LGBT activists in China have condemned the decision to release Bohemian Rhapsody in the country with all references to homosexuality removed from the original film.
The Oscar-winning Queen biopic tells the story of the iconic band and their late frontman Freddie Mercury up to their famous 1985 Live Aid appearance, and features scenes that portray Mercury kissing other men.
Bohemian Rhapsody was finally released in China earlier this month and saw several key scenes deleted from the movie, including ones which showed two men kissing or featured the word “gay”. All references to Mercury’s sexuality were edited out, while the scene in which he comes out to his then-girlfriend was also removed.
Speaking to the Associated Press, one Chinese LGBT activist explained how he viewed the censored version in his home city of Guangzhou last weekend, having previously watched the original cut while travelling in London.
“The cut scenes really affect the movie,” said Peng, an LGBT rights activist. “The film talks about how (Mercury) became himself, and his sexuality is an important part of becoming who he was.”
Other notable changes to the Chinese version of the film include the audio being muted during the emotional moment when Mercury tells the band that he has AIDS.
Hua Zile, the chief editor of VCLGBT, an LGBT account on Chinese social media giant Weibo, described the cuts as “a pity.”
“This kind of deletion weakens his gay identity. It’s a bit disrespectful to his real experience and makes the character superficial,” Hua said.
“There is no growth and innermost being of him.”
Bohemian Rhapsody has only been given a limited release in China at present – however, if it proves popular with cinemagoers, it could be picked up for a wider release.
Rami Malek won Best Actor for his role as Mercury at last month’s Oscars (February 24). Chinese broadcasters were criticised for censoring his acceptance speech, with subtitles translating “gay man” to “special group”.
While collecting the award, the actor said the film’s success showed “we’re longing for stories like this.” “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself,” he said.
It took home the most awards of the night at the annual awards ceremony, including Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. It was also nominated for Best Picture, but lost out to Green Book.
The film was criticised for “straightwashing” Mercury after a teaser video was released. Lucy Boynton, who plays the star’s former fiancée Mary Austin, later hit back at the criticisms, calling them “frustrating.”