What The Royal Tutor Says About Privilege

By: Lauren Orsini May 18, 20179 Comments

Nobody can deny that Bruno is a very smart prince.

Out of all the exaggerated personalities showcased in The Royal Tutor, his is certainly the most intellectually inclined. He reads for fun, got a 100% on his tutor Heine’s exam, and of course he wears glasses, the all-purpose sign of an intelligent anime character.

But what makes Bruno special is his hyper-awareness of the invisible forces that have allowed him to devote so much time to the pursuit of knowledge.

Bruno's confident in his hard work

Bruno’s privilege comes into sharp focus in episode seven (“The Whereabouts of a Dream”), as the young prince takes the stage to present an academic speech at the local university. Bruno’s gone without sleep for days as he pored over books, tirelessly re-drafted his paper, and gave the assignment his very best effort. But in these moments before his presentation, Bruno’s demeanor isn’t self-congratulatory.

“If not for my title as the third prince, I would be an ordinary man, born with nothing,” he thinks.

Bruno’s work ethic alone didn’t get him where he is, and Bruno knows it. Had he been born a genius peasant with twice the natural ability rather than a prince, this opportunity wouldn’t have been handed to him on a silver platter. (Take, for example, Heine, the Royal Tutor himself. While we know very little of his background by episode seven, we know that even though he’s brilliant enough to earn Bruno’s enthusiastic respect as a teacher, all the hard work in the world won’t elevate him above the position of grooming those who would be king.)

Bruno checks his privilege

I know the feeling. A white woman with an upper-middle-class upbringing, I know I’ve had privileges other people have not. The biggest gift I have received from my parents was a blank slate—I graduated college, and then graduate school, with $0 in student loan debt. Beginning adulthood with $0 is hardly a comparison to being a prince, and a few decades ago wouldn’t have been anything to write home about. Now, in a time when student loans account for 10% of all household debt, it is a significant advantage.

Not being indebted to anyone has influenced the risky choices I have made in my work. Today I pursue a career I love as a freelance writer and small business owner—a career that has no safety net. A huge reason I’ve been able to succeed in my career is my own tenacity and grit. I worked hard to get where I am, pitching and getting rejected and getting back up. I am constantly launching projects, writing new pieces, and putting myself out there every day.

But one thing I don’t like to think about is how my privilege helped me get here, because even if I do fail, the stakes still aren’t all that high for me. So what if I had a dry month early on and needed to dip into my savings? I still didn’t have to worry about avoiding a debt collector’s call.

Bruno takes the stage

This is the part where privileged people get a little sensitive, myself included. “It wasn’t just my privilege that got me here; it was my hard work!” Effort plays a big role, but there’s no such thing as a self-made person. So many people invisibly influence our accomplishments. Maybe our parents sent us to school or encouraged our after-school hobbies. Maybe the local library, funded by taxpayers, is where we discovered our love of learning. In Bruno’s case, it’s certainly a princely allowance that has given him license to purchase every academic text he wants.

I sometimes hesitate to say that the success I’ve had as a writer is something anybody can emulate, even if they work as hard as I have. I started at square zero, not at square negative four, and I realize that. Bruno has a similar realization, that even though he had to climb the ladder of academic knowledge the same as any other scholar, privilege means he’s essentially started at a higher rung than most:

“That is why I must expend tens of times more effort than others, or I will never become someone special enough to inspire others,” Bruno says.

Dr. Dmitri compliments Bruno's wisdom

Privileged people often feel guilt for their success, which helps nobody. That’s why Bruno’s line above is an inspiration. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have resources to help you succeed, don’t get defensive about it—use it as a motivator to help yourself, and others.

Privilege isn’t fair. Bruno’s opportunities come from nothing more than an accident of birth. What’s impressive about Bruno is that, while privilege is often invisible to people who have it, it’s something that Bruno is continuously examining. What’s more, it’s something that is overtly visible to the people around him. That’s the thing about privilege—if you have it, you can ignore it; if you don’t have it, you can detect it in the way privileged people talk about their “own” success.

What Bruno learns in this episode is that his position as prince may be coincidental, but it doesn’t mean his wisdom is. “The content was excellent,” Bruno’s scholar hero tells him of the speech, “but I think the standing ovation also came from the audience seeing how wise you are for a royal. They might expect more from you than you think.”

There are high hopes for Bruno

Yes, Bruno is a royal with opportunities like no other. But because his audience is sharply aware of that privilege, they may expect greater things from him than they would from a poor genius. Bruno better be smart, because if he works hard he’s in a position to help a lot of people. His subjects know that his intelligence and effort and privilege combined give him a great advantage. Bruno is able to succeed, with the audience’s blessing, because he knows that, too.

To bring this back down to earth, very few of us have the kind of privilege a prince has, but many of us can acknowledge that we have some advantages that we did nothing to earn. We could all stand to be a little more like Bruno—aware that even if it isn’t solely our own efforts that got us where we are today, it’s still worth it to work hard in spite of that.

Bruno turns in a paper to his tutor, Heine

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