Max Abandons Ship and Cancels “Our Flag Means Death,” Wrecks Passionate Queer Fandom

We’re less than two weeks into 2024, and “Cancel Your Gays” has already struck yet again. Yesterday, Max announced that it won’t be renewing its hit pirate comedy, Our Flag Means Death after two very successful and very queer seasons. The show starred Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi as Stede Bonnet and Ed “Blackbeard” Teach, an unlikely couple who meet when Stede leaves his cushy life in favor of adventuring on the high seas as a gentleman pirate. Along the way, they gather the queerest motley crew turned motley family I’ve ever seen.

Over the course of two seasons and 18 episodes, Our Flag Means Death waved its Pride flag as high as its pirate colors, putting queerness front and center without apology. One of my favorite things about this show is that it normalized its queerness by not making sexuality a ThingTM for so many of its characters, while also treating its coming out storylines with the utmost care and respect. Stede starts season one with a whole wife and two kids, and then explores what embracing his queerness later in life looks like. We watched Jim (Vico Ortiz) begin the series by disguising themself as a man, and then becoming fully settled into their non-binary identity in season two. And the gay party didn’t stop with the core cast; we even got a look into what the lives of famed lesbian pirates Anne Bonney (Minnie Driver) and Mary Read (Rachel House) might have looked like once they took a break from piracy. So much of Our Flag Means Death was funny and weird, but it’s the moments of character vulnerability and tenderness sprinkled among the chaos that truly showcased the heart of the show.

A spokesperson for Max told The Hollywood Reporter, “We also thank the dedicated fans who embraced these stories and built a gorgeous, inclusive community surrounding the show.” It’s that very community and fandom surrounding Our Flag that makes this cancellation all the more heart-breaking. I was lucky enough to attend a panel with some of the cast at last year’s New York Comic Con, and despite the fact that the actors were unable to talk about the show due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, the fans still showed up in droves. Some were in full pirate cosplay, others were handing out stickers and flyers to other fans, while even more riled up the crowd by singing sea shanties before the panel started.

That’s the thing about queer-centric fandoms: We love our stories, we love them hard, and when networks treat those stories with care we will keep showing up. We show up at conventions, online through fan art and fan fiction, and even create unofficial merch for shows when the networks refuse to invest. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m so tired of watching our shows get canceled even when they’re wildly successful. Now, I’m not here to speculate on the reason for the cancellation, but when a show has Rotten Tomatoes scores of 94% and 93% with critics and fans, respectively, I have to wonder what more we have to do to prove that our stories are worth telling.

If there’s a silver lining on this storm cloud of news, it’s that at the very least, the end of season two felt like a satisfying conclusion for the characters we’ve grown to know and love.

The show’s creator, David Jenkins, said this in an Instagram post about the cancellation: “I’m very sad I won’t set foot on the Revenge again with my friends, some of whom have become close to family. But I couldn’t be more grateful for being allowed to captain the damn thing in the first place.

Our Flag Means Us. Loving one another, pulling off some pretty weird and beautiful shit, and talking it through… as a crew. 🏴‍☠️🦄🐈‍⬛💜”

Our Flag Means Us, indeed.

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Nic

Nic is a Senior Product Manager at a major Publisher and lives in Astoria, NY. She is way too attached to queer fictional characters and maintains that buying books and reading books are two very different hobbies. When she's not consuming every form of fiction, you can find her dropping it low on the dance floor. You can find Nic on twitter and instagram.

Nic has written 76 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. I mostly know about this show due to a forum where people go to talk about gay fanfiction, and from what I could tell, season 2 was not very well-received among these people. Mostly that was due to the pacing being weird since the episodes were fewer and shorter due to budget cuts, but also they killed off a popular side character in a way that many of the gay fanfiction people found upsetting. I don’t know how much of this carries over to critics and normal people, but I assume the pacing/budget issues probably did. Although maybe not! I’m still not entirely sure they aren’t just salty about the death of their guy.

    I think sometimes conversations about gay shows being cancelled can fall into the same issues as conversations about gay characters being killed. The death or cancellation itself might actually be the most logical option at the time the choice is made, but there were a lot of choices that led up to that state of affairs.

  2. Whenever I see the news of the cancellation of a queer series, I feel that I have been betrayed because I invested my money and time to watch it.
    I don’t know where the problem is that the number of cancellations of queer works is so high
    From us queers who don’t pay enough attention to the works made for us
    Or streaming services that expect queer works to be as popular or even more popular than heterosexual works

  3. Very distraught at the cancellation of Our Flag Means Death.

    Why should we keep paying for a service that is only to cancel beloved shows with significant fanbases? This has become a relentless pattern which ultimately breeds distrust, so at the end of the day there is no incentive to keep subscriptions nor recommend the service.

    Some streaming companies don’t seem to realize the faith and commitment of a lot of geek culture, especially when it comes to the lgbtq community. The show isn’t just switched on, watched, talked about for a week, and forgotten. The love and dedication extends far beyond the ‘here and now.’

    Geeks keep going back to their beloved shows and invite new viewers by the day, by the year, and by the decade, cultivating a kind of Neverland where we don’t have to get older and die out.

    Ultimately, streaming services are now just trying to find that sweet spot -shows that are cheaply made, get large immediate numbers, and fast to push out for long seasons to maintain a constant revenue stream. This usually equates to some kind of reality show or a decent enough series that eventually devolves into disappointing plot lines, since the goal is basically ‘to create intrigue and drama.’

    Well, good luck to them, but if good shows aren’t allowed their endings and they’re looking for me to hop around the platform browsing for something else to spark my interest, I’d be perfectly happy to just watch Youtube videos where I don’t have to pay and arm and leg.

  4. This show is so special & meaningful to so many fans. We’re not giving up on a third season! I’m really hopeful that we get picked up by another streaming service so our beloved crew can have a proper ending.

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