This article is part of Pride Month Picksa collection of pieces that aims to highlight queer representation in games, television, movies, books, and more throughout June.
I can’t stop thinking about gay pirates. I want to uproot my life and embark on the seven seas in search of a cloak-and-dagger bride who will make me lose my feet. HBO’s Our Flag Means Death is wholly responsible for this new fantasy, with the romance of Stede Bonnet and Captain Blackbeard drawing me in, breaking my heart and rebuilding it as I encourage the fiery bond between these two men.
Recently renewed for a second season, David Jenkins’ comedy series is sure to delve further into this relationship as Rhys Darby and Taiki Watiti return to inhabit their characters. I’m so relieved things aren’t going to be interrupted, with the final episode ending on a cliffhanger that leaves Blackbeard heartbroken as Stede tries to reunite with her new love interest and make amends for past mistakes. The potential is immeasurable, and all because the basic components have been assembled to perfection.
One of the things I like most about Our Flag Means Death is how it normalizes queer identity. Despite taking place centuries before LGBTQ+ people were accepted into mainstream society, the show is full of characters who aren’t afraid to show their same-sex attraction through physical contact and flirtatious comments, while even those with no romantic connection are intimate or affectionate with their friends aboard the Revenge.
There isn’t a single moment in the show where anyone has to step forward and justify who they are, except for Stede in the final episode in a conversation with his wife about a clear attraction to the pirate lord he left behind. Even here it’s done subtly, Stede exemplifying his crush’s partner’s pronouns before his wife gives him a knowing look, pulling him into a hug that’s all the acceptance we need to see.
Our Flag Means Death is gay, happy, and inclusive in a way that deserves expansion, subverting the damaging queerbaiting tropes we’re so used to by not only confirming their core relationship before the finale, but spending a lot of time making it clear that Stede and Blackbeard I couldn’t be more in love if they tried. Two older men with conflicting emotions and motivations find solace in each other’s arms, filling a void that once felt impossible to fill.
I knew the show was fruitful long before I watched it, hearing positive feedback on social media as I looked at fan art showing Stede and Blackbeard in all sorts of situations. Some were healthy, some not so much. However, they all piqued my interest enough that I finally walked the plank. The Stede Bonnet character is easily my personal highlight. He is a good man defined by his charming personality and such an honest disposition that he often ends up in hot water when he tries to go against the pirate laws of plunder and death. A pirate knight does not kill, he fights with words instead of swords, always making sure to replace what he steals with something of equal value so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. He’s lovable, but he hides a tragic story of family betrayal and personal insecurity that not even Blackbeard can help with.
Rhys Darby is known for his sharp wit and off-the-cuff comedy, and that shines brighter here than ever, but there are also instances of quiet contemplation surrounding abandoning his family, knowing he’s leaving a bloodline behind in favor of his own happiness. Stede has never belonged, belittled by his father for not being strong enough and forced into marriage to have children he feels no connection to. He is lost and has no choice but to leave it all behind or surrender to his own misery. Here is a clear metaphor for repressed sexuality, with your previous life filled with obstacles so monumental that the only solution is to leave everything behind and start over. For Stede it’s a terrifying proposition, but ultimately worth it.
Blackbeard is equally lost in his own existence. The pirate lord has done it all, committed crimes so heinous and established a reputation around the world so menacing that there is nothing left for him to accomplish. He’s done it all, often staying behind and letting his team do all the dirty work instead of putting himself in harm’s way. Stede is the catalyst for his rebirth, showing him that emotions don’t have to come from hacking, but from falling in love with someone with different values and a more positive outlook on life and respect for those around him. Stede teaches him to dance, Blackbeard teaches Stede to sword fight, Stede teaches him to dress formally, Blackbeard teaches him to be a true pirate. They are perfect for each other, opposite values that demonstrate an attraction that goes far beyond a temporary fling.
However, they are both inherently flawed people, and Our Flag Means Death never fails to make that clear. But so are those with whom we actually fall in love, relationships being a series of compromises that we must accept in order to appreciate the value of spending life with someone we admire. When the two of them are sitting together looking out at the ocean, finally coming to terms with the feelings that have been bubbling up for nearly ten episodes, we’re right there with them, punching the air as they kiss in a way that feels equal parts. and hesitant. I wanted to see more, but I understand that the slow route for a show like this will always be the best, allowing us to appreciate every little bit of progress and embrace the burning passion as it begins to rise.
Our Flag Means Death is one of the best queer love stories on TV right now, and I hope it continues to find a larger audience as season two goes into production. Stede Bonnet and Edward Blackbeard’s romance is one we’ve never seen on the small screen before, and it’s executed with such beautiful honesty in the way these two men from different backgrounds fall in love and learn to become better people in front of each other. your own feelings. .
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