Our Flag Means Death: queer pirates are everything to me.
Disclaimer: this post does carry spoilers for Our Flag Means Death season 1, episodes one through eight; watch Our Flag Means Death on HBO max.
If we’re acquaintances on the internet, you may have recently seen me thirsting after Taika Waititi as Blackbeard; Edward Teach, in the new comedy, Our Flag Means Death.
I love Taika’s work to insert himself in hilarious cameos in the shows and movies he works on, but seeing him as the main love interest and protagonist in Our Flag Means Death has warmed the chilliest parts of my heart.
Our Flag Means Death is an exceptional comedy aware of its own shortcomings and readily able to make fun of itself while making eye contact with the audience, and it’s breathtaking to witness.
In interviews, Waititi mentioned the hilarity of each pirate just having their accents without any cause or explanation. But, true to form, it is endearing seeing what happens to be a bunch of folks on a boat, trying to find their life’s calling as a pirate. Or maybe as a gentleman pirate.
Our Flag Means Death carries the weight of a historical comedy on its shoulders, as they choose not to create diverse bad guys. Instead, the white people in this show are often ignorant, dangerous, and powerful BBEGs threatening all pirates’ sense of self and safety.
It’s clear who the colonizers are, the villains. In an especially prudent scene with an Indigenous tribe holding trial for Stede, as portrayed by Rhys Darby, and imprisoning him, while welcoming Oluwande, as portrayed by Samson Kayo, with a drink of rum, there is an awareness of the unfairness and cruelty experienced by many at the hands of “well-meaning” white colonizers.
I’d be without cause to point out the importance of Jim, played by Vico Ortiz. I’ve followed Ortiz from their web series work, independent comedy, TikTok, and my jaw DROPPED when I realized our resident queero would be using they/them/theirs pronouns as a pirate.
I love Jim and everything they represent. The firm assertion of gender-fluidity and representation of queer and interracial love (it’s canon, they almost kissed Oluwande) is profound and resonated with me as such a casual and careful portrayal of queer intimacy.
Oluwande is not put off by Jim’s gender or sexuality. It isn’t even a point of debate or question between them. The safety of best friends, to hopefully eventual lovers, had me fucking cheering in episode seven.
Among other moments that inspired me was when Lucius, portrayed by Nathan Foad, grabs Black Pete by the collar to plant one on him.
This incredible scene after Pete, portrayed by Matthew Maher, confesses his fear of losing Lucius forever after a near-death experience with a gruesome infection is both comical and emotional.
Lucius and Black Pete have had moments of doubt and disappointment as they make mistakes and judge things too quickly. They’re struggling with new feelings of identity, between a new way of pirating and experiencing their queer love out in the open aboard their ship.
But no one can be faulted for making grave mistakes more than Blackbeard and Stede themselves. Blackbeard, portrayed by Taika Waititi, is an absolute vision in a sleeve of tattoos, long greying curly hair, and a full beard.
He’s the spitting image of every queer daddy stereotype. Yet, Waititi portrays him with such care, as an emotional empath with social anxiety around how he is perceived as a captain and seeks out his happiness in life.
He makes foul and often violent mistakes as he blunders through apologies, epiphanies, and compliments. And I was enchanted by every minute of it.
Stede on the other hand, is the Jonah (Superstore) of the boat. He is classically too-loud, annoying, white richy guy with one-too-many coats and minimal life experience. He’s instantly seen as a snowflake and way in-over-his-head in this new career.
And as the story is revealed, Stede is shown to be someone who has dealt with the immense pressure of stepping into a role out of duty, rather than love. As he also bumbles through new pirate experiences, being stabbed multiple times, I can’t help but root for this odd pair to become the co-captains of each other’s hearts the way they were always meant to be.
I’ve often wished there was more representation for bad queer folks, making poor decisions, allowing them to be human rather than just a talking point about gender for a show.
If What We Do in The Shadows is a slow burn of queer pining between Guillermo and Nandor, Our Flag Means Death is full of fast and hot queer angst between Blackbeard and Stede and multiple members of the crew.
There’s undoubtedly plenty more to be said about these queer pirates, and I am eagerly awaiting new episodes (half the inspiration for writing this).
But for now, if you need a show that’s raunchy, punchy, and full of hilarity with a tender caress of queer pining — Our Flag Means Death is the next show to watch.