“Bohemian Rhapsody”: Did it Neuter the Gay out of Freddy Mercury?

Written by | Entertainment, Screen

Bohemian Rhapsody movie

The LGBTQ community is none too happy with Bohemian Rhapsody, and the way it distorted and downplayed the sexuality of Queen frontman Freddy Mercury.

But the film was helmed by openly gay director Bryan Singer — that is, until his firing with much of the shooting completed. So… why should a movie directed by one of our own treat homosexuality as if it’s still a biographical fact that needs to be minimized?

The same can be said of other recent pictures where the plotline revolves around a gay central character. Love, Simon, Moonlight, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Boy Erased and even last year’s Oscar winning Call Me by Your Name don’t show much more than hand-holding and canoodles. Even last year’s Tom of Finland biopic made gay sex seem like something the artist spent more time committing drawing about than having.

Is that a good thing? Should LGBTQ audiences be satisfied and be encouraged that at least a wider diversity of our stories are being told by the Hollywood mainstream?

Bohemian Rhapsody is only the latest example of a gay character’s proclivities being downplayed or hidden entirely from moviegoers’ eyes. Some of that is actually addressed tangentially in the movie. When Queen’s group members appeared in drag in their 1984 video, “I Want to Break Free,” a segment of the viewing public was baffled, while others were outraged — particularly in the US. It was to be expected, one says in a band meeting, because America remains puritanical.

That’s inarguably true. In the nearly two dozen years since Brokeback Mountain, mainstream Hollywood depictions of gay sex haven’t changed at all. Tinseltown loves its bare female breasts almost as much as CGI monsters, car crashes and gory death scenes, but it still demonstrates a deep and abiding loathing of the male anatomy.

And in this era when the President of the United States gives aid and comfort to neo-Nazis (“very fine people,” he called them ) and his Vice President has one of the most anti-LGBTQ records of any politician on the current political scene, there’s no likelihood that our community is going to make progress anytime soon.

But sooner or later, gay men are going to want to see themselves represented in their totality — which doesn’t mean in the frontally bare en flagrante. But Will and Jack? Simon? Elio and Oliver? They’re going to want to be true to their natures. Authenticity demands that eventually they be shown the way straight couples are — without someone flinching before the camera, behind it, or in a studio boardroom. We’re human beings who do our own flinching when our sexuality is downplayed to the point that Freddy Mercury’s very gay life is reduced to the gentle placing of a hand on his man crush in his parents’ living room.

It’s worth saying that while other marginalized groups around the world can be identified by the color of their skins, their ethnicity or the way they worship, our uniquely identifying characteristic is the inescapable fact that we have sex with people of the same gender. Get used to it.

Last modified: November 9, 2018