(4/20/2022) Our Flag Means Death

I will preface this by saying I love gay people and I love pirates. And the idea of pirates being gay and doing pirate/gay stuff sounds awesome. I've been hearing about this show endlessly across social media, and I've been excited to see it since I saw people posting fanart of Blackbeard all over the place.

Our Flag Means Death is a historical comedy about the relationship between real life gentleman pirate Stede Bonnett and the great pirate Blackbeard. Every episode feels about something different and silly, yet serves to develop the romance between the two as well as provide more information on their personal histories. I'll also dispel any worries - this show is very explicit with the LGBT themes. At least four characters are confirmed to be gay and don't just exist to be stereotypes or jokes. Another character actually goes by they/them pronouns, which is cool.

I'll be honest, I don't super duper like the show. I have a lot of complaints, and I want to start with some of those right now before I get into my compliments, because I have a lot of the former..

For one thing, this show is shockingly gentle when it comes to the racial and LGBT aspects of the setting. I know that pirates were pretty chill about certain groups who were discriminated against in "polite society," but I mean... come on. The closest the show gets is a comment from nobles referring to the black crewmates as 'slaves', before promptly getting their asses kicked. I'm not saying I want to hear the characters get called the hard R, but in the old days you'd at least hear the word "Negro" get thrown around, you know? And you'd think at least some of these characters would be put off by the gay shit.

I understand that this show is probably made to be inoffensive as possible, which I don't really have any beef with. But I mean, maybe they shouldn't have picked an actual sugar plantation owner to be one of the main characters if that's what they're going for. I enjoy Stede Bonnett the character, but if this is his history, I feel a little weird when I can compare his general vibe to Aziraphale from Good Omens. You know, the angel? I know Blackbeard historically also has connections to the slave trade, but I feel like he's been mythologized enough that you could get away with putting him in your pirate show. However, Stede Bonnet? Couldn't they have just made up their own "Gentleman Pirate" character? They are really trying to have their cake and eat it too here.

Another is that I simply do not enjoy the vibes. This show has a very strong vibe that it's written by theater kids, and I have seen that theater kids do indeed agree about that. I wouldn't necessarily say things are necessarily DRAMATIC, but you can really anticipate the structure and plot beats very clearly. You could easily blame this on me not knowing what I was getting into again. It does get the job done, though.

Now, let me get back to good stuff. The gay stuff in this show is actually pretty cute. This show works very well as a silly sort of romcom with pirate set dressing and SLIGHT historical elements. It ramps up the gay more and more as the show goes on, both amongst the side characters and the main characters. I particularly enjoyed the final episode since it was pretty funny and got me wanting to know how things might end up. The season ends in such a way that really sets it up to have a second come up, but as of right now, that hasn't been announced just yet.

To me, Our Flag Means Death is a pretty solidly alright show. The jokes are funny, but not gutbusters. The characters are interesting enough and get the job done. The character relationships are what really make this show shine... it's particularly fun watching Blackbeard and Stede interact. I'm not sure if this is as "worth it" as many people have described to me, but if any part of this review has intrigued you then I think you might enjoy the show.

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