Viral now on South Korean social media is the “Bohemian Kiss Challenge” video, a form of protest started by two YouTubers after a TV network deleted kissing scenes of gay couples from the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody.
“SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) broadcast the movie Bohemian Rhapsody and deleted the scenes where two men kiss. The Bohemian Kiss Challenge is a challenge that shows that every kiss is equal, regardless of gender and sexual orientation,” said YouTubers Backpack and Kim, known collectively as Mango Couple. They’ve been together for eight years and share their daily lives online through vlogs and live-streams. As of posting, their YouTube channel has over 200,000 subscribers. In their challenge video, they kiss passionately and share why they think SBS’ move to delete the scenes was problematic.
“We don’t usually kiss hard on YouTube, but we did it as a way of protesting against the censorship,” Backpack told VICE.
“Normally, a lot of people are not used to or are afraid to participate in human rights movements,” Kim, who came up with the challenge, told VICE. “So I wanted to make it simple and easy to join in on, like in the form of a challenge, so that anyone can raise their voice and have some fun while doing it.”
It’s quite easy to participate in the Bohemian Kiss Challenge. All people need to do is take a photo or video of themselves kissing and post it on their social media accounts with the hashtags #BohemianKissChallenge and #All_Kisses_Are_Equal.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re not in a relationship. If you’re single, you can still join this challenge by kissing the back of your hand or something like that,” the couple said. It’s also open to all kinds of relationships, not just LGBTQ ones.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a musical biopic about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. SBS aired Bohemian Rhapsody on national TV on Saturday and had one of the highest viewership rates over the Lunar New Year weekend. Though it received mixed reviews, the film was an international hit, including in South Korea, where it raked in about $78 million in the domestic box office.
In its recent broadcast, SBS cut scenes of Mercury (Rami Malek) and his partner Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), and also blurred a kissing scene between two male auxiliary characters.
“Editing kissing scenes between same-sex couples in Bohemian Rhapsody is a clear form of discrimination and censorship,” the group said in a statement. “SBS has insulted not only Mercury, but all the sexual minorities, considering that the movie is a biographical film covering his life as a sexual minority.”
Singer Adam Lambert, who has collaborated with the band Queen as a vocalist and has a cameo on the film, also spoke out against SBS’ censorship. In a post about the issue on Out magazine’s Instagram page, Lambert commented: “And yet they’ll play Queen’s records without any hesitation. Nothing explicit or lewd about that kiss. The double standard is REAL.”
One couple who participated in the Bohemian Kiss Challenge posted their wedding photo, writing: “What a great idea to promote LGBTQ representation in the media and to start this movement on social media!”
“It’s not easy for many LGBTQs in Korea to openly participate in the challenge, so I talked to my husband and posted our photo with hashtags,” the poster, who preferred to stay anonymous, told VICE. “Korea is spotlighted in many areas these days, like K-pop, K-food, etc. But it’s far behind other countries when it comes to minority issues.”
South Korean society still has very conservative views when it comes to sexuality. In 2017, the Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) covered LGBTQ stories in a special broadcast, but this was criticized by Christian organizations that asked producers to cancel the show. Some parents even protested outside the network’s office, claiming that the show would negatively impact their children. In 2015, JTBC, another network, was sanctioned by the Korea Communication Commission for a scene in a TV show that featured two girls kissing.