Bohemian Rapsody premiered in mainland China over the weekend, with a total of four minutes cut from the film. This was, of course, in accordance with orders from Chinese censors, who decided Freddie Mercury’s journey as a gay man was a little fresh for local audiences.
All scenes that directly related to Mercury’s coming out were nixed from the Chinese version, while scenes depicting drug use and his diagnosis of AIDS were also missing. Regardless, Chinese audiences flocked to cinemas over the weekend, giving the film a solidly positive four out of five stars on Weibo, by an 80 percent majority.
But not everyone was impressed. Some audience members who had seen the film’s western version took to social media to complain that pivotal moments were missing, including Mercury’s coming out as bisexual to Mary Austin, his girlfriend at the time.
In addition, Mercury’s relationship with his partner, Jim Hutton, was absent, along with a historical photo of them that was removed from the credits. The recreation of Queen’s music video for the 1984 Single I Want to Break Free was one of the larger continuous chunks removed, as it depicted men dressed as women.
Feili Xie, gay man from Beijing who’d seen the original told the ABC that: “it is seriously and obviously out of context, where many scenes in the film didn’t make any sense at all” and that "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."
Meanwhile, other viewers just seemed appreciative the film was screened at all: "it's really good that Bohemian Rhapsody is being screened in the mainland,” wrote one, while others expressed frustration: "why is it necessary to delete gay-related content? Doesn't a person's life... deserve to be complete?"
Fan Popo, a Chinese documentary filmmaker and LGBT activist told CNN that although Bohemian Rapsody was one of the very few western films screened in China this year, it should not be seen as a victory. "If everyone becomes content with this kind of 'victory,' then the whole world will always submit to authority, creators won't be respected and there will be no protection for the interests of the audience," he said.
Although homosexuality has been legal in China for over two decades, references to “abnormal sexual behaviour” were in 2016, including same-sex relationships. The Bohemian Rapsody case is part of a wider effort by Chinese authorities to purge what they see as “inappropriate content."
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