Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

How well does 'Bohemian Rhapsody' portray the real Freddie Mercury?

by Baylie Clevenger The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte's editorial board. Since the announcement of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, which is based on the rise of the British band, Queen, there has been much speculation over how the story would be depicted. The controversy, particularly focuses on the band’s late frontman, Freddie Mercury. Everyone wanted to know if the movie would do him justice, or if Bohemian Rhapsody would bite the dust.

The Good

Regardless of other depictions of Mercury, which I will mention later, as far as personality and style, Bohemian Rhapsody is spot on. In the movie, Mercury is shown in many different outfits that are authentic. From the sequinned body suit to the crown and cape to the white tank top and jeans, the costuming is sensational.
Image from Medium
Personality-wise, it is safe to say that they captured him quite well. For example, they worked in his love for his cats, his dedication to his art, and quick wit and charm. They even threw in a quick reference to Princess Diana, who was close friends with Mercury. Overall, they did him justice as a person. They captured his actions and personality really well and Rami Malek, who plays Mercury, pulled it off flawlessly. There has also been criticism about the way that they depict his sexuality. While there were some shortcomings on this front, the movie captured how some queer individuals can sometimes feel alone and isolated in the process of discovering and accepting who they are.

The Bad

While the movie covered a little bit of Mercury's struggle with his sexuality, I was still left feeling unfulfilled. The audience gets an in-depth look at his previous heterosexual relationship with Mary, but his relationships with men are much less in-depth and, for the most part, are depicted as sleazy and drug-fueled.
Image from New York Post
I know that for a long time Mercury was not seen as a queer figure, and he was never actually out publicly. That being said, I can somewhat forgive the movie’s lack of representation of his sexuality. After all, the way his sexuality is depicted ultimately highlights the process of realizing you’re queer, feeling alone because of it and ultimately being painted as someone you are not. These are common issues that are faced by queer individuals on a daily basis. I do wish, though, that the film had emphasized the hurt caused by the denial of Mercury's sexuality and how that provided artistic inspiration for his music. The movie only depicted it as something to be ashamed of, and something that caused hurt. While hiding his sexuality did both of these things, it is still possible to derive art from hurt. It has even been widely speculated that Mercury wrote many songs, including Queen’s biggest hit Bohemian Rhapsody, about hiding his sexuality and struggling to discover and accept who he was. It is also true that he had a long-term relationship with a man that is much less in-depth and seemed to just be a happy little accessory to the plot rather than something that was real and likely a positive force in Mercury’s life. I did not want them to just reduce him to a queer musician who ended up with AIDS, but I did wish that they had made small changes to help the audience understand what being bisexual was like for Mercury and how that changed him as an artist. Even though he was much more than just a bisexual man, he has become an icon in the queer community. Allowing the film to feature this aspect of his life would have been a great contribution.

Final Thoughts

Freddie Mercury will live on as an icon, and ultimately Bohemian Rhapsody depicts him as such and successfully maintains his personality, creativity, and talent. However, I would have liked to see and understand more of his struggle with his sexuality without it being depicted as something dirty, shameful and drug-fueled.
Images: MediumNew York Post Featured Image: Sam Smith