Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Pride Spotlight: Edward Teach & Stede Bonnet in ‘Our Flag Means Death’

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2022 Pride Month Series! Each weekday in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQIA+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQIA+ community and in mainstream media. Today’s spotlight is on Edward Teach and Stede Bonnet, the beloved pirate “they were roommates” co-captains from HBO Max’s Our Flag Means Death.

Our Flag Means Death has been celebrated since it released this March on HBO Max for telling authentic, heartfelt, and heartwarming queer stories — and for providing actual representation for a community who is still vastly underrepresented in media. It is no longer enough to have a background queer character or two, or a passing glimpse at a non-heterosexual relationship. People in the LGBTQ+ community deserve to have their stories told authentically, in the spotlight, and to completion — which is exactly what this series has provided to those of us who have been historically disappointed by queerbaiting.

There are several queer relationships and identities to explore in the series, but the primary love story of Our Flag Means Death is between Edward Teach/Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) and Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby). The love between the two burns slowly in such a way that had audiences wondering if we would really see the two admit their feelings, but when we see the love truly blossom between the two it is one of the most authentic and endearing love stories I can personally recall seeing in modern media. If you’re anything like me, though, you knew that there was something LGBTQ+ going on as soon as we saw Edward leaning over Stede’s unconscious form in bed and enviously muttering, “Who’s this Mary, then?” in response to Stede’s dream-fueled sleep-talking.

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Thankfully, the phenomenal creative team behind the series didn’t make fans wonder forever, and we received confirmation that the two are in love when Ed kisses Stede on the docks and asks him to flee to China to begin a life together, all after renouncing piracy in order to save him. The romance between the two has built over several episodes at this point, with the pair sharing parts of themselves with the other man that they’ve never shared before and discovering what it is like to enjoy life again. Getting to see these two admit this to one another was enough to move me to tears. In fact, I am still moved to tears by this scene each and every time I rewatch the series — the chemistry and masterclass performances between Waititi and Darby here are enough to do that alone, coupled with beautiful writing and cinematography there is a perfect recipe for tears.

What makes Ed happy is…you.

Edward Teach, Our Flag Means Death season 1, episode 9

Ed admits to Stede on the dock that he has never been as happy as he has been the past few weeks he has spent with Stede, and though we don’t receive a verbal confirmation of this we know the same is true for Stede — who apparently was so miserable with his life before that his wife, Mary, regularly heard him crying to himself. They are each others’ soulmate, the true personification of the exact life the other has always wanted — so different from one another and yet perfect matches of a two piece puzzle. The pair help one another realize that they can both be anything they want to be, and that regardless of the lives they’ve lived or the lives they think they have to live now they both deserve to be happy.

Unfortunately, not every season of every series ends off on the happiest of notes, and Stede is unable to meet Ed on the docks to run away together — leaving Ed to feel abandoned and rejected by the love of his life. Stede, who once made Ed the happiest he’s ever been, is now the reason the fearsome pirate is the most heartbroken and depressed he’s ever been — and there are absolutely consequences for those around him. However, this time apart ultimately opens up the story for additional advancement of acceptance for oneself as Stede reunites with his wife, Mary. Ultimately, Stede and Mary come to the conclusion that Stede does not belong in that life anymore, partially because Mary herself has found true love.

Mary confirming she has found true love leads to a beautiful sequence where Mary describes what love feels like to Stede — while Mary describes this feeling that only the luckiest of us find, flashes of the time Stede and Ed have spent together flash through Stede’s mind. Stede has found true love he confirms, and when Mary asks for “her” name, Stede replies:

Ed. His name is Ed.

Stede Bonnet, Our Flag Means Death season 1 episode 10
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The two share a knowing smile of acceptance, which is the most beautiful thing anyone of us in this community can hope to receive when we share ourselves with them.

You can find another article about LGBTQ+ representation in Our Flag Means Death here, and stay tuned for more Our Flag Means Death Pride articles today.

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