This LEGO bust of Freddie Mercury has more depth than anything youll find in Bohemian Rhapsody.
This LEGO bust of Freddie Mercury has more depth than anything you'll find in Bohemian Rhapsody. Cate Gillon / Getty

Queen is one of America's few commonalities, which is funny because the band isn't even American. "Bohemian Rhapsody" plagues every middle school dance. It haunts the jukeboxes across this great nation's rural bars. The specter of Queen is everywhere, maintaining an apolitical place in our culture, even though its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died a very political death—from AIDS complications while Britain was suffering from Thatcherism and America drowning in Reaganomics. I imagine that for most of Queen's fans, Freddie Mercury's sexuality is a distraction from the greatness of "We Will Rock You" playing at a hockey game. His death is something conservatives have always had to reckon with (or ignore) when squaring their love for Queen with their anti-gay beliefs.

The new Freddie Mercury Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, attempts to work through this moral conundrum for Queen's pious fans. And I hope they enjoy it, because I think they're the only fans who can. The 15-minute long shit I took during the middle of the movie was more nuanced than the straight-washed hagiography peddled in that movie theater. It's lifeless. It's a movie about a rock star who has bad sex. Rami Malek's portrayal of Freddie Mercury is like a Teddy Perkins caricature; a gleefully tragic romp more fascinated with teeth than truth. And if history is any indicator, Bohemian Rhapsody's framing of Mercury's life is going to curse his ghost for a long goddamned time. Fuck.

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I would mention Bohemian Rhapsody's plot, but discussing its plot would spoil the film because the film is only plot points. It's just plot and snotballs of morality. Which isn't to say you shouldn't see it—you should, because it's a good drag of Freddie Mercury. But you should go in expecting a sermon. (When Mercury discovers he has HIV, the scene is literally lit like a church. A frail, sickly twink made-up like a zombie reaches out to Mercury as he exits a doctors office. They sing a bit of one of Mercury's songs to each other and smile sweetly, contemplating their deaths. It's basically a pamphlet handed out by the Mormon church. It's heinous. And hilarious.)

Bohemian Rhapsody's treatment of Mercury is reminiscent of the way the classic Hollywood actor Montgomery Clift's biography was handled for decades. Clift, another famous bisexual who was recently given a corrective biography in Making Montgomery Clift, was, for half a century after his death, portrayed as a tragic man ruined by his sexuality. Despite hours of recordings that demonstrated Clift and his family weren't tortured by his sexuality, our collective narrative around Clift's life remains tragic. His biography reflected America's relationship with his sexuality, not his relationship with himself.

Mercury gets a similar treatment in Bohemian Rhapsody. The laziness is humiliating, but mostly boring. Take a nice shit instead.

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