Help, I can’t stop analyzing pictures of the King! And now I’m dragging his family in, too.
Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/The Royal Court of Sweden (2017).
There is something strange about this almost too perfect portrait of the royal family on the lawn of their summer residence, Solliden. Is it the ultra-coordinated colors? Clearly, they’re not afraid of being featured by @awkwardfamilyphotos:
Or being mistaken for a cult.
Photo: Netflix, header image for the documentary Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey (2022)
Or maybe it’s the fact that they seem to almost decisively step into the most common (what I would call) gender-traps:
The gentlemen steer clear of any children. Dealing with them is a woman’s duty, naturally.
The entire family is draped in the hue of royal blood (blue), except for two pink princesses.
All women are beaming with happiness. The only man who bares his teeth is Prince Carl Philip.
Coincidence, or does the royal family want to symbolize the preservation of traditionel gender roles?
Here’s how Cecilia Åse, political scientist and professor in gender studies, puts it in her fascinating book Monarkins makt (“The power of monarchy”):
“One possible analysis is that monarchy as a state form contributes to conventional norms related to gender and sexuality seeming natural. In return, these norms also make monarchy appear normal and unproblematic. This is a two-way street: monarchy legitimizes gender and family norms, while the same norms also legitimize monarchy.”
In other words: by cloaking itself in norms which have the appearance of being “natural” — heterosexuality, the nuclear family, ideas such as women being suited to caring for babies, while men care for nations — monarchy positions itself as a similarly immutable constant.
Rewriting Sweden’s constitutional laws in order to have our head of state chosen by the people rather than by his bloodline? Reining in the royal family’s yearly stipend of 150 million SEK, generously supplied by taxpayers? What next — letting kings and princes change diapers?!
Sometimes, however, the charade is unsuccessful. When princess Madeleine signed off with a “tee-hee!” at the end of a video clip announcing her engagement to Chris…
Something people found if not unpalatable then at least unfashionably dated, a reminder of how out of step with the times monarchy is when it comes to things like princes and princesses needing approval from both king and government before they’re allowed to marry.
Article 5 of the Act of Succession (the oldest constitutional law that is still in effect) states:
“A prince or princess of the Royal House may not marry unless the Government has given its consent thereto upon an application from The King. Should a prince or princess marry without such consent, that prince or princess forfeits the right of succession for himself, his children and their descendants.”
This makes me think of when Jennifer Lopez, in an attempt to appear relatable during the early days of the pandemic, posted a video where her son passed the time during quarantine by serving her drinks while riding a hoverboard. But the only thing people could focus on was how eerily similar her luxurious house was to the one in the South Korean class satire Parasite.
Source: Know your meme, “Check your basement”
Poster for the movie Parasite by Bong Joon-ho.
And the completely normal family that often gets to be the face of Sweden outwards has a palace as summer house.