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“Our Flag Means Death” Review by Reel Stories Intern Grace Kelly!

With Pride Month right around the corner in June, there have been many queer-positive shows appearing in streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, etc, but one show that I and my queer friends have fallen in love with is called “Our Flag Means Death”.

Still from “Our Flag Means Death” showing protagonists Blackbeard (left) and Stede Bonnet (right) sharing tea.

The show is a period drama that depicts the story of a wealthy aristocrat who has always been bullied for his soft nature leaving his family to set off to become a pirate. It is a light-hearted, comedic show that contrasts the rough life of a pirate with a sensitive, empathetic lead character. Not only does this show defy the stereotypical toxic masculinity that is usually portrayed in the media, but it also explores the territory of gender identity and sexual orientation.

What I personally love about the show is how it manages to tastefully include diversity regarding the LGBTQ+ community. For example, one of the crew members on the pirate ship have to go into hiding as a man, but is later revealed to be a non-binary person. While the writers do acknowledge this character’s identity, they highlight it in a brief, but meaningful way instead of smothering the audience with exaggerated acceptance of differences that can sometimes seem over the top. Lilly Thies, a queer high school senior described her experience with it: “It’s easy to find oneself represented on [their pirate ship,] the Revenge, where characters of all ethnicities, sizes, gender identities and sexualities are all portrayed as equally valuable”.

Not only does this show successfully provide a comfortable atmosphere for its audience, and queer youth, the filmmaker’s execution was neat and effortful. The details of the set, from the neatly coiled ropes in the corner, to the intricate carvings in the ship’s wood, it was clear that nothing was overlooked when creating the ambiance of a historical pirate ship. The actors provided committed, and significant performances even with just the expressions on their faces, which the camera never failed to catch. The shots, while not particularly focused on the uniquely artistic style, used closeups and intimate shots of the characters to help the audience see the true vulnerability and hurt that each character had felt. Not once did I see an unnecessary or poorly framed shot throughout the series.

Overall, the factor that really made this show worth watching was the carefully thought-out plot and dialogue. The plot defied many stereotypes and was able to produce an authentic and original storyline that is so underrepresented in modern media, not to mention the dialogue. In film, there is a fine, and easily crossable line that separates good and bad dialogue and what often happens is filmmakers will heavily depend on their dialogue to tell the story and it never succeeds in creating an impactful film. “Our Flag Means Death” strategically cut out the unnecessary words that surrounded the point they were trying to make which kept the audience engaged. It kept the series from feeling cliche and unoriginal.

The storyline broke lots of barriers and provided an unconventional path that I had never seen addressed in a film before. Not only was the filmmaking side of me very impressed with their attention to detail, they also managed to create a community with their audience and its safe to say that this will be my go-to comfort show for years to come. 

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