The Oscar-winning Queen biopic made its debut in the Middle Kingdom on Friday, March 22 with a significant change – all references to Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, LGBTQ activism, and AIDS diagnosis were removed. Specifically, the censors amended or removed any scenes with explicit or implicit references to same-sex romance. This included romantic displays of affection, close-ups of Mercury’s (Rami Malek) crotch, and any mention of the word “gay” or “AIDS”. Although it’s wonderful Bohemian Rhapsody was released in more conservative parts of the international market, it’s difficult to see the value of the biopic when things so critical to the identity of the film’s protagonist are entirely neglected.
Still, sharp audience members will likely see through the censors and appreciate the LGBTQ themes embedded in both Bohemian Rhapsody and Queen’s discography. Audience response to the censors has been mixed. While many critics complain they do not have access to the true version of Malek’s Oscar-winning performance, others are happy the film was distributed to China at all.
Homosexuality is not illegal in the People’s Republic of China; however, experts and activists unanimously agree that prejudice and discrimination remain ingrained in Chinese culture. The censors do not focus on the implication of homosexuality but on the expression of homosexual love and desire. The film’s censors don’t fall under viewpoint discrimination featured in traditional homophobic censorship – but instead, place a limitation on public displays of what the state determines as erotic behavior. While some progressive Chinese thinkers and activists celebrate Bohemian Rhapsody in the Middle Kingdom, others are wary of overvaluing a somewhat superficial victory. This news was first reported by BBC.