The success of Our Flag Means Death, and the positive reception of Stede and Blackbeard’s romance, prove that television must stop queerbaiting.
Contains spoilers for Our flag means death.
the Our flag means death Season 1 proves TV has no more excuses for queerbaiting. Loosely based on the true story of Stede Bonnet – a man who left his privileged life to become a pirate – Our flag means death evolves into a romantic comedy between Stede (Rhys Darby) and Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard (Taika Waititi). Their slow-burn romance was well received by audiences, though some initially didn’t think the LGBTQ+ relationship would happen.
Our flag means death includes many common romantic tropes such as caring for another when sick or hurt and meeting a jealous ex. Stede and Blackbeard share many small, intimate moments that eventually culminate in a kiss in Episode 9. The series‘ lack of a traditional “coming out” for any of the characters was also refreshing – Stede admitting to his wife Mary ( Claudia O’Doherty) towards the end of Our flag means death that he had fallen in love with Edward Teach was the closest, but even then the TV show gave more weight to the fact that he had felt true love, and less that it was for a man.
The easy way Our flag means death portrays Stede and Blackbeard’s relationship proves how outdated and harmful queerbaiting excuses are from other TV shows. The slow development of their romance-turned-friendship parallels many other on-screen romances, and viewers were thrilled with how it was handled. Despite progress with queer representation, it’s still all too common for same-sex relationships to remain buried in subtext or interpreted as a “bromance” rather than properly exploring LGBTQ+ relationships. Our flag means deathcreator David Jenkins pointed out (via Collider) this “we’re so used to being like bromance, bromance, bromance, and it’s so simple to put them together.” So many characters in past shows have developed deep relationships with each other – even including common romantic tropes to underscore their bond – without following along, instead seemingly hoping that teasing a queer romance would be enough to entice some viewers to watch. the show without potentially alienating others.
humor everywhere Our flag means death may also have contributed to some viewers having difficulty believing that the budding romance between Stede and Teach would be taken seriously. For example, in one scene, Blackbeard orders Stede to stab him, and the painful noises he makes allow anyone who overhears to assume that he is engaging in a very different type of activity. It’s a fun time, but similar scenes in other shows tend to undermine the characters’ close relationships, implying that a romance between them is unthinkable. Buddy comedies often do this by paralleling romantic tropes for comedic effect, and Our flag means death stand out by committing to what he started. Audiences are tired of being led around with promises that are never kept, and the show’s love story is all the more remarkable for describing their relationship so clearly and easily.
Our flag means death proves how successful same-sex romances can be when given a chance. With the positive reactions to Our flag means death it’s clear that TV shows no longer have an excuse to resort to queerbaiting by refusing to commit to either establishing a relationship as platonic or allowing it to be more. With a bit of luck, Our flag means death will help encourage more LGBTQ+ stories to be told on screen.
Next: All We Know About Our Flag Means Death Season 2
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