Our Flag Means Death Gets Queer Romance Right

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

In a world filled with too many straight rom-coms, Our Flag Means Death is more than just a show about a queer romance between pirates. It is a series that is paving the way for the future of love stories in general. Our Flag Means Death is more than the feel-good show of 2023; it’s a series that gets queer romance right, simply by normalizing it like any other on-screen love story.

Our Flag Means Death Normalizes Queer Romance

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Our Flag Means Death follows Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), an affluent man who has it all — a successful plantation, a mansion, a beautiful wife, and two children: one boy and one girl. But despite having achieved the societal dream, Stede longs for a life of adventure out at sea. And he finally follows that urge, leaving his life behind him and becoming a pirate. 

The only problem is that Stede is a terrible pirate. That is until he meets Ed Teacher, aka the terrifying Blackbeard (Taika Waititi), who becomes his mentor — and eventually his lover — on the high seas.

The Romance Comes As A Surprise In Season 1

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When you begin watching Season 1 of Our Flag Means Death, you have no idea you’re in for a slow-burn queer romance. But over the course of six episodes, series creator David Jenkins and his writing team build a bullet-proof foundation that gently guides the two protagonists through the enemies-to-friends-to-lovers arc.

The Series Doesn’t Overplay Queer Romance

Meanwhile, Our Flag Means Death makes it clear that being gay is no big deal in the pirate world. While viewers are yearning to know whether or not Stede or Ed will make a move on each other, the show nonchalantly introduces several other LGBTQ characters, including Black Pete and Lucious (who make an unlikely pair but whose romance goes from hooking up below deck in Season 1 to married by the end of Season 2), and Jim, who comes out as non-binary in the middle of Season 1.

There’s More Queer Romance Now Than Straight Couples

In fact, by the end of Season 2, Our Flag Means Death is following more queer romance storylines than straight ones. And while the show is only loosely based on historical facts, the idea that there were a lot of LGBTQ+ Golden Age pirates isn’t inaccurate. 

During The Golden Age Of Piracy, Many Pirates Were Queer

During the 1700s, when Our Flag Means Death takes place, piracy meant a life of freedom for societal outcasts, including queer people who would otherwise be arrested or even tortured or killed by the British government. Meanwhile, homosexuality was common among pirates and even protected under the pirate code through matelotage, a process where two seamen shared incomes, fought alongside one another in battle, and could even leave an inheritance to one another.

Our Flag Means Death Breaks Away From The Queerbating Trend

While media has been slowly normalizing LGBTQ+ romances on screen for quite some time, it’s often done through the lens of queerbaiting, which involves teasing queer romances while always leaving room to deny that’s what it is and often never delivering on the promise.

Hollywood uses this tactic to make it seem as though television shows and movies are embracing queer culture, while always leaving one foot out the door so as to not offend a homophobic audience. Our Flag Means Death sidesteps queerbaiting by making the entire series queer-centered, even if it takes a whole season for something to finally happen between the two protagonists. 

Our Flag Means Death Is The Perfect Romantic Slow-Burn

Our Flag Means Death is a slow-burn, but it definitely delivers on its promise. It’s a perfectly told romance that teases the audience with subtle scenes and quiet romantic moments but it never strays away from its foundation. Between the stories of Ed and Stede, Lucious and Black Pete, Jim and Owu, Anne and Mary, and many others, Our Flag Means Death portrays queerness for what it really is: a natural aspect of life.