Four-time Oscar winner “Bohemian Rhapsody” is officially getting a theatrical release in China, which is widely considered a surprise since the movie’s subject, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, was a gay man. Per reports, the film is likely to have at least one minute removed from its runtime. Given China’s strict policy on LGBTQ representation in entertainment, scenes featuring Freddie Mercury kissing other male characters are expected to be censored.
The China release announcement for “Bohemian Rhapsody” arrives in the wake of controversy surrounding China’s censorship of Rami Malek’s Oscar speech. Malek won the Best Actor Oscar this year for his acclaimed leading role as Mercury in the film. While accepting the prize, Malek said, “Listen, we made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically himself, and the fact that I’m celebrating him and his story here tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.”
Mango TV, one of China’s most popular channels and one of only two networks that live-streamed the Oscars telecast in China, censored Malek’s speech. The subtitles removed “gay man” and replaced it with “special group.” The decision led to backlash from Chinese moviegoers on the social media platform Weibo. Screenshots of the subtitled moment were circulated online as Mango TV was bashed by detractors. Some viewers even argued for the Oscars not to broadcast with Mango TV in the future.
The backlash was only the latest LGBTQ-centric controversy facing Mango TV. According to Variety, the channel was criticized last year during its broadcast of the Eurovision singing competition for refusing to air an Irish music video that featured male dancers holding hands. Rainbow flags featured in the music video were blurred.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” will be released in China next month by the Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas. The censorship of the film is expected given how stringent China has been in recent years with films that depict LGBTQ content. Ridley Scott’s “Alien Covenant” was released in China without the kiss between Michael Fassbender and himself, while films like Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” were denied a release. At the Beijing International Film Festival last year, Luca Guadagnino’s gay romance “Call Me By Your Name” was pulled from the lineup.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” picked up four Oscars earlier this week: Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. The film will arrive in China after grossing over $860 million worldwide, the strongest showing for a music biopic in history and one of the biggest grosses ever for a non-superhero movie or blockbuster tentpole.