Opinion: These 18th-century pirates have a lesson for American politicians

HBO’s swashbuckling comedy “Our Flag Means Dying” has turned out to be the sleeper hit of the spring — and a convincing clap again on the present wave of anti-LGBTQ laws sweeping a number of states, from the Florida measure opponents have dubbed the “do not say homosexual” invoice to efforts in Texas and elsewhere to bar transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming care or trans athletes from competitors. (HBO and CNN share a guardian firm.)

This big-hearted collection, which debuted in March, took viewers abruptly with a slow-burn romance between “gentleman pirate” Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and the infamous Blackbeard (Taika Waititi, who govt produced).

Their odd-couple relationship is just one of a number of queer storylines on creator David Jenkins’ present, which additionally options the nonbinary pirate Jim (Vico Ortiz, a nonbinary actor) paired with fellow marauder Oluwande (Samson Kayo), and a budding relationship between pirates Black Pete (Matthew Maher) and Lucius (Nathan Foade). The present even dips into polyandry, with comedian Leslie Jones enjoying a pirate named Spanish Jackie who has 19 husbands.

The plot springboards off the true story of Bonnet, a British landowner who turned to piracy for a few years within the early 1700s and did group up briefly with Blackbeard. However from there, it is all invention. “David simply needs to piss off homophobic historians. He simply needs to listen to them go, ‘That by no means occurred!'” Waititi instructed Leisure Weekly.
Per Waititi’s now well-established model, the present lives comfortably within the realm of goofy, quippy humor shot by with moments of heart-wrenching feeling. “To American ears, I might name the New Zealand accent the sound of kindness,” the American Jenkins mentioned of his Kiwi stars.
The present is a well-liked and demanding success. Which begs the query: Why on Earth hasn’t HBO renewed it? (This is hoping that by the point you are studying this, it has.) The collection finale aired weeks in the past. Normally, renewal is introduced by now.
“It is a tough one to not decide up on after what occurred on the finish of it. It is a notably tough one. I hope they determine it out. I hope they wish to do extra. I do know everybody within the present needs to,” Jenkins instructed the LA Occasions. “I simply assume that they need to as a result of it is smart. Additionally, I have to know what occurs subsequent,” Waititi chimed in.
Followers are definitely making their emotions identified. “It is easy to inform when a film, present, or recreation has actually discovered a passionate viewers, as a result of the fan artwork abruptly begins trending on social media,” mentioned Tasha Robinson on Polygon. And you recognize a collection has actually succeeded as an ensemble when fan artwork displays love for all the characters, not simply the 2 within the present’s central romance.

Even Izzy Fingers (Con O’Neill), Blackbeard’s seething second-in-command, makes frequent appearances within the flood of beautiful fan-fiction artwork on-line.

Ortiz has turn into a bona fide nonbinary celeb through the present, and not too long ago introduced their determination to get prime surgical procedure was influenced by the quantity of affection they’ve acquired from followers. “It has been so cool to see that the present is being this instrument for folks to really feel empowered,” they instructed Out journal. “It has been actually stunning.” On “OFMD,” Jim’s fellow pirates seek advice from Jim with they/them pronouns, with out ever remarking on it — a radical act in itself.
A part of the rationale the collection is resonating so strongly with viewers is its dedication to truthfully depicting relationships between queer characters, versus “queerbaiting,” the time period for implying queer romance will happen on a present after which by no means truly letting it occur. “OFMD” additionally by no means means that queer relationships are in any method uncommon. “What I really like concerning the present is that not one of the characters speak about being homosexual. It is by no means handled like, “Oh my God, it is two males,” Waititi mentioned.
Vico Ortiz and Samson Kayo in "Our Flag Means Death."
Unapologetically inclusive storytelling, and casting of BIPOC actors, have turn into a trademark for Waititi, whose upcoming “Thor: Love and Thunder” appears to be like probably to queer the Marvel universe. The film’s trailer encompasses a scene between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) that bought followers excited.
Tessa Thompson’s brazenly bisexual character, Valkyrie, is now the King of Asgard and, reportedly, in search of her queen. And Waititi himself will reprise his position because the character Korg, who’s reportedly “canonically homosexual” (although he will not have a love curiosity).
Waititi has additionally been a groundbreaker in Indigenous-inclusive storytelling, from his sensible Native American “Reservation Canines” collection on Hulu to his casting of Indigenous Australian and Maori actors in “Thor: Ragnarok” and his earlier movie, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” in addition to the extremely numerous forged of “Our Flag Means Dying.”

“OFMD” could be trigger for celebration in any period, nevertheless it feels notably needed proper now. It is onerous to imagine the present exists in the identical universe during which Florida prohibited academics from in any method mentioning gender identification and sexual orientation in kindergarten by the third grade.

It is just one in a slew of anti-LGBTQ payments throughout the US. Per the ACLU, “over 100 payments attacking transgender folks have been launched in state legislatures since 2020.”

Regrettably, a TV collection — even a boldly pro-LGBTQ one — is not geared up to take down legions of small-minded politicians and deep-seated bigotry. However maybe its worth lies in Blackbeard’s phrases of consolation to Stede of their hour of disaster: “There’s at all times an escape.”

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