A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Black Sails heads into choppy territory in terms of sexual content and language -- and it's pretty violent, too. That means you'll see full frontal female nudity, simulated multipartner sex, and characters involved in bisexual relationships. You'll also hear strong, unbleeped language (including crude terms like "c--t" and "p---y") and see bloody swordfights and explosive sea battles, along with characters who drink alcohol and use drugs like opium.
What's the story?
Pleasure is a virtue in the former British colony of New Providence, where pirates patrol the surrounding waters with figurative BLACK SAILS, and lawlessness is practically legal. But tension brews among the crew of the much-feared Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), who's secretly searching for the mother of all treasures while his men grow ever skeptical of his leadership. Meanwhile, cunning newcomer John Silver (Luke Arnold) has his eyes on a prize that proves to be the very thing Flint's been looking for.
Is it any good?
Starz is known for its provocative period dramas that put breasts and blood to work for the sake of ratings (see also: Camelot, Spartacus: Blood and Sand), and Black Sails is no exception -- from a steamy, same-sex plotline that plays out with two female lovers to a primitive brawl that ends with the captain covered in another man's blood. But that doesn't mean that Black Sails is solely about sex and violence. It actually has a lot more to offer, including a complex plot and a compelling roster of characters -- both fictional and factual -- that combine to create an effective fantasy world.
Of course, Black Sails was designed for adults, and there's plenty of iffy content here to give parents pause. But for those who might allow older teens to watch, there's at least a silver lining: Since the series was penned as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure tale Treasure Island, it could actually inspire impressionable viewers to read it. Its characters also include notorious real-life pirates like Charles Vane and Anne Bonny, whose fascinating stories -- if kids bother to look them up -- are even stranger than fiction.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Black Sails' premise and its decision to mix fictional characters with factual ones. What are the risks of blending fact and fiction for the sake of good drama? How important is historical accuracy?
How faithful is Black Sails to Treasure Island, the classic novel that inspired it? How do the Black Sails characters of Captain Flint, John Silver, and Billy Bones, to name a few, measure up to their literary ancestors?
Would Black Sails appeal more to men or to women, or a mixture of both? Who's the intended audience? How can you tell?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.