Our Flag Means Death has become a bit of a sensation, to put it mildly. The show skyrocketed in popularity for weeks after its debut, both in terms of streaming metrics and the outpouring of fan art.
Light spoilers for Black Sails and Our Flag Means Death ahead.
That’s in no small part thanks to its centering a romance between two men, Stede Bonnet and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, which captured the hearts of many, especially among queer viewers starved of on-screen representation. Even as queer representation has improved over the decades, with several ongoing shows featuring queer characters and subplots, it’s still rare for a series to focus squarely on queer romance, especially in genre shows.
Perhaps some of the infatuation stems from how Our Flag Means Death marketed its romance story — namely, it didn’t. Those initial trailers, teasers, and handful of episodes focused on the comedy hijinks of Stede Bonnet and his inept band of pirates. Not so much as a longing glance between Stede and Ed.
For an audience more often used to queerbaiting or sometimes no inclusion at all, the shock that this show really was going to commit to that romance seems to have come with much elation, not to mention a viewership which tripled somewhere between its debut and its finale. Even creator David Jenkins has commented on the matter.
Speaking to The Verge, he said, “I think I didn’t realize — because I see myself represented on camera, and I see myself falling in love in stories — I didn’t realize how deep the queer baiting thing goes. Being made to feel stupid by stories, I guess. […] [L]ooking at how people were kind of afraid to let themselves believe that we were doing that was a surprise to me, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Oddly enough, though, this isn’t the first time a queer pirate show has buried the lede. Though the shows don’t share channels, decades, or even sensibilities, the way they slowly revealed the queerness of their protagonists reveals how both of these shows reflect the different climates in which they were released.