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LGTBQ+ Representation in Our Flag Means Death

At about five years old, I decided I was going to be Jack Sparrow, Indiana Jones, or Zoro when I grew up. I legitimately thought you could go to college to study how to be a pirate and adventurer. Although I was disappointed when I discovered there was no major in piracy when I grew older, I still loved to read my Piratology book and watch Pirates of the Caribbean. When my friend gave me her HBO Max password, however, I discovered Our Flag Means Death and fell in love with it. It has everything a pirate lover wants: hilarious humor, intense swashbuckling, and a bit of romance. The show follows Stede Bonnet, an aristocrat played by Rhys Darby, who leaves his comfortable life for one at sea as the “Gentleman Pirate.” At the same time, we discover the infamous Captain Blackbeard, played by Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, experiencing burnout from being an angsty pirate captain. Throughout the show, Blackbeard, Stede, and his ridiculous mediocre pirate crew will make you smile, laugh, and maybe even cry. The show twists history by creating a romance between Stede and Blackbeard, as they fall in love teaching each other how to be a high-class aristocrat and how to be a bloodthirsty pirate. As an LGTBQ+ ally, I’d have to say this is one of the best queer representations I’ve seen because the sexuality of the crew members is not the plot but merely an accepted part of them that contributes to the story. 

The show primarily follows Stede’s crew accidentally getting into mischief, but it subtly and entertainingly also tackles the harm of toxic masculinity and shows the beauty of true love. The flashbacks of Stede’s life show him being bullied as a child by his father for showing sadness at a dead bird and classmates for picking flowers. Throughout the series, we also see Blackbeard’s right-hand man show contempt for Blackbeard’s change in behavior as he befriends and falls in love with Stede, claiming he’s become soft. However, it is through Stede and Blackbeard’s exchange of lifestyle tips that they find and alter the negative aspects of aristocracy and piracy within their lives. The show highlights the passive aggression Stede endures in his society through the aristocracy’s ridicule of Blackbeard’s manner of eating and simultaneously mocks it through Stede’s crew exposing their most scandalous secrets. Similarly, the show illustrates and makes fun of unnecessary violence through one of Blackbeard’s visiting friends and his ridiculous games, such as making a crab and turtle fight to the death. Despite being introduced in the show as being in the middle of an identity crisis, the shenanigans and honest conversations between Stede and Blackbeard eventually make them feel whole. 

Although the show centers around Stede and Blackbeard’s relationship, Our Flag Means Death also includes other LGTBTQ+ members amongst the crew. Through the show’s writing style, acting, and production, Our Flag Means Death is an inclusive, endearing, compassionate, hilarious, and tender representation of the LGTBQ+ community.

Agueda is a 2nd year student double majoring in Comparative Literature and Economics. She enjoys singing, writing, and binge watching Modern Family. She is passionate about film and music and hopes to work in business affairs/law after graduating.
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