Why Our Flag Means Death fans think show cancellation is down to homophobia

Hit queer pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death has been cancelled, and fans aren’t taking the news lying down.

Even after season two’s relatively tidy conclusion, there’s still more of the story left to tell and creator David Jenkins previously stated that he’s had a three-season arc in mind from the start.

Beloved TV shows usually get the axe if the ratings drop or they become too expensive to produce. Neither scenario seems to be the case for Our Flag Means Death, which makes the fact it has been cancelled very confusing.

Following the news on Tuesday (9 January), viewers have been demanding answers from HBO Max, with some even blaming the move on homophobia. 

“What more does @StreamOnMax want from us???” wrote one social media user on X, formerly Twitter. “This show did GOOD numbers. Has a VERY active fan base. Would be an excellent candidate to get renewed. Is it just blatant homophobia at this point? Your move, @PrimeVideo.”

For many, that seems to be the only explanation for the untimely cancellation of Our Flag Means Death.

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Fan-organised renewal campaign Renew As A Crew (@RenewAsACrew on X/Twitter) has been leading an initiative to try and bring the show back to life.

So far, it has inspired viewers to keep hashtags like #SaveOFMD and #OurFlagMeansUs trending, flood the comments of HBO-owned social media accounts with calls to reconsider, and persuade other networks to save the show and become the new home of the final season.

“Please @PrimeVideo pick up Our Flag Means Death!” posted one fan. “It comes with a built-in huge fanbase who will follow it wherever it goes! You did it with Vox Machina, now help us get this worldwide hit show its final season.”

Another wrote: “Hey @PrimeVideo you know how you have this lovely show called Good Omens? You know what a lot of people who like that show also like? Our Flag Means Death. Wouldn’t it be nice to have both of these shows on the same platform? ❤️ #SaveOFMD”

The season two renewal in 2022 was unsurprising considering how well the first outing of the queer pirate comedy performed.

Our Flag Means Death launched on Max with pretty solid viewing figures, but by the time its finale aired three weeks later, the show had become a bona fide sleeper hit.

Demand for the show had tripled in that time, and it became the “most in-demand breakout series in the US”.

Much of that boom was thanks to word-of-mouth (mainly via its very active internet fandom) doing a fair amount of the marketing. 

Despite season one’s performance, some believe that Max set the second season up to fail.

Production moved from Los Angeles to New Zealand in an attempt to save money, and the episode count was slashed from 10 in season one to just eight for season two.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal after season two concluded, David Jenkins revealed that the studio had reduced the season budget by a staggering 40 per cent.

As one X/Twitter user theorised: “HBO halved OFMD‘s budget bc they wanted to make money on its initial release but ALSO wanted it to do so poorly that it faded from the streaming zeitgeist and they wouldn’t be known as the ‘gay pirate streaming service’ bc their executives are, in fact, homophobic.”

However, the budget cut didn’t hurt Our Flag Means Death as much it might have.

Despite setbacks, season two gained strong viewing figures from the start. At the time of writing, Our Flag Means Death is the number one show for HBO Max on the Television Stats website.

It’s also the 32nd most popular TV show online overall, and this is more than two months after its final episode aired.

The show hit its peak on 26 October 2023 – the date the finale became available – when it reached the number three spot, below only Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher and Prime Video’s Gen V

LGBTQ+ TV fans have been burned many times before. In recent years, cult queer shows like A League of Their Own, Warrior Nun and First Kill have all been cancelled prematurely, instances which inspired similar fan renewal campaigns. 

A popular theory among Our Flag Means Death fans is that the show was originally going to bypass the ‘bury your gays’ trope, which is partly supported by social media posts from a user who has been relaying information from what the account calls a “trusted source”.

One such X/Twitter thread reads: “I’ve debated sharing this, but I got a 2nd trusted source last night, so it feels right to share now: Folks keep asking me how close it came to being greenlit. WAY Closer than you can imagine. In late Dec posting for pre-production hires in NZ went live. May-Sept shoot listed.”

The social media user then goes on to provide more apparent evidence backing up the “already greenlit” theory, including that industry standards mean the production title was not listed, but it was described as a “queer/pirate/Max production” being filmed in New Zealand.

Scripts or story outlines had also allegedly been commissioned already, and even tax and cultural teams in New Zealand had started prepping for the season. 

Con O'Neill as Izzy Hands in Our Flag Means Death.
Con O’Neill as Izzy Hands in Our Flag Means Death. (HBO Max)

There’s also the fact that official Max social media accounts had been liking posts relating to a renewal before the cancellation had been announced, which led to fans being convinced that season three was a sure thing.

The cancellation came as a huge shock, with some viewers believing the show had already been greenlit before the rug was pulled out from under it at the last minute, for “homophobic” reasons. 

Whatever the reason for the cancellation of a much-loved show, Our Flag Means Death fans remain determined to turn the decision around.

PinkNews has reached out to HBO for comment

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