As I’m posting this, it’s IDAHOBIT Day (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia), and Pride Month is just around the corner! So I wanted to talk about two LGBT+ shows that I’ve really enjoyed recently. I’m grateful to live in a time where people of all genders and sexualities are shown on screen and in books. Queer people are showrunners, writers, and directors. We’re getting seen in an authentic way, finally moving past the same old coming-out and trauma stories that have dominated the genre.
The shows I want to talk about are extraordinarily different in tone, and it’s so refreshing to have such unique queer media coming out at the same time. Heartstopper is a sweet coming-of-age story about a gay high schooler and his crush figuring themselves out. Our Flag Means Death is a comedy about by the legendary pirates, Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet.
Heartstopper is very cute, sweet, and I would have loved to have watched it when I was questioning myself. It’s based on a webcomic by Alice Oseman, who wanted to see more queer stories for teenagers. It’s a very honest portrayal of the awkwardness of high school romance. What I love about this series is that it isn’t entry-level gay rep; the main character Charlie (Joe Locke) already knows that he’s gay and there’s no uncomfortable fumbling over the word.
The show does an excellent job at creating a comfortable space for queer viewers while acknowledging the hardships that we face in the hardest years of our lives. Charlie’s best friend Elle (Yasmin Finney) is a black trans girl. Her struggles with bullies are brought up, but they’re never described to the point where it’s unpleasant.
It would have been nice to show some of her struggles in-depth instead of brushing over them, but the writers have played it safe for this first season. The show, as a whole, is pretty sanitised to appeal to a wider audience. But I’m hopeful that as it grows in popularity, it will be empowered to breach new grounds.
But not every queer show can do everything. Heartstopper is targeted towards teenagers, and it’s written to be a comfort watch that is honest without being too confronting. It doesn’t need to dive into harsh realities; it’s a beautiful show as it is.
Our Flag Means Death
Our Flag Means Death has a very different tone, though it’s more similar to Heartstopper than it may appear. It’s a satirical rom-com from the brilliant minds of David Jenkins and Taika Waititi. The uniquely funny script follows the blossoming romance between Blackbeard (Waititi) and Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) as they engage in pirate antics. The supporting cast of eccentric crew members and rivals elevate the show even further.
The show is wonderfully casual about its queerness. Homophobia and transphobia are not present, and any characters that seem to take issue with another’s queerness are clear villains. Not only is it a wonderfully casual depiction of queer people, but it also acknowledges the long history of gay and trans pirates. Love between pirates go unquestioned, and there’s a nonbinary character (played by Vico Ortez) whose pronouns are never an issue. These aspects of queerness were always present at this point in history, and it’s so great to see them represented.
While I’d say that this show is a comfort in regards to gender and sexuality, there’s still all of the thrill and action you’d expect in a show about pirates. There’s no shortage of danger, drama, and betrayal. All of this, paired with the dry and sometimes absurd humour makes it an absolutely enthralling watch.
Heartstopper is available to stream on Netflix, and Our Flag Means Death is on Binge and Hulu. You can also read the Heartstopper series or order the graphic novels online from Alice’s website!