To describe ‘Our Flag Means Death’ as a pirate show would be to do it a disservice. It is so much more than that. This ragtag group of ‘pirates’ do occasionally pillage and plunder (although they are quite bad at it), but they are more frequently engaged in craft sessions while falling in love and calling each other ‘babe’. Queerness, here, is not just an implication. It’s a constant thread running through treasure hunts, revenge plans, and hasty escapes.
For those who don’t know, ‘Our Flag Means Death’ (OFMD) follows the life of Stede Bonnet who leaves a life of aristocracy to become a pirate. As he bumbles along the high seas he comes across Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach, a legendary pirate.
OFMD is a queer person’s dream and if you don’t believe me, here are the top 7 reasons you should watch it anyway:
7. Casual Queerness
Being queer is as natural as breathing in the world of OFMD. While most shows assign one side character as queer to tick off the representation-quota, at least six of the main crew in OFMD are openly queer. They flirt and tease and have sex and it’s an irrefutable part of their characters. After all, not all queer stories need to be about coming out and trauma. Some can simply be about joy. With its unabashed take on queer romance, OFMD has set a new bar for LGBTQ representation such that subtlety and implied romances can no longer be an excuse for queerbaiting.
6. The Characters
It’s a testament to the show’s talented writers that each character is unique. There’s Buttons, a crew member on the Revenge whose best friend is a seagull. There’s Frenchie, who is a musician and believes that cats are witches. The amazing Leslie Jones plays Spanish Jackie who has 20 husbands and a jar full of cut-off noses of her enemies. You get it. Spoiler alert: found family vibes will hit you hard towards the end.
5. Portrayal of Masculinity
It says a lot that all the antagonists of this show embody toxic masculinity. Nigel Badminton, the primary villain, grew up alongside Stede. The former bullied the latter for being ‘soft’ and ‘weak’. Stede’s father too called him a “lily-livered little rich boy” for not being able to stomach them. Both these figures haunt Stede, pushing him to try and become a fearsome pirate.
Blackbeard’s manipulative first mate, Izzy Hands, is another prime example of toxic masculinity. While Blackbeard considers giving up the mantle of a terrifying pirate in exchange for a relaxed retirement, Izzy is the one that pulls him back with taunts about going soft.
In this way, both Stede and Ed find themselves victims of toxic masculinity. OFMD gets this ideology spot on, showing the dangers and the allure of it as well as a way out.
4. The Cast
If you love the characters in this show you will end up loving the cast even more. Samba Schutte, who plays the ship’s cook Roach, created and shared the recipe for a 40-orange glaze cake that features in the show. Con O’Neil (Izzy) has openly shared fan art and even lauded the artists for their skills. Show creator David Jenkins himself has talked about how important it was for the show to not fall into the queerbaiting trap. On spaces like Twitter, all the cast and crew share the fans’ excitement. All in all, they are funny and kind and the right people to tell this story.
Played by Nathan Foad, this sweet sarcastic cinnamon roll has to be one of the highlights of the show. Not only is Lucius’s out-and-proud attitude amazingly refreshing, but his dry wit brings some of the show’s funniest moments. He’s a supportive best friend, a lovable flirt and simultaneously tired of everyone’s bullshit. And when Izzy taunts him, asking if he thinks he’s cute, Lucius comes up with a perfect — and inspiring — retort, “Actually I think I’m just so-so but I’ve decided to carry myself as if I’m cute”.
OFMD also has the pleasure of introducing one of the most badass non-binary characters ever. Vico Ortiz plays this mysterious, knife-throwing pirate named Jim. Like most of the show’s queerness, Jim’s trans identity is something that naturally comes up on the show. There’s a little discussion about it but most of that revolves around whether Jim is a mermaid or not. Their gender and their pronouns are equally respected by everybody. And it remains just one part of Jim, who can otherwise be described as undeniably cool. A dark past? A path of vengeance? A best friend with a crush on them? Jim has it all.
1. The Relationships
This show offers up not one, not two, but three queer relationships. It’s like hitting the jackpot! Without spoiling too much, we get a flirty but healthy situationship, a friends-to-lovers arc and, of course, a slow-burn romance of the leading men.
The right slow-burn can hit a hundred times harder than cocaine. And OFMD gets this spot on. The show’s protagonists first meet as the Gentleman Pirate and the fearsome Blackbeard. But after hours and hours of tea and laughter and adventures, they simply get to know each other as Stede and Ed.
Watching these two vastly different people find a home in each other is a wholesome and heart-wrenching feeling. And it’s something you definitely shouldn’t miss.
This is the kind of show where the mean-spirited Izzy will abandon crew-mates to for death, but while using the right pronouns for them. Doesn’t that say everything? There’s nothing else like Our Flag Means Death on television at the moment, but hopefully, it’s the first of many!