Bohemian Rhapsody: The good, the bad and the Freddie

New Queen biopic profiles the energetic Freddie Mercury like never before


Courtesy Bernd Brägelmann / Wikimedia Commons

A statue of Freddie Mercury stands in Montreux, Switzerland, on coast of Lake Geneva. The statue was dedicated in 1996, with the other members if Queen present for the ceremony.

“I won’t be a rockstar. I will be a legend.” Including this one, Freddie Mercury made quite a few remarkable statements during his lifetime. Little did he know just how true his words would be, and if they weren’t before, they definitely are now. With the new biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, released in theaters Nov. 2, Mercury’s legendary status has undoubtedly been solidified.

Bohemian Rhapsody follows Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon of Queen in their journey as a band from 1970 until their famous 1985 performance at Live Aid, a benefit concert held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in England and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief efforts. It continues through the years showing scenes of the band making music, performing on tours in various countries and all of their drama as they gain popularity and become one of the most recognizable groups of all time.

The film mainly focuses on Freddie Mercury and his journey as he discovers his sexuality, explores his individual style and his eventual struggle with AIDS. Although the movie is very appealing and ultimately does a good job of telling the story, there are a few inaccuracies.

The good

Some events that took place may have been altered slightly in order to fit more seamlessly into the movie, but nothing was completely made up. The movie did a very good job of portraying the quirky and extravagant person that Mercury was.

Mercury’s love for cats was a very prominent part of the singer’s life. In the movie there are several scenes showing his numerous cats, and one in which he calls fiancee Mary Austin on the phone while away on tour, and requests several of them by name to speak to. This is something that Mercury actually did often.

Although Mercury and Austin split after six years of being in a relationship due to Mercury’s sudden realization of his sexuality, they stayed good friends and even bought houses next to each other. This is exactly replicated in the movie, and there are even several scenes in which they talk to each other out of their windows.

The film also did not shy away from Mercury’s big stage personality. During performances Mercury would constantly wave his arms through the air to stir up the audience, and prance around the stage striking various poses with his microphone all while sporting lavish outfits that would never look good on anyone else. Actor Rami Malek portrayed him beautifully, even going as far as enlisting a movement coach to help him move exactly as Mercury once did.

The bad

Because the movie ended with Live Aid instead of Mercury’s death, but still had to show important events that happened in between, some parts are not chronologically correct.

A few inaccuracies presented by the movie include the rest of the band’s reaction to Mercury going solo in the early 80’s. In the film May, Taylor and Deacon were outraged at Mercury for taking a deal with a recording company to make his own music. In actuality, May and Taylor had already crafted and published albums of their own several years before Mercury. There was no bad blood between the boys in the years leading up to Live Aid.

Another more notable event that didn’t align with the timeline of movie is Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis, which according the movie happened in 1984, but Mercury wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS until three years later in 1987.

In reality Live Aid was not a big reunion for the band, nor was Mercury suffering during the band’s legendary performance from the illness that would eventually kill him.

The Freddie

In May of this year, a two minute trailer sparked controversy. Fans were upset by the lack of representation of Mercury’s attraction toward men in the clip. Many feared that the movie would fail to accurately portray Mercury’s sexuality and instead gloss over it, ‘straight-washing’ a film about a man who is considered to be a queer icon. They were relieved after watching the two hour and 15 minute movie to see that the film did not shy away from such a big aspect of his life.

Though thankful that it was such a prominent part of the film some fans were upset with the way that Mercury’s sexuality was characterized. Throughout the movie not only is Mercury’s queerness portrayed as a destructive force, but his bisexuality is also erased. His attraction to women is ignored other than his relationship with Mary Austin in the beginning of the movie.

In the film Mercury is brought into the life of extravagance and homosexuality by Paul Prenter, the band’s manager, who coerces Mercury into having large parties and participating in some unsavory behavior which causes tension between Mercury and the other members of Queen.

Mercury’s same-sex attraction is characterized as only lust and desire that is detrimental to his health and ends up quite literally being the death of him. The film shows only a glimpse of the loving and healthy relationship that Mercury had with Jim Hutton while simultaneously ignoring his opposite-sex attraction after the end of his relationship with Mary Austin.

Some say that the film did well addressing Mercury’s sexuality, seeing as it was a sensitive topic during his life due to homophobia being so popular. This is not wrong at all. Every event that took place in the movie happened. Maybe not exactly as it happened in real life, but nothing was fabricated in order to intentionally villainize Mercury’s queerness. Anything positive that came from Mercury being bisexual was glossed over or ignored.

Bohemian Rhapsody is very entertaining and does give some insight to the life of the legendary Mr. Fahrenheit, but it’s obvious to anyone that knows anything about Queen that the biopic was created more for entertainment than to be informational.

Bohemian Rhapsody would not be able to be used as a source for research, but is entertaining and dramatic for those who want to see a good movie, inspiring for queer  people who look up to Freddie Mercury and full of the band’s greatest songs for fans who love Queen.