Taika Waititi smiles on deck of a ship as Blackbeard/Ed Teach in 'Our Flag Means Death'
(HBO)

Taika Waititi Loves the “Soft Gay Porn” Fanart Created For ‘Our Flag Means Death’ Characters

HBO Max’s Our Flag Means Death helped deal a mortal blow to queerbaiting on television. Since the pirate workplace romcom exploded in popularity, the cast and creatives have been outspoken in their support of fandom, with many sharing, liking, and interacting with fan creations like fanart, memes, and meta-analysis. That’s been wonderful to see, and a fair bit different than the treatment many fandoms have experienced when it comes to shipping and fanworks in the past. Then Our Flag Means Death star Taika Waititi—who also serves as an executive producer and directed the pilot—took his praise a step further by highlighting the more NSFW side of fanart that has emerged.

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Waititi was speaking this week as part of Variety’s Virtual TV Fest, and he had plenty to say about Our Flag Means Death. The innocuously-named “HBO Max Actors and Producers Roundtable” panel was about creating breakthrough characters and also featured the likes of Zendaya and Oscar Isaac. But the quote heard ’round the world goes as follows:

“I love to go on social media and see all of the fanart, and see all of the, ah, incredible soft gay porn that’s been created around our characters and stuff,” Waititi said, adding cheekily, “I just really get off on it.” On Our Flag Means Death, Waititi’s character Blackbeard/Ed Teach falls in love with his pirate co-captain Stede Bonnet (played by Rhys Darby), and the two share a kiss and a whole mess of feelings by season’s end. The canonical ship, dubbed “Blackbonnet” or “Gentlebeard,” has seen a massive explosion of fan-generated art and fiction, with attention also paid to the other queer relationships on the show. Yup! We got more than one!

Waititi thrives on generating fun chaos, but the sentiment here is genuine. After years of actors and creatives pointedly ignoring ships, or flinching and prevaricating their way out of fandom questions at conventions, it’s unbelievably refreshing for Waititi to volunteer this information out of the blue. Especially concerning the sexier elements of fanworks, which can face gatekeeping from their own communities. Waititi making this statement meant a lot to many fans.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Waititi would feel comfortable about expressing such sentiments.

But Waititi is hardly the only OFMD creative dipping his toe in the fandom pool. While other cast and creatives behind Our Flag Means Death haven’t directly spoken to the more NSFW elements, several of them don’t shy away from sharing and liking that sort of art, and the fandom has been celebrated in almost every interview since the show sailed to the top of the in-demand charts.

Waititi further discussed that “basically everyone” on Our Flag Means Death is “on the gay spectrum,” and that he thinks it’s important how the show just accepts this fact and it’s not a big point of contention or outside attention. His obvious delight in the series and the fan reaction emerges again and again during the Variety talks and other interviews, in which he also says that he’d rather be on set with the pirates than superheroes.

Cast and creatives publicly embracing fanworks and fan excitement has not been the norm. While this has changed in recent years due to the connectivity of social media—alongside a certain mainstreaming and greater awareness of fandom—some of us still bear scars from past experiences. There were times when fans and fandoms were openly rejected, or, say, openly mocked on the show itself for their enthusiasm.

Of course, there shouldn’t be pressure or expectations put on creatives that they must acknowledge or interact with the spicier side of fandom. Maybe don’t bring your NSFW art print to a con for an actor to sign unless they indicate otherwise. And there are many fans who prefer to stay in the safe for work side of fandom—more power to them. But in a time when authorities are trying to censor books, art, and the mere mention of sexuality and gender identity in schools and other venues, it’s never felt so important to celebrate and uplift joyful representations of sexuality, especially queer sexuality.

By the way, if you’re interested in perusing some of that sexy Our Flag Means Death fanart yourself, you can start with the hashtag #OFMDNSFW. Heed the warnings if you are indeed at work right now.

(image: HBO Max)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.