Queen’s blockbuster biopic Bohemian Rhapsody has been approved for release in China, albeit with some revisions to the original cut.
According to Hollywood Reporter, at least a minute will be cut from Bohemian Rhapsody in order to secure permission for it to be screened in Chinese cinemas, including scenes where Mercury, played by Rami Malek, kisses other male characters. Scenes of drug use will also be removed.
China’s reluctance to allow LGBT-themed films to reach cinema audiences was underlined when a domestic TV streaming service, Mango TV, was reported to have censored Malek’s acceptance speech for the best actor Oscar on 24 February, replacing the phrase “gay man” with “special group” in its subtitles.
Given that some of the detractors of Bohemian Rhapsody have already taken issue with the film’s generally bashful portrayal of the extremely bisexual Freddie Mercury’s real life, it’s hard not to see the edits as even further erasure, yet another softening of a wild true story for the sake of appeasing more conservative audiences.
Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the most successful films of the past year, earning more than $850 million at the box office on its way to becoming the biggest musical biopic of all time. The film earned four Academy Awards, including Rami Malek taking home Best Actor honours for his portrayal of Mercury.
Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but it is, by and large, frowned on by the authorities. In March last year, Oscar-winning gay romance Call Me By Your Name was pulled from the Beijing International Film Festival. And in 2017, Chinese censors announced new rules for TV that banned depictions of smoking, drinking, fighting and homosexuality.
A date for the Chinese debut of Bohemian Rhapsody has not been announced, though rumours indicate it will be sometime in March. Unlike in most major markets worldwide, the movie will be getting only a limited release in China.