One of this year’s hottest Hollywood hits, the Oscar-winning film Bohemian Rhapsody, was released in China this past weekend. However, China’s version of the movie censored all scenes presenting Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality and AIDS diagnosis. Once Americans learned that China had removed about three minutes of very important scenes that defined Mercury’s true-to-life character, criticism about China’s revisions to Bohemian Rhapsody started to spread.
Bohemian Rhapsody starred Rami Malek as the late lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, and premiered in China on March 22. China’s censored version of the film deletes about three minutes of scenes related to homosexuality, and also censored Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis. While cutting a few minutes out of a film might not sound like a huge issue, the content of the clips featured important facts about Mercury and his life. Ultimately, the movie’s goal was to tell Mercury’s story, so it’s questionable now if China’s censored version correctly represents the life of the late singer.
Mercury dated both women and men and was considered bisexual by most of the media. In 1991, the singer passed away at 45-years-old, succumbing to AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia. Regardless of Mercury’s well-known bisexuality, any use of the word “gay” was removed from China’s version, including a scene where all of the band members dressed in drag and shot a music video for “I Want to Break Free.”
“Rather than homophobic, I think [China’s censors] are sexphobic,” LGBTQ activist and documentary filmmaker Fan Popo said, according to Time. “They are probably the most conservative people in China, that’s why they are chosen for this job.”
Mercury’s romances are also a bit part of the original film’s plot. While Mercury’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend and later close friend Mary Austin appear in China’s film, the same cannot be said about Mercury’s gay relationship with his partner of many years, Jim Hutton. Hutton stayed with Mercury until Mercury passed away, but because their connection was homosexual, China removed that piece of Mercury’s life from the plot.
Bohemian Rhapsody released in China with homosexuality references removed 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was released in China with all references to Queen singer Freddie Mercury's sexuality removed. The Oscar-winning rock band biopic… https://t.co/jQ8KFhMIiA #lifestyle #culture #society pic.twitter.com/q2eWNwOSag
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Adam Lambert, who has performed lead vocals for the Bohemian Rhapsody group on tour for over four years, felt that Mercury was ahead of his time. Lambert feels that Mercury would be proud to see how much more open American society is about sexuality nowadays. Comparing China’s version of the film to the original American version helps remind people that while our country has come a long way, other societies still have a ways to go.
”[His sexuality] was just taboo in the media. But he was very matter of fact once he’d come to terms with it. And from what I have ascertained, he was fully bisexual. He was dabbling everywhere. I think he was ahead of his time,” Adam Lambert said, according to Contact Music.