As many of you are aware, I run a charity involved with children in Cambodia. I’ve also lived in China for many years and I have great admiration for the progression of Chinese culture since the Cultural Revolution, as well as respect for their traditions that go back generations. However, occasionally I see something in current affairs that saddens me and this is one such thing. The new biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” about the phenomenal band Queen that has been met with raving fan admiration and multiple Oscars was released in China a few weeks ago. And sadly, important plot holes have been reported, where all references to homosexuality and AIDS have been removed.
There is no greater form of sexual expression than being true to who you are, and that is something that iconic singer and songwriter Freddie Mercury from Queen struggled with throughout his life. Initially, he was with a woman, Mary Austin, but then discovered he was homosexual. Sadly, back then, he didn’t feel comfortable with it being common knowledge that he was gay, and he even kept his tragic AIDS diagnosis a secret until the day before he died. Freddie Mercury’s amazing life is shared in the biopic released in China a few weeks ago. However, much to my disappointment, there was a lot that was not shown.
Firstly, it’s important to make clear that homosexuality itself is not illegal in China. However, the depiction of homosexuality in arts and culture is illegal. It appears that the Producers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” were so afraid of breaking the law, that they were very vigilant in removing all scenes that alluded to Freddie’s sexuality. This made the story itself very difficult for Chinese audiences to follow. For example, there is a scene where Freddie Mercury tells Mary that they need to break up because he’s realized he’s bisexual (to which she replies he is gay!) However, in the Chinese version, this scene has been removed altogether, leaving audiences wondering why the couple is no longer together.
Homosexual communities in China are no doubt left feeling unimportant and irrelevant. This is particularly the case after Rami Malek’s acceptance speech at the Oscars where he made reference to Freddie Mercury as a gay man (and the words “special group” appeared on the screen in China instead). I can see how this would be upsetting for those in the LBGTI community – these people want to be acknowledged in the media for their sexual expression, not ignored. China has come a long way in bringing their acceptance of changing social patterns – this is next!
Freddie Mercury was indeed an incredibly talented person. He was gay, but now we see that shouldn’t have affected any part of the way we as fans experienced his music. This statement is indicative for all of us – our sexuality is nobody’s business unless we have sex with them. I hope that laws in China can reflect this sentiment soon, and allow us to experience art (and films) the way they were intended.