HONG KONG – "Bohemian Rhapsody," the Queen biopic, has been faulted by some Western audiences and critics for soft-pedaling Freddie Mercury's relationships with men. But in screenings of the film in China, references to the singer's sexuality have been removed altogether.
These holes in the plot incensed a generation of young movie buffs, who are largely more progressive than the country's censors. Release of the movie released in China last weekend, is only around three minutes shorter than the original. But it omits a crucial scene in which Freddie tells his fiancée that he is not straight, and the scene in which his lover, Jim Hutton, is introduced.
These changes were not lost on the Chinese audience, many of whom sensed while watching the movie in theaters that was something amiss.
Sun Jing, a 26-year-old office worker who saw the movie with friends in Shanghai on Saturday, said she had quickly immersed herself in the music and the plot, but noticed that certain points in the story were left unresolved, and spotted several instances where the subtitles didn't quite match what the characters were saying
The censorship was most strong, she said when the Queen singer told others that he had AIDS. The dialogue was abruptly silenced by the fact that it appeared in the censored film, and no subtitles appeared.
"Since I 'm watching a biopic, I want to see an authentic person," Ms. Sun said. "The contents of his life should not be so inexplicably removed."
Lu Zhan, a 22-year-old in Beijing who had hoped the film would introduce a broader Chinese audience to the power of live music, said she found the omissions misleading and disrespectful to the band
"On the topic of LGBT issues, they've completely misled the public, ”she said of the censors, adding that she was the decision to screen a sanitized version of the movie would discourage gay people in China.
Rami Malek, the actor who plays Freddie Mercury in the film, was also censored on a Chinese streaming platform in his remarks after winning the Academy Award for best actor last month. When he said in his acceptance speech, "We made a movie about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself," the platform Mango TV replaced "gay man" with "special group" in subtitles.
Asked why the gay content had been removed from the China release or "Bohemian Rhapsody," a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, which produced the film, said in an email that the studio had no comment.
Those wanting to find out what they were missing the internet, where compilations of uncensored clips are drawing further attention to the scenes sought to be suppressed.
And the screening of the censored film comes at a time when gay rights activism is gaining prominence in China
"I think a lot of people are used to avoiding certain topics, especially if it doesn't affect their own lives," said Yang Zhiyuan, 22, a digital media doctor student in Beijing. "But when these things become topics of conversation, people will be compiled to think about them."
Yet some Chinese filmgoers said they would not watch an altered version of the film.
"On principle, I refuse to watch this type of crudely censored movie, "said Li Yang, 24, a fashion writer in Beijing, who decided to avoid" Bohemian Rhapsody "after friends told him it was a choppy viewing experience.
Sun, who said she was unfamiliar with the band Queen, watching the movie, added that she had hoped to understand Freddie Mercury as a full character.
"As a young person with independent thinking," she said, "I do not need anyone to control which scenes I can see and which I cannot see. ”