Queen's iconic hits make them among the few bands whose music transcend their time and keep them relevant as one of the biggest rock bands in history. The group's late lead singer, Freddie Mercury, also has a powerful story -- within his life as a gay icon who battled an AIDS diagnosis for four years before his untimely death at age 45 in 1991. In the upcoming biopic about Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek, the film presents an opportunity to tell the story of the LBGT icon. The movie's trailers, however, have focused on the formation and struggles of the band over Freddie's sexuality and illness, leading to some early criticism. Malek recently responded, assuring that Bohemian Rhapsody will not hold back from the full story. In his words:
It's a shame that people are making remarks after a minute teaser where you just wanna see the music. It's difficult. First, let me say that I don't think the film shies away from his sexuality or his all-consuming disease, which is obviously Aids. I don't know how you could avoid any of that, or if anyone would ever want to. It's a bit absurd that anyone's judging this from a minute trailer.
The first trailer introduces Bohemian Rhapsody as a telling of the band's history and creation of experimental hits, such as their most memorable hit which the movie gets its name from. Clips from the film in its first look show the band members recording the operatic bit of the song and talking with music executives about the song. While it has short cuts of Freddie and another man, his longtime girlfriend Mary Austin gets much of the spotlight, and mention of his AIDS diagnosis is completely omitted. As Mr. Robot star Rami Malek points out in his interview with Attitude Magazine, the footage is just a teaser showcasing the big hits the band is known for, and doesn't mean it will forget Freddie's sexuality.
Writer and producer Bryan Fuller took to Twitter back in May to show his disappointment in the first look at Bohemian Rhapsody, accusing it of straight-washing the icon. He shared how the YouTube description of the trailer detailed that Freddie Mercury was "facing a life-threatening illness" instead of going right out and naming that it was AIDS. His comments fueled a conversation about queer-erasure, noting that showing more scenes of Freddie with a woman than a man was hiding his identity as a queer man.
For the marketing of Bohemian Rhapsody, Fox likely wanted to focus on the massive hits everyone knows and loves, and leave it to the movie to tackle Freddie's sexuality and illness. However, it is possible that the studio might have felt that making these details more prevalent in their branding might result in fewer viewers. The backlash would certainly be immense if the biopic failed to bring to screen the unique story of an LGBT icon since it is just as much a part of the band's story as their music is. Bohemian Rhapsody comes to theaters on November 2.