Buttons: A Love Letter – By Larissa Whitaker.
Or, more accurately, a list of reasons why I love Buttons from the HBO Max original series, Our Flag Means Death.
Here is a picture of me and my pet birds, Geoff (the green one) and Terry (the blue one):
For those of you familiar with Our Flag Means Death, you won’t be surprised to find out that I love Buttons. I love that he loves Karl the seagull. I love so much about him. I’ll share my love in a list format. Please enjoy.
10 Reasons why I love Buttons:
1. Buttons sounds like how I imagine pirates sound. 10/10 for meeting expectations (and personal biases).
2. Buttons is not limited to the English language. This man certainly has a way with words, but he doesn’t restrict himself to them. When planning for the talent show, he asserts that his “genius won’t be translated into human language–more like pure tone.” And, he isn’t overselling himself. Like a picture paints a thousand words, the sound he bellows conveys more than words ever could. He’s a true artist.
3. Buttons is honest and in touch with himself. When Stede asks for stories to shape their own f*ckery, Buttons shares that he “yearns to make sweet love with the sea.” I enjoy this so much I’m not even sure how to comment upon it. He shares this truth with such sincerity–a pirate in the pirating business because he loves the sea. Intimately. Good for him.
4. Buttons is honorable. When his fellow crew begin plotting against Stede, Buttons is quick to tell his captain “mutiny is a-brewing.” When Blackbeard’s f*ckery is afoot and Buttons’s “fight or bite” response is triggered, he apologies to Lucious for the damage he’s done. Buttons’s loyalty extends beyond his species, too, as seen in his friendship with Karl. His honesty, his willingness to apologize, and his sense of loyalty all shape his character. An honorable pirate.
5. Buttons has probably met a ghost. His immediate response when encountering strangers is always to ask (to ask !!!) if they’re real or just “filthy phantom[s].” It’s completely wild and trusting that this man will just ask and accept their response or lack thereof. For the record, neither Izzy Hands or Calico Jack answer Buttons’s question when he asks if they’re ghosts. Buttons just has to move forward with reality, even when it’s unclear whether or not he’s in the presence of the undead.
My headcanon is that Buttons has a history of encountering ghosts; it would explain why he asks when he unexpectedly meets someone new. I, for one, want to hear this part of Buttons’s story in season two. It could make him even more awesome, as if he weren’t already the best 😉
6.Buttons is a spiritual being. Speaking for myself: I don’t believe I know the world so intimately that my assumption of what is and isn’t real would have universal truth. And so, I see beauty in Buttons’s moon worship. He humbles himself before the mighty power of the moon and basks in its glow. I, too, enjoy admiring the moon. I watch my life move in phases as it does, and this relationship is forever marked on my arm.
7. Buttons does not f*ck around. When trouble’s a-brewing, Buttons is quick to react. He wastes no time alerting Stede when the fog from Blackbeard’s f*ckery sets in, warning him “there’s something witchy afoot.” Likewise, when the ship runs aground on a seemingly deserted island, Buttons is ready for worst-case-scenario planning. Without hesitation, he suggests “we may need to start eating some of the crew.”
8. Buttons is his own man. He is deeply strange and, to my delight, he lacks any self-consciousness about it. In fact, he defends his unique ways of being. When the rest of the crew is being rowdy playing “whip the cup,” Buttons stands up for himself and Karl. He asserts, “can you not have a bit of respect? Some of us are tryin’ to bask in moon glow.”
Basking in moon glow sounds nice.
9. Buttons knows how to make his own fun. On his vacation day, he starts to widdle and invents a game for himself and Lucious (but, mostly, for himself). He says, “Wanna wager I can name a thousand different sea creatures?” Lucious never agrees and soon leaves the conversation, but that doesn’t stop Buttons from shouting the names of sea creatures into the void. He’s both resilient and knowledgeable of the sea.
10. Buttons is capable of building lasting relationships. Which, I’d imagine, is tough in the pirating business. His friendship with Karl speaks volumes of his character. Buttons is a loyal companion to Karl as Karl is to him. For instance, Buttons speaks when Karl cannot, and there are two examples of this. One is more joyful, when Buttons introduces Karl to Blackbeard, saying he “conveys his warm regards, Captain.”
The other is much more somber, when Buttons shares the news of Karl’s passing with his companion, Olivia. There is tenderness and suffering in his voice when he shares, “I’ve got some hard news, Livvie.” I almost wonder if he is called “Buttons” because he binds the crew together. The loss of Karl makes clear that the crew of The Revenge is unified.
The love Buttons has for Karl is genuine. The gravity of Button’s loss is felt throughout the crew, because they have also built meaningful relationships with each other.
In conclusion, Buttons is a well-rounded, delightful character. The depth he’s given is a testament to the quality of this show’s writing. Even though he’s a side character, I know so much about him. And, I’m eager to know more.
It’s been a long time since I’ve loved a show the way I love Our Flag Means Death. What a joy. Thank you for reading. And thank you for listening to our latest episode on OFMD.
I’d love to talk more about OFMD. Who’s your favorite pirate aboard The Revenge?
Please share your responses in the comments below. And, be civil! Even when we disagree, we can always “talk it through as a crew.”