Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"I don't have time to be their cautionary tale."

Freddie says this to his bandmates when he reveals his diagnosis with HIV. Ironic, really, given this scene takes place entirely because this film turned him into one.

In this film, Feddie's contraction of HIV and eventual death is framed as a tragic inevitability, of which he and his manipulator are to blame. It's his punishment; for his ego, for pushing his band members away. Pushing them away, that is, by embracing his sexuality.

Sexuality that is "awakened" within the narrative by Paul Prenter, Freddie's personal manager. The film turns him into a one-note villain, there only to take advantage of Freddie. It is through Paul that he's introduced to the gay community, who is only ever depicted as a hedonistic den of vipers, interested only in Freddie's fame and body.

His true family, per the film, are his heterosexual bandmates and Mary Austin, who is reduced to Freddie's savior from gayness. Freddie loving men openly is what brings out the worst in him, and only when he rejects men and the community is he redeemed. But not before he is punished. To craft this narrative, they had move his diagnosis up by several years. Their intention is clear in this inaccuracy.

The film tries to rectify this by throwing in Jim Hutton towards the end, but it reduces him and Freddie's life together to nothing but a footnote. Hutton does not matter in this film, never mind the fact that he cared for Freddie in his final days, that they shared their life together for years, that Freddie died wearing a wedding band Hutton gave him. None of that matters in this narrative.

The film has no interest in interrogating who Freddie was as a person. Instead, we get shots of adoring heterosexual crowds, cheering his name, readily devouring him. The same kind of people who, in their personal lives, would spit at men like Freddie. There is no acknowledgement that what people worshiped, his artistry and his attitude, his sense of style; all that was and remains tied to his sexuality. Freddie Mercury would not have been Freddie Mercury if he didn't love men.

Never is loving men portrayed anything but a character quirk, a little deviancy that should be ignored, and that tragically brought his downfall. But Freddie Mercury's death was not inevitable. He died entirely because of homophobia. Every single person who died of AIDS and HIV died because it was convenient for the systems in place to ignore them. Until this is understood, and reckoned with, Freddie's story will never be rightfully told.

Instead, we got this. A film that loves Freddie, but only the parts of him that are presentable. If I wanted that condescension, I'd have had dinner with my grandparents.

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