OFMD has been canceled, and the fans are not okay. (It’s me, I am the fan.)
For those of you who aren’t familiar and aren’t currently crying in your pirate breakup robe… Our Flag Means Death (OFMD) took the workplace comedy trope, added gay pirates and ended up giving us beautiful LGBTQ+ stories that weren’t just about coming out or overcoming adversity, but instead centered on celebrating new love in a fun, stabby way.
OFMD gained an immediate cult following in 2022, and its second season was owed to the outpouring of love on X/Twitter and TikTok. Fan art and fan fiction were rampant and unrepentant in their love for the characters and the love story between Stede and Ed. The overwhelming online support from the fandom paved the way for its second season, showing just how important this representation was to MAX viewers.
When beloved shows like OFMD get dropped, it makes you wonder why a streaming service would cancel popular shows. The viewers are obviously there, so why this show and why now?
The official claim is that MAX wasn’t happy with its viewership numbers, leading to a budget cut for season 2, a more rushed story and finally, a cancellation.
However, when we see this same cancellation excuse repeated across so many LGBTQ+ shows (with queer women-led shows being most impacted), it starts to feel intentional. And it’s definitely not just you: a GLAAD study found that almost a third of queer TV characters disappeared from our screens in the past year.
Media companies are always searching for the next hit: shows that get high enough viewership to overshadow the production costs. In the era of streaming, it can feel like most shows don’t get a chance to gain an audience before they are cut. A VIP+ and Luminate study found that MAX was the most cancel-happy after the merger of Warner Bros., Discovery+, and HBO, and canceled a whopping 26.9% of its shows in the last three years.
Those cuts often come at the cost of storytelling that represents marginalized groups. According to Temple University professor Adrienne Shaw, media companies gain a certain amount of cultural clout by representing marginalized groups in their shows, making people flock to their network for much needed representation. However, companies are always going to chase the biggest, more general audiences and when it comes to cuts, the marginalized audiences are the first to go.
With more streaming mergers rumored in 2024, this tendency to cut LGBTQ+ storytelling for the bottom dollar could get worse — as MAX has shown since its own merger.
A Parrot Analytics report explored what these potential streaming mergers would look like and how that would affect what shows would be on offer. The result: a few media conglomerates in charge of our available entertainment, holding the keys to what (and whose) stories will be told.
It could mean less innovation, fewer tailored shows to smaller audiences, and definitely no more gay pirates. These shows mean something to viewers, offering positive representation not often seen in mainstream media. They mean so much that fans aren’t giving OFMD up without a fight.
Fandoms are uniting on X/Twitter and TikTok, using their online community to raise money for ads and to pressure streaming services into saving their show. Petitions for a OFMD renewal are already gathering signatures, Times Square billboards are being put up, and calls on other streaming services to renew are underway, as fans flood social with even more OFMD art and love. #RenewAsACrew.
It worked for the second season; time will tell if it’ll get us the Stede and Ed wedding we deserve.