The Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” finally opened in select Chinese theaters on March 22 and, as expected, was edited to remove all traces of Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality. The censorship is hardly a surprise given China’s strict policies on exhibiting LGBTQ content. Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” was released in China without the kiss between Michael Fassbender and himself, for instance, while films like Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” were denied a release. Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name,” meanwhile, was pulled from the Beijing International Film Festival in 2017.
As for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Associated Press reports China has removed every line of dialogue that directly mentions homosexuality or bisexuality. When a report asks Mercury about his “sexual orientation” during a press conference scene, the subtitle has been changed to “sex life.” One major scene between Mercury (Rami Malek) and his girlfriend Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) where the singer says he is bisexual cuts out the coming out dialogue. Mary’s response, “No Freddie, you’re gay,” is also removed. In one moment where Mercury reveals his AIDS diagnosis to his Queen band members, the dialogue has been muted as to not say the disease aloud.
According to CNN, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been censored so much in China that in some parts the movie’s narrative no longer makes sense. Aaron McCusker plays Mercury’s eventual boyfriend Jim Hutton in the movie, but the scene in which he is introduced has been edited out of the film because it depicts Mercury groping Hutton’s crotch after a party. Without Hutton’s introduction, the scene later in the film where Mercury makes it a priority to find Hutton and bring him to the Live Aid concert doesn’t make sense. All of Mercury’s kisses with Hutton and manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) have been removed. The sequence featuring Queen in drag shooting the music video to “I Want to Break Free” has also been deleted.
The censorship of “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed the editing of Rami Malek’s Oscar speech last month during a live stream of the ceremony on China’s Mango TV. Malek won the Best Actor Oscar and while accepting the prize said, “Listen, we made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically as himself, and the fact that I’m celebrating him and his story here tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.” The Mango TV subtitles removed “gay man” and replaced it with “special group.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is only playing in China in a limited theatrical release. The film is now available on demand in the U.S.