Bridgerton Season 2, Our Flag Means Death, and X Agree: Let People Have Sex

In December 2020, Netflix viewers encountered the first season of Bridgerton with open arms and a tremendous amount of pent up desire. A few waves of COVID-19 variants later, the new season 2 joins a chorus of other shows and movies focused on the happy freedom to do so – and the dangers of suppressing envy. While the characters of BridgertonTi West’s recent horror film Xand HBO Max’s Gay Pirate Comedy Our flag means death vary in age, they all show that there is a danger in thinking that there is an expiration date on sexual desire.

[Ed. note: This article contains spoilers for Bridgerton, X, and Our Flag Means Death.]

Take Bridgerton season 2: When aging Baroness Portia Featherington finds herself penniless after the death of her husband, she waits to see which young man will assume the title “Lord Featherington” and control the fate of his family. It turns out to be Lord Jack Featherington, a distant relative she’s never met, who (after some scheming on either side) ultimately turns out to be a cunning hustler. The two Featheringtons rip it off tonne to make money, but just as their bet is about to be uncovered, Portia gets caught up in a courtship scam. Lord Jack thrives on her widowhood, promising to marry her when they flee to the United States.

Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Although she eventually squirms out of his grip, Portia considers his proposal; after all, in a season all about the deep pain that sexual urges can instill, Lady Featherington is no exception. The woman wants to fuck and nearly flees to America with a known con man (and her daughter’s fiancé) to do it. The possible deception of it all doesn’t really matter, at least for a second. Like the young adults populating BridgertonMany bullets, Lady Featherington is eager to love and be loved, and since losing her husband she hasn’t found a way to get him recognized. Lord Jack may be on the wrong track, but at least he’s still a path.

Lady Featherington shares this desire with XPearl’s antagonist, though the two channel frustration in different ways. Pearl is much older than Portia (possibly late 70s, mid-50s Portia) and lives on a 1970s farmhouse that has just been rented by a band hoping to shoot a “cinematic” porn. But as Pearl watches her pretty young guests walk around and fuck, something ignites inside her. She tries her best to hire her own husband like she did when they were young, but gets shot down. (He suffers from heart disease and he fears that sex will exacerbate it.) So she takes out her frustration by killing off the porn production troupe one by one.

X certainly plays into the idea that old age, more than anything else, is horrible and twisted. But Pearl’s sexual fixation allows the film to temper the trope into something more nuanced. It’s not that she wants youth so much that she wants to feel wanted and fulfilled, the way porn actors describe themselves.

Mia Goth hides under the floor in X by Ti West

Photo: A24

And while this porn crew might include “old or young” in their list of people free love is for, X seems determined to calm his audience’s unease around the idea that someone Pearl’s age might still be in need of sexual fulfillment. While West perpetually draws parallels between the sinister bodily charms of porn and horror — such as in his seduction scene, intercut with Pearl bewitched by the Final Girl — the sex scene between Pearl and her husband seems to intertwine the two sides. . In a movie filled with gore and violent death, the sex sequence between the two 70-year-old characters elicited the loudest nervous groan from my theater audience. Again X demands that we face our own unease about septuagenarian sex: most wouldn’t go so far as to root for Pearl (although it does empower you, if you do), but the movie is adamant about the fact that his pent up energy needs to go somewhere. And if X’s bloody climax proves anything, it’s that the impact of sexual frustration should definitely not be ignored.

When this desire is granted, it can be liberating. In Our flag means Death, the unlikely encounter of novice gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet and Edward “Captain Blackbeard” Teach sparks something between them that neither fully understands. At first (in a clever example of queer representation), they both just think they want what the other has. Stede wants to command respect and rule the seas as a pirate, like Blackbeard. Teach, who asks Stede to call him Ed, wants a smoother, more comfortable life.

Eventually, the two realize that they are in love. But as they struggle to make sense of their feelings and the best way to express them, they feel vulnerable, even trapped by convention. The two struggle all season to make sense (to themselves and others) of the drastic changes they yearn for — why should a romantic relationship be any different? In the final moments of the season, Stede sorted through his feelings, taking to the high seas to capitalize on his affections. But Ed, feeling rejected and vulnerable after expressing his desire, reverts to his old violent ways.

Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby wearing fancy formal wear in Our Flag Means Death.

Photo: Aaron Epstein/HBO Max

Although the stories of Stede, Ed, Portia, and Pearl deal with varying degrees of sensuality and are set in different time periods (1717, 1814, and 1979, respectively), they address the characters’ frustration at a stage in their lives when their genders affect them. lives seem out of step with what is expected of them. This feeling is inherently damaging, leaving them all feeling vulnerable and raging in their own way: violently, in Ed and Pearl’s case; or deciding they can accept a half-life, at Stede and Portia. And while older on-screen sexuality is certainly not New (any topic recently covered by the classic 2018 Reading Club talks about something that’s already swirling in the air), as people clamor to see more sex stories on screen, it’s important to remember that lust isn’t just for the young.

After all, while you might not agree with how they’re handling this – trust me, Pearl’s actions are extreme and misguided, but there’s a lot of fan art that’s apocalyptically sad to see. About Ed’s choices here – these characters remind us that we deny aging sensuality at our peril. After all, we will all get there eventually.

About Chris Stevenson

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