How Bohemian Rhapsody’s China release erases Freddie Mercury’s sexuality

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

Filmgoers who watched Bohemian Rhapsody in China had a different experience than the rest of the world, as scenes referencing Freddie Mercury’s sexuality disappeared from the local release.

The Queen biopic was released in China this month, but several minutes’ worth of footage from the original release were reportedly cut to appease media censors in the country, where LGBT+ content is often subject to censorship.

Following reports that much of the film’s gay content was omitted from the Chinese release, CNN did a side-by-side comparison of the two films, and found five occasions where LGBT+ content has been ditched.

Bohemian Rhapsody China release cut five LGBT+ scenes

Five scenes were cut from the censored China release of Bohemian Rhapsody.

A kiss between Mercury (Rami Malek) and manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) is cut from early in the film, as well as a later scene where Mercury meets and drunkenly gropes his future partner Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker).

The entire sequence featuring Mercury dressed in women’s clothing for the filming of music video “I Want To Break Free” is also cut from the release.

Also omitted are two scenes that only referenced his sexuality—one scene where Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) tells him, “Freddie, you’re gay,” and another where Queen drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) questions whether Mercury’s haircut is “gayer.”

Allen Leech as Paul Prenter and Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury

Allen Leech as Paul Prenter and Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury

Another scene where Mercury is challenged by a reporter about his “sexual orientation” is preserved in the release, but the Chinese subtitles mistranslated the phrase as “sex life.”

According to CNN, some scenes do remain in the cut that would allow the audience to “infer Mercury’s sexuality,” with one scene showing him holding hands with Jim Hutton.

However, the numerous cuts create large plot holes in the film, with the missing scenes leaving several crucial events unexplained to the audience.

A commercial success despite controversies

The surviving members of the band Queen who were involved in the project, Brian May and Roger Taylor, have remained silent amid criticism over the contentious cut of the film.

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The pair had already faced criticism over the original release for twisting events from the band’s history and omitting much of Mercury’s battle with HIV/AIDS.

Despite these controversies, the film was a massive commercial success.

A Chinese broadcast of Malek’s Oscar speech was criticised in February for erasing the phrase “gay man” in its subtitles.

Rami Malek, winner of Best Actor for 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards press room at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California.

Rami Malek, winner of Best Actor for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards press room at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

While collecting his best actor Oscar for Bohemian Rhapsody, Malek said: “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself.”

But Chinese broadcaster Hunan TV translated “gay man” into “special group” in its coverage.

In May 2018, the same company was stripped of its right to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest after it removed a song that described a gay relationship and blurred rainbow flags in the crowd.

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