A heavily-redacted biopic about Freddie Mercury that omits a substantial part of the singer’s life? Yes, that is possible—in China (among other countries). Morally cleansing the story of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to conceal some uncomfortable (for some) truth is unfortunately part of the orthodoxy in this otherwise grand, wonderful, but sometimes perplexing, country that is China. But this could’ve happened in Russia, Pakistan or around Mike Pence’s dinner table, to be sure. Before its release, the biopic, which is devoted to Queen’s vivacious lead singer’s life, was eviscerated of its references to homosexuality. Several scenes, including those in which Freddie Mercury reveals his sexual orientation to his wife, or kisses another man, were censored, drawing the ire of gay advocacy groups (hard not to feel solidarity with them on this point).
“The Chinese release is no different from a fabricated story,” said Hua Zile, founder of Voice of China LGBT, a media and advocacy platform for China’s gay community with over a million followers on Twitter-like Weibo. The censored film “disrespects the real experience of the character”, he told AFP. “For gay people in the country, this is a huge regret.”
And yet homosexuality has not been illicit in China since 1997 and was removed from the list of mental illnesses in 2001. But references to same-sex love are banned from television screens and online video platforms, the trend growing in recent years.
“For the LGBT community, this is a setback,” said Duan, media manager at the Beijing LGBT Center, who gave his surname only, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” landed actor Rami Malek a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, the singer who died in 1991 when he revealed the day before he died that he had AIDS. The actor’s speech of thanks at the presentation of his Oscar was also censored in China: on the online video site Mango TV, the Chinese subtitles omit to translate the words where Rami Malek evoked a film dedicated “to a homosexual man.”
SEE ALSO: our review of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (https://screencomment.com/2018/11/bohemian-rhapsody/)