Viewers around the world were devastated to learn Max canceled their highly-rated, fan-favorite pirate rom-com Our Flag Means Death earlier this week.
Starring Rhys Darby as the sometimes bumbling – but always loveable – aristocrat turned pirate Stede “The Gentleman Pirate” Bonnet and Taika Waititi as misunderstood bad boy with a heart of gold Ed “Blackbeard” Teach, OFMD has been a huge hit since it premiered in 2022, receiving praise for its positive portrayals of LGBT+ storylines and rich, inclusive plotlines for its supporting cast.
It received a 94% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes for its second season that premiered in October, and Max recently launched a merch line, a “For Your Consideration” awards campaign, and the show was highlighted in the network’s “best of the year” featurette in an email to subscribers, making the cancellation even more baffling to fans, many of whom feel represented by the characters.
“My favorite [character] from an ‘I identify with this person so hard I could literally BE them’ [standpoint is] Stede. Our journeys are so similar. The self-loathing. The want to leave a family you love behind, because you just don’t feel like you ‘fit,’” said fan Ashleigh Langfitt. “Sadly, I’m not a wealthy landowner in 1717 Bermuda, and happily, I actually chose my husband and he is lovely and supportive and has stuck by my side, so I haven’t gone off to chase the wind. But, oh my god, especially when the kids were little, did I dream and fantasize and want to. I thought I could just never escape my role as ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ and ‘homemaker.’ But part of Stede learning that he could be his own person inspired me to do it, too. And now I’m in school, getting ready to apply to PA school. Even though I’m not in my 20s, I can still do things and have accomplishments.”
Indeed, identifying with the show’s characters is part of what made the show a hit, with many fans having found their families through communities created online, just like the crew of The Revenge became a family over the course of the show.
One Twitter thread calling for fans to share how the show made their life better is filled with replies including how it inspired them to write fan fiction or to find the bravery to attend conventions, how they feel like a valued part of a fandom, how it helped them come to terms with their gender or sexuality, to come out, how it made them believe in love again, and how they felt the show provided them with the type of representation they felt they deserved.
“It fills a void that is grossly undersold – original stories! kindness! – but most importantly OFMD created a space in which under-represented viewers could finally see their stories be told,” said fan Jaime Rae. “I love that the people I love could find themselves in these stories, and I love that OFMD provided me with the springboard to look at my own self-identity in a way that I had, up until then, set aside.”
Langfitt concurs, adding, “As a queer person who was repressed and spent most of her life believing that there was only one role to fit into, OFMD was a significant part of my journey to becoming more than just the gender role I thought I had to follow. It was my first experience in a mostly queer space since coming out as bisexual. I felt almost like a fake or a fraud beforehand. Like I wasn’t actually a part of that community because of whatever imposter syndrome my brain could cook up. But OFMD taught me that queerness comes in all shapes and forms and colors and sounds. That everyone has their own experiences, and those shape you. That you don’t have to fit into a mold. And there is mental strength in freeing yourself from that mold.”
Because of this passionate sense of belonging and representation fans have found through the show, they are not taking the news of its cancellation lightly.
Shortly after the season two premiere, a group of fans founded the Renew as a Crew campaign, taking inspiration from the show’s rallying cry to “talk it through as a crew.”
They knew they would have their work cut out for them and that they would have to fight to save the show they love.
“The history of shows – especially media featuring marginalized groups – being canceled after one or two seasons is well-established,” said fan Otsanda, the social media strategist supervisor for Renew as a Crew. “Back in 2022, a group of us started talking about how we would need a strong, united front to give our show the best chance possible for the season three that showrunner David Jenkins had envisioned. It felt like we got so lucky in how we all came together, different strengths all at the right time. I’m not going list everyone here, but they know who they are. We have an About Us page on our website and I am so grateful for every single person on there and for all of our less official, but still very dedicated, social media supporters. It really has been a group effort.”
After the show was canceled, the group’s goals pivoted from renewal to resurrection. Knowing other shows have been brought back from the brink of death (Star Trek, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Chuck, Jericho, Timeless, Manifest, Lucifer, Sense8, and Warrior Nun, to name a few), the fans got to work laying out a strategic, well-rounded plan to save Our Flag Means Death.
“We knew there were two possible outcomes and we needed to be prepared for either of them. Once the renewal campaign was established after the release of season two, we started preparing for both renewal and cancellation news,” said Otsanda. “We discovered that a lot of the fire and fight you see in renewal campaigns really comes after cancellation news has been announced and prior to that, we were sort of fighting against the tide. By the end of 2023, we had all of our core initiatives in place and our resources built; all that was left was to tread water and await the news. Once we got word of the cancellation, we posted our prepared response and hoisted our anchors – I mean pens. We are disappointed, but not yet defeated, and we will continue to fight.”
Renew as a Crew’s initiatives are varied, taking into account fans’ comfort levels regarding outreach.
The broadest, easiest way to support the campaign is to sign the petition, which had received almost 50,000 signatures at the time of this publication.
According to Otsanda, other ways to support include:
Send a lovely letter and a fine fabric!
Traditional letter-writing campaigns are proven to be successful. Send a heartfelt letter and a piece of red fabric (or anything red you can stuff in an envelope).
Stream Our Flag Means Death on Max
Check the campaign’s Impact page for the most effective streaming strategies, FAQs, and more.
Share (respectful) Feedback…
…directly with Max by filling out their Feedback form and selecting Programming Feedback:
Donate to RainbowYOUTH or our Marketing & Operations fund
Renew as a Crew has partnered with RainbowYOUTH, whose centers play a pivotal role in providing support, resources, and safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth in Aotearoa New Zealand. Over $13,000 has been raised for this great organization so far.
The Crew will also be hosting a billboard in Times Square in New York and sponsoring a plane flyover across WB’s headquarters in Los Angeles on January 19. Within 40 minutes of the launch of the crowdfunding campaign to pay for both ads, all $10,000 requested had been met. Remaining funds raised will be divvied up to fandom-related charities either supported or created by the cast or crew.
One thing Otsanda notes is the campaign’s desire for fans to remain courteous when reaching out to Max representatives.
“We are urging everyone to be respectful and polite in all communications with the studio and media, especially those at the front such as social media managers and the desk staff who answer the phones. These people are unlikely to have decision-making power in these situations and they are being inundated with both positive and horribly negative responses. We don’t need to contribute to that in a negative way,” they said.
They also noted that some fans may be taking the cancellation news hard and may feel helpless after their safe space (ship) has seemingly set sail.
“We know how emotional this news has been for so many fans,” they said. “We have compiled some mental health resources which are available on a separate linktree. Take care of yourselves and those around you and try to give grace to those who are hurting. This isn’t over yet.”
Through the Renew as a Crew campaign, fans have proven they will fight for what they believe in until the show’s fate is conclusively sealed. Whether it ultimately leads to the show being picked back up (whether on Max or another network) or not, the campaign demonstrates the importance of representation on television and emphasizes the sense of family found among the show’s fans and their desire to see the show’s storylines through to completion.
“Above all, OFMD proved that people want to experience unique stories told by diverse voices,” said Rae. “Creativity should be rewarded so quality stories can be told to their fullest potential.”