Review: “Our Flag Means Death” and LGBT+ representation

Eva Crowley, Contributing Writer

The season finale of the HBO Max Original Series Our Flag Means Death aired this past March 24th. I had been putting off watching it until I began seeing copious amounts of TikToks relating to the show. Before starting the show, I was expecting a lighthearted comedy about a wealthy and incompetent pirate; I realized early into watching it that in actuality it was a heartwarming love story about finding one’s family of choice, and of course, a plethora of LGBTQ+ representation. Our Flag Means Death is a hilarious and relatable piece of media, regardless of gender or sexuality. 

Our Flag Means Death takes place in the year 1717, in the midst of The Golden Age of Piracy. Loosely based on the life of the English aristocrat Stede Bonnet, the show follows Bonnet and his crew attempting to make a life of pirating onboard The Revenge. They eventually cross paths with the notorious Blackbeard and end up sailing together for a while.

The show portrays many different types of gender and sexuality, ranging from gay men to gender non-conforming people. I asked Olivia Logan ‘24, a member of the Union College Pride Club, about her feelings toward the show. She said, “I feel like my favorite part about Our Flag Means Death was how it normalized queerness. So often shows make a big deal out of characters being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and make it their only defining characteristic, as if it’s not something normal or natural. It was amazing to see how Our Flag Means Death told a thrilling, pirate-themed, queer love story without the subtle alienation we see in media today.” Giving space for queer audiences to have three-dimensional characters to identify with can be really important and validate their experiences. 

One criticism I have seen on the show has been that it is unrealistic that a majority of the characters are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. What is interesting about this take is the disregard of how most media has been presented to us up until very recently. A lot of the time, screenwriters create exclusively straight relationships and make every character in their stories straight. This is just as equally unrealistic, yet very few people protest against it. Historians have been writing gay people out of history for centuries. Making nearly every single character in Our Flag Means Death not heterosexual is unlikely, but it’s a great example of how easy it is to write a natural storyline with plenty of representation across the board.