‘It didn’t make any sense’: What China’s censors cut out of Bohemian Rhapsody

rami malek bohemian rhapsody golden globes
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody has opened in Chinese cinemas with all mentions of the Queen frontman’s sexuality removed.

Between two and four minutes of footage has reportedly been cut from the film, which opened last weekend in a small number of arthouse cinemas in China.

Feili Xie, a 28-year-old from Beijing, told ABC News that he was in favour of Bohemian Rhapsody being screened in China but was disappointed about the censors’ “devious treatment” of the film.

“It is seriously and obviously out of context, where many scenes in the film didn’t make any sense at all,” he said.

“The whole film was about telling the audience who Freddie was, and sexuality was a very significant part of his identity, which was completely removed.

“We have tens of millions of people from an LGBT background in this country but the censors consider us as a ‘special group’ of people, whose stories are not allowed to be told in films, on the TV or even in some books.

“It is sad that they use power to hide our existence.”

According to CNN, among the scenes the Chinese censors removed from the film were:

  • A shot of a BBC producer getting angry after the camera zooms in on Mercury’s thrusting crotch during a live TV performance is removed.
  • Mercury’s boyfriend and manager, Paul Prenter, forcefully kissing the singer is removed.
  • When Mercury’s longtime lover and friend Mary confronts him about his sexuality, the singer replying, “I think I’m bisexual,” and Mary responding, “No Freddie, you’re gay,” is removed, leaving audiences confused about their break-up.
  • The moment drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) comments on Mercury’s new haircut, asking “Gayer?” is removed.
  • A scene of Mercury groping his future partner Jim Hutton at his party and a later passionate kiss between the men were both removed, leaving audiences wondering where Jim came from.
  • The entire scene showing Queen dressing up in women’s clothes for the iconic “I Want To Break Free” music video is removed, skipping straight to Queen’s angry reaction to MTV banning the video the viewers haven’t seen.
  • During the press conference at which Mercury is asked about his “sexual orientation”, the reporter’s question is mistranslated as “sex life” in the Chinese subtitles.

Bohemian Rhapsody was a box-office success, becoming the highest-grossing music biopic ever and winning lead actor Rami Malek the Best Actor Oscar last month.

In his acceptance speech, Malek said, “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself.”

But a Chinese broadcast’s subtitles mistranslated “gay man” into “special group,” sparking outrage on Chinese social network Weibo.

Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but gay content in film and television is banned and frequently censored.

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