It's only been a couple of days since Bohemian Rhapsody was released into Chinese theaters, and it was a long road to even get there. This week, word is coming out as to what's been cut from the film. We knew that Bohemian Rhapsody was going to have some issues as it was cleared for a Chinese release and would endure some omissions due to Chinese restrictions and censors. Now we have a specific rundown of just what's been cut, and the trimmed material ranges from the mere usage of the word “gay” to crucial scenes involving the arc of Freddie Mercury's eventual acceptance of his sexuality.
The specific moments trimmed from Bohemian Rhapsody include the comedic beat during Queen's early Top of the Pops performance where Freddie's crotch is in full view of the camera, a couple of kisses between the Queen front man and his lovers, and even a moment where band mate Roger Taylor tells Freddie that his haircut makes him look “gayer.”
But perhaps the biggest cuts to Bohemian Rhapsody are two scenes that most help nail down the film's identity. The first is the moment with Freddie Mercury and his wife Mary, played by Lucy Boynton, who eventually outs her husband as gay; and the second is the recreation of the “I Want To Break Free” music video, which led to an MTV ban on the song's music video back in 1984. Both are lynchpin moments for the twin narratives of both Freddie's and the band's evolutions, and yet both were dropped.
In total, six sequences were cited as removed in an analysis provided to CNN by documentarian Fan Popo, a Chinese-born filmmaker. Also known as an LGBTQ activist in his home country, Popo revealed this list of cut moments as an antithesis to the viewpoint that Bohemian Rhapsody's mere release in the country should be seen as a win. Further driving his point home, he provided the following feelings about these moments being excised from Bohemian Rhapsody:
Rather than homophobic, I think (China's censors) are sexphobic. They are probably the most conservative people in China, that's why they are chosen for this job.
It was highly unexpected that Bohemian Rhapsody would hit Chinese theaters at all due to the country's strict LGBTQ media stance, so even the fact a trimmed down version of the movie made it to theaters is news. Should a potential sequel to Bohemian Rhapsody that's been bandied about as of late ever get off the ground, it would be interesting to see if rather than pushing the envelope and trimming the film to fit a specific release, the next picture would just avoid those sorts of moments at the script level. Not only would such an approach save time and money on cutting two different versions of the film, it would potentially give this hypothetical blockbuster a means to break even more records than its predecessor. At the same time, it wouldn't be super accurate to Freddie Mercury's life.
While Bohemian Rhapsody didn't suffer the fate of being banned from China, much like Crimson Peak, it did run into some rather sharp editing shears on the way to its release. Which begs the question, which is the better fate: to have your film's message altered or to not be shown at all in a particular market? That something that the (now) Fox-owned Disney will need to figure out movie forward. It's also something you can think about as you watch Bohemian Rhapsody, which is already available on Digital HD, as well as home video.