Freddie Mercury is arguably one of the most famous and legendary examples of Queer excellence. Despite this, Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic about the growth of Mercury’s band Queen, will have all LGBT+ content removed for its upcoming release in China.
Fans of the Oscar winning film were surprised to hear that it would be released at all given China’s historically staunch stance on LGBT+ cinema.
In 2017, laws were set that banned the promotion of homosexuality in TV, placing it under the category of ‘pornographic and vulgar content’. In 2018, the Chinese government voted that film regulation should be controlled by the propaganda wing of the communist party.
The Chinese government has a history of censoring LGBT+ stories and critically revered films such as Call Me By Your Name, Brokeback Mountain and Moonlight are still as yet to be released in China.
Though the release of Bohemian Rhapsody has come as a surprise, the censoring and editing of it does not. Rami Malek’s acceptance speech at the Oscars was censored on Chinese TV with the word “gay man” being translated in the captions to “special group”. The film will also have any scenes depicting drug usage omitted from showings.
While many have criticised the Chinese government’s censorship of this LGBT+ story, others have questioned and even joked about the outcry against the censorship given the lack of LGBT+ content in the film anyway.
Bohemian Rhapsody has faced controversy for playing down Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and ‘straight-washing’ him to pander to mainstream audiences.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that roughly only 1 minute of the film would end up being cut and that the most blatant LGBT+ moment within the film is a same-sex kiss.
Many have also called out the producers of the film for allowing LGBT+ content to be censored calling the film a money making scheme profiting off Freddie Mercury while not actually caring about his life, legacy and story.
Alternatively some have argued that even with the omittance of LGBT+ scenes from the film’s Chinese release, it would still be a step up from having no queer characters shown at all.
Despite criticism, Bohemian Rhapsody is the highest grossing bio-pic, highest grossing drama film and highest grossing LGBT+ film ever. It is expected to be released in China mid-March and will get a limited release within the country.