a PG-13 rating, and it was basically, “eviscerate that scene.” And we were all—all of us: me, producers, studio—we just said, “No thank you.” And that’s it, there was no conversation whatsoever after the R-rating came to us about changing it. It was just—there was not even a single email about it. It was accepted, and we moved on.”

To break the scene down: Alex and Henry decide that it’s the right time for them to have penetrative sex. They proceed to strip down and then that’s exactly what they do. It’s framed like any other sex scene: two lovers, face-to-face, exchanging pillow talk. Nothing explicit is shown. It definitely isn’t on the level of that Oppenheimer scene between Florence Pugh and Cillian Murphy.

It’s almost puritanical. No, it is puritanical. There are a few other reasons the film would be rated R. You see Perez’s backside once, but there are plenty of PG and even G-rated films that feature full-blown nudity. There’s one sequence involving Galitzine riding a horse that’s framed in a suggestive manner, but innuendo alone doesn’t usually get most projects rated past a PG-13.

Red White and Royal Blue
Image via Amazon Studios

Perhaps the MPA believes that, because the audience learns and knows that — gasp — Henry has a bottom, it’s simply too sexually charged of a moment to let slide by. Of course, penetration happens — it’s sex! Practically every sex scene has that implication.

Ultimately, Red, White, & Royal Blue was rated more harshly than its peers because it’s a gay romance. It’s the fact that it’s two men on-screen, rather than the socially acceptable paradigm of a man and a woman. Of course, none of that lies on Lopez or Galitzine or Perez — the latter two have amazing chemistry, and the former directed an impressive performance — but it really just goes to show how far double standards go.

Red, White & Royal Blue is a rare gay romance, and they’re going to keep being rare so long as gay narratives get othered and made to seem as though their mere existence is horrendously inappropriate.



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