Bohemian Rhapsody gay kisses blurred out by TV channel because they ‘could make families uncomfortable’

Rami Malek starred as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

A Korean broadcaster is facing criticism after blurring gay kisses out of Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

The South Korean broadcaster SBS came under fire for its decision to make edits to the 2018 drama, which starred Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury.

According to the Korean Herald, the Saturday evening broadcast made a number of edits to cut out scenes of men kissing, as well as using a manual blurring effect to obscure background shots where gay couples were visible.

Incredibly, the broadcaster defended its conduct, dubiously suggesting that it would do the same thing to heterosexual kiss scenes.

Korean broadcaster claims it would censor straight kisses too.

SBS said: “The kissing scenes are very long. For the blurred out scene, it was while music was playing so we couldn’t take it out.

“We didn’t have any special intention in editing. Even if it were a kissing scene between a man and a woman, if the scene is too risque or continues for a long period of time, making us feel that it could be uncomfortable for the families watching together, we would have edited similarly.”

A spokesperson added: “We were especially cautious because 8.40pm is when the entire family watches together. We are also a terrestrial broadcaster and the movie was for ages 15 or above.”

LGBT+ Oscars nominees: A shirtless Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

It is unclear how exactly the kissing scenes in the PG-13 rated film were considered “too risque”.

LGBT+ people are rarely depicted in Korean media, and the Herald notes that in 2015 a different broadcaster received a warning from the Korea Communications Standard Commission for showing a kiss between two female characters in TV series Seonam Girls High School Investigators.

Homosexuality is legal in South Korea, but support for LGBT+ rights remains low in the country, with a 2020 Pew Research Center poll showing that only 44 per cent of South Koreans believe society should accept homosexuality.

There is a significant generational divide on the issue, however, with young people much more likely to be pro-LGBT+.

Bohemian Rhapsody sparked a lot of controversy.

The latest dispute is far from the first time Bohemian Rhapsody has been at the centre of a controversy.

Surviving Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor exerted significant control over the project, which was helmed by disgraced X-Men filmmaker Bryan Singer at the height of a brewing #MeToo scandal.

Before Singer and Rami Malek signed on, Sacha Baron Cohen and A Very English Scandal director Stephen Frears were attached to the film, but both walked away over creative differences.

Cohen and Frears both later criticised a desire to avoid a warts-and-all depiction of the singer’s wild personal life and death from AIDS, in favour of a commercially-safe blockbuster about his time in the band.

The film was accused of straightwashing Freddie Mercury

The film was accused of straightwashing Freddie Mercury

On the PR trail for the film, Malek tied himself in knots when asked if he considered the singer a gay icon, before later confessing that he too “would’ve loved to have incorporated more” about Mercury’s relationship with Jim Hutton prior to his death from AIDS-related illness.

While the Western release of the film did address Mercury’s sexuality, significant edits were made in commercially-lucrative international markets to straightwash him at the behest of media censors.

For all the issues with the film, however, it proved a massive commercial hit and picked up four Academy Awards despite lukewarm reviews.