The Show that Anchors Me Down
If you follow me on Twitter, you would have the pleasure of watching my phases of obsessions develop and shift like the everchanging ocean. My entire account at this moment is filled with videos, art, photographs, and interviews of HBO Max’s new romantic comedy “Our Flag Means Death”. Created by David Jenkins with executive producers Garrett Basch, Dan Halsted, and Taika Waititi, this show will have you in a chokehold (similar to Izzy Hands in episode 10) by the end of the first episode.
My Brain? Full of Pirates
I could talk about “Our Flag Means Death”, also abbreviated to “OFMD”, for about 17 hours a day for the next 30 years of my life for reasons we’re going to dive into. The big categories to discuss are music and the splendid representation of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Shanties and Such
Through my past articles, it’s clear that I’m always down for some thematic music. I love witnessing new integrations of music in television and the musical connections between scenes. OFMD does an excellent job at bringing music into their storytelling, enhancing the scenes in ways I never would have expected. My favorite two musical additions, plaguing my mind every hour, are Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and Erik Satie’s “Gnossiennes No. 5”.
“The Chain” is a song my parents would play every week when it was time to clean the house on Sunday mornings. This nostalgic feeling of being young and so captivated by how the drums and bass rattled the speakers was immediately brought back to me as I saw a little British boy on the back of a boat drumming the beat. The epic fight and takeover sequence that follows is paired perfectly with the timing of “The Chain”; explosions and chaos in movement matching the volume. I think what separates this scene from the others is the silence of the sequences, all you can hear is the song. Usually, music is meant to accompany scenes and fill the pauses, but in this brilliant instance, the music is the star accompanied by the visuals. The only time we hear talking from the cast is during Blackbeard and Stede’s reunion, emphasizing the importance of this moment in their relationship. It’s a turning point in the season and Fleetwood Mac acts as its tidal wave washing out the old and flooding in the new.
I am a fiend for classical music in modern pieces. There’s something about that contrast that puts my mind at ease. Without revealing too too much about the happenings of the show, “Gnossiennes No. 5” is a beautiful piece that accompanies beautiful scenes. Aside from the fact that the song oozes dramatic pining for one’s lover, it has a refined air about it. The melody is clean, hardly blending into each other, yet there’s an almost unruly flourish of notes that intertwine themselves into the steady beats. I feel that this is a fantastic mirroring of Blackbeard and Stede’s dynamic. At times, Blackbeard is the steady beat, always there, never wavering. Stede is sometimes the elegant flourish of a fine life with his embellished closet and ship. However, the two are constantly shifting their roles, Stede becomes the confident and unwavering beat as Blackbeard adds a bouquet of experiences that makes Stede feel alive. It’s absolutely lovely what OFMD did with this music choice and just thinking about it makes me want to eat a chair and cry about pirates in love.
What if I told you, that for once in modern television, we had canonically very much LGBTQIA+ characters? And as a treat, none of their storylines hinged on suffering because of their identities? Well, “Our Flag Means Death” has you perfectly covered.
We’ve got Lucius, Pete, Fang, Stede, Blackbeard, Oluwande, Jim, and so many more. I was most thrilled about Jim, played by the incredible and talented nonbinary actor and Drag King Vico Ortiz, being a canonically nonbinary character. Once it was revealed that Jim was actually a “woman”, the crew has a quick chat about what that meant for Jim. Within a three-minute scene, the crew decides to use they/them pronouns for Jim and it is never questioned again. We also meet a special character from Jim’s past later in the season, she’s told that Jim goes by they/them now and she uses those pronouns immediately. It is so refreshing to see everyone respect Jim as their wonderful nonbinary self immediately and without hesitation. Also, Jim has knives, Jim is a whole nonbinary knife baddie and you expect me to not fall in love with them??
I also deeply appreciate Taika Waititi, David Jenkins, and the rest of the crew making it blatantly clear that their show is a romantic comedy. No queer-baiting in site, just gays on a boat.
“We talk it through as a crew”
To be blunt, OFMD came to me at a time when I felt hopelessly lost in myself, my relationships, my family, my schooling, and seemingly everything else. As I watched each character grow and develop, I felt more comfortable in my own change. Time is odd, people come and go from your life at a whim, sometimes you don’t really know who you are, but that’s okay. At the very least, you’re alive, you’re passing through each day. I related to every character in the show and saw bits of myself in them all. As long as I am living authentically and truthfully to myself, just like they all were at some point, I’m all good.
I adore this sweet pirate show, and I hope you all will, too. Let’s get OFMD renewed for Season Two!!