Our Flag Means Queer

A look at the importance of good gay representation in today’s media.

by Eliana Megargee, Cub Co-Editor

June begins, and with it, LGBTQ Pride month: 30 days dedicated to honoring and celebrating those with queer identities. As a queer person, I always look forward to the month of June as a time to fully accept my authentic self.

One way I always enjoy embracing my identity is by watching pieces of media with LGBTQ+ characters. Except that when doing that, a problem often arises. There aren’t all that many things with LGBTQ+ representation, at least not in a meaningful way. Sometimes it feels like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel searching for queer representation. 

 These 17 years of underwhelming portrayals of queerness, an ever-growing love for pirates, and a desire for representation in historical fiction have been preparing me for HBO Max’s “Our Flag Means Death,” which I highly recommend to fellow queer people, as well as to anyone who’s looking for a new show. 

The show is a queer historical pirate rom-com, which yes, is just as fantastic as it sounds. Starring New Zealand comedians Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby, the show loosely follows the real-life history of the “pirate” Stede Bonnet and his encounters with the infamous Blackbeard. It takes this history and makes it about a hundred times more gay, which is always a win in my book.

It’s been a couple months since I watched it, but I still can’t get over the representation in this show. When it comes to queerness, there are three explicitly queer couples made up of two gay couples and one pairing between a queer man and a non-binary person. There’s also a polyamorous woman and many other characters who could easily be read as queer.

This amount of queerness is a welcome relief from the overwhelming amount of cheap representation I see. I mean, just think of Disney and how they’ve bragged about having a “first gay character” 13 different times and every time being a token character thrown in as an afterthought. I really shouldn’t claim there’s no mainstream representation with such inspiring queer scenes out there like LeFou dancing with a man for five seconds in “Beauty and the Beast,” an unnamed man in “Avengers: Endgame” referencing his dead boyfriend, and two women in the most recent “Star Wars” movie kissing for a whole two seconds?! Wow! 

Yeah… I think I’m going to stick with my gay pirates for now, Disney. I’m done bothering myself with the cheap representation we’re given from these big name franchises now that I know what I’ve been missing out on.

A funny, heartbreaking, uplifting story that centers around a queer romance but presents its queer characters as complex people who are more than just their sexuality or gender is everything I didn’t know I needed and more. 

Another thing that makes “Our Flag Means Death” shine is that there is phenomenal representation in many other ways as well. Three of the aforementioned queer characters are not white, with Blackbeard being Māori and one couple comprising of a Black man and a Latine person; many other supporting characters are people of color as well. There’s a character played by someone with a cleft palate who speaks with a lisp, one character wears a knee brace, another acquires a prosthetic finger, and one woman has a prosthetic hand. Overall it’s a wonderful contrast from the “traditionally” attractive people often depicted in LGBTQ+ media.

The show’s central message is about how to destroy and overcome the societal norms of toxic masculinity and internalized homophobia, and it depicts this in an absolutely incredible way. I truly recommend that everyone watch “Our Flag Means Death” as an example of how well underrepresented stories can be told.