The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Our Flag Means Death

Streaming services are continuing to sink ships
Opinion Columnist Kellie Stiles writes about the cancellation of the popular romantic comedy, “Our Flag Means Death.” The outrage over the cancellation has reached UNI’s campus with posters saying, “Save Our Flag Means Death,” popping up around Maucker Union, and a QR code leading to a petition wanting to reinstate the show.

You sit on your couch to scroll through one of your many subscription-based streaming services, looking for a new show to binge. One seems to catch your eye and you pull up a blanket as you click on the first episode. Your eyes light up as you watch the first episode, then the second, and suddenly it’s 2 a.m. and you’ve just watched the most masterfully crafted piece of art you’ve ever seen. The characters, the setting, the themes, the music, everything is perfect as you wipe your eyes when the credits roll on season one, or even season two. You quickly grab your phone, wanting to see if another season has been announced. The Google search lights up and your heart drops, face twisting in sadness as you see the top search result.


This is something that fans of the hit show “Our Flag Means Death” felt as Max, the streaming service previously known as HBO Max, told us that part three of its planned three-season arc was canceled. “Our Flag Means Death” is a romantic comedy produced by David Jenkins, where we follow the misadventures of gentleman-turned-pirate Stede Bonnet, played byRhys Darby, Blackbeard, played by Taika Waititi, and their pirate crew. The show gained critical success since the first season’s release on March 2, 2022, its second season soon following and outperforming HBO staples like “Peacemaker” and “Love and Death.” According to Parrot Analytics, “Our Flag Means Death” had a demand 27.5 times higher than the average TV show airing at the time, meaning it even outperformed Marvel and Star Wars shows such as “Loki” and “Ahsoka.” 

What set this show apart from many of other exclusive titles on the platform was its expansive and diverse cast of characters, focusing on LGBTQ+ themes and centering around queer joy and queer love. It has queer people of color, middle aged queers, polyamorous queers, fat queers, autistic queers, indigenous queers and so many more forms of representation than those seen in any other series on the platform. It wove an interesting narrative with Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard falling in love while combining hilarious comedic moments that really pushed the genre of romantic comedies. Not to mention, who doesn’t love a good swashbuckling tale of pirates? This isn’t just a great show, this is a great gay show. 

It’s not just about “Our Flag Means Death,” it’s about all the other shows people have poured their heart and souls into making that are being axed.

But now the show has joined a massive graveyard of other queer projects, and people all over the internet have been digging for theories as to why one of Max’s top performing shows was suddenly given a budget cut of 40% and then dropped completely. One theory circling around is that Max and other streaming services are making shows that focus on specific communities of people to bait them into subscribing to their services before prematurely dumping them in the trash. This can be seen with Netflix and their list of popular canceled projects that brought thought-provoking art and diversity to the platform. Examples of this include “I Am Not Okay With This,” another show revolving around an LGBTQ+ main character, and “Anne with an E,” a series with strong themes of feminism and girlhood. 

Another theory is that it all comes back around to capitalism and platforms wanting to make the most amount of money possible, even if that includes destroying art. It’s not just about “Our Flag Means Death,” it’s about all the other shows people have poured their heart and souls into making that are being axed. Shows like “Infinity Train,” another Max series, are being erased from existence so companies can stop paying the creators residuals. Studios are allegedly trashing entire movies for tax write-offs, and entire companies are fighting to use AI to replace writers and actors. Streaming services are seeing art as stocks that can be dumped and traded on a whim, all for that little extra money to line their pockets.

But fans of “Our Flag Means Death” aren’t going down quietly about the company’s decision and are quickly mobilizing against Max. Many have taken to social media platforms like TikTok and X (formally Twitter) to discuss their rage and rally people behind their cause. Over the course of the last few months, fans raised more than $21,000 for their campaign, which was used to purchase a billboard in Times Square and have a plane fly over Hollywood with a banner reading “Save Our Flag Means Death.” They also flooded Max’s social media and customer feedback inboxes, and launched a petition on that has around 84,000 signatures at the time of writing. 

UNI students have also joined this fight, hoisting their sails and readying their cannons. Fliers have been hung up around Maucker Union with the title “Save Our Flag Means Death,” a QR code to the petition, and the hashtags #HoistTheAds and #RenewAsACrew. 

The cancellation of “Our Flag Means Death” is proof that it’s not a question about the bar being too high for diverse art, but rather the bar is constantly being moved just out of reach. When diverse and interesting art surpasses every expectation of success, the bar is shoved even higher so no level of success will ever be good enough. Even though fans go to great lengths to get their shows back, in the end, they almost always fall on deaf ears for these massive companies. But after all these shows are continuously canceled and the streaming services eat each other alive in their competition, what will be left? Will you still be sitting on your couch binging shows, or will you have given up since there is nothing interesting left to watch?

View Comments (12)
More to Discover

Comments (12)

All Northern Iowan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    JamesFeb 15, 2024 at 8:53 am

    Thank you for covering this topic! Art must be fought for and preserved. I personally would rather stop watching altogether than settle for mediocre programming.

  • S

    SubaruFeb 15, 2024 at 3:34 am

    “The cancellation of “Our Flag Means Death” is proof that it’s not a question about the bar being too high for diverse art, but rather the bar is constantly being moved just out of reach.”

    Perfectly said. It’s so sad, and it makes me angry. These streamers lure us in with the promise of something different, something authentic, just to discard it carelessly when they don’t need it anymore. Why should I even start watching a new show when chances are it will be cancelled before its time? I’m not going to put my energy and passion into something they want me to watch if I don’t know it will get a proper ending. If companies can’t even commit to finish our stories, even the most successful ones, then they should know they’re also not going to see our money anymore. Enough with the baiting.

    Our petition to save OFMD can be signed at SaveOFMD(dot)com, check it out if you haven’t already.

  • C

    CoriFeb 14, 2024 at 4:52 pm

    This is a beautiful article on Our Flag Means Death, other diverse shows that have been cancelled/not renewed, and what these shows mean to fans. I’ve seen it shared all over #OFMD X (Twitter) & was proud to post a photo of the physical article. It was a lovely letter. Thank you!

  • S

    SamFeb 14, 2024 at 4:50 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. Fans are trying so hard to get the show back. Fingers crossed!

  • D

    Deb FaillaFeb 14, 2024 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you for sharing the story of Our Flag Means Death and other shows unceremoniously being given the axe. We need to see EVERYONE given joy and love and OFMD did that. If you can please go to the petition and share your voice in wanting to see more of Our Flag Means Death. SaveOFMD (dot) com. ❤️‍☠️

  • E

    Elphia DavisFeb 14, 2024 at 12:29 pm

    Great article with trenchant points about the current, seemingly pretty dire state of television! I love Our Flag Means Death. Such a magical mix of tragedy, comedy, and action-adventure. Fantastic chemistry between basically all cast members (but especially Taika and Rhys). If there’s any hope for the televisual arts or justice in the world, it will get picked up by another, better streamer soon.

  • G

    GinaFeb 14, 2024 at 9:39 am

    Thank you for covering our fight! We want to see successful funny kind stories with a diverse group of characters given the time and budget they deserve – if anyone wants to help us, please sign our petition!

  • M

    MaryFeb 14, 2024 at 5:20 am

    What a great article! Thank you for highlighting this! Please check out our petition. We are trying to save the show

  • B

    Barbara BeckFeb 14, 2024 at 3:05 am

    What a wonderful article. It describes not only what makes Our Flag Means Death so unique but also manages to grasp the feelings of viewers falling in love with a show that is then cut short.
    Thank you for this!

  • Q

    QuirkyFeb 14, 2024 at 3:04 am

    Thank you so much for covering this! The cancellations of original shows, even shows that perform well commercially, is so frustrating. It hurts the streaming services too, because a) I don’t feel any kind of loyalty to them, so I might sign up for a month or two to watch a couple of shows I like and then hopp off again, and b) I don’t even start to watch shows that haven’t run their course yet. I’m tired of getting invested in characters, mysteries, and relationships only to have the show be axed before the story has been told.

  • N

    NukaFeb 14, 2024 at 1:54 am

    Thank you for this excellent article! I’m still hoping that another streaming service can see the huge potential in Our Flag Means Death and picks it up.

    Parrot Analytics just published a bar chart that showed this show’s second season was the 3rd most in-demand season on HBO/Max 60 days after season premiere in 2023.

    And that’s with a 40% budget cut and a very small amount of marketing! Imagine if this show was on a worldwide platform that marketed it properly and gave it merch with international shipping.

    Queer stories do have the demand and they deserve to be told.
    #SaveOFMD #AdoptOurCrew

  • M

    MyronFeb 14, 2024 at 12:12 am

    Great article. TV is at a crossroads right now. If the streamers keep homogenizing as they merge, we’ll be left with nothing but superheroes and endless reboots of shows and movies from the ‘80s-2000s. I hope someone is wise enough to pick up Our Flag Means Death. It is unlike any show I’ve ever seen on TV. Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby have better chemistry than any romantic pairing I’ve seen on TV or film in years—maybe ever. The ratings were there (better than Barry! almost as popular as The Last of Us!). It was critically acclaimed. If it doesn’t get picked up by another streamer, I’ll eat my hat. And stop watching TV I guess.