the historicity of queerness in black sails, pt. 1
Hello, Tumblr! Let’s talk about pirates, queer stuff, and historical accuracy.
There’s been renewed talk in certain spaces this week about queer narratives in historical drama. This has been spurred almost entirely by the series finale of Black Sails, which made the (distressingly) controversial decision to end its four-year run by giving its queer protagonists a largely happy ending.
If any show currently airing was going to take such a leap, it was always going to be Black Sails, which from the outset possessed a keen interest in exploring queer narratives. This was seen–correctly–as being something almost unheard of among historical dramas: a genre whose queer characters, if any, are relegated to the status of minor character or tragic subplot. But why is this, and why did Black Sails provoke some ire for heading in the opposite direction? There is an easy answer; an assumption lurking in the undertow of many an irate Facebook or Reddit comment: queer people in the 18th century didn’t get happy endings, did they?
This is part of a bigger question: There were no gay people then, right? In other words, characters can’t be openly gay in the show, because they killed men for that, didn’t they, and isn’t this supposed to be a ‘historical’ drama? So: how accurate is the queerness in Black Sails? Let’s take a look at some history.
Trigger warning for discussions of period-typical homophobia and a brief mention of rape.