Freddie Mercury biopic sparks criticism for ignoring the AIDS crisis

Louis Staples
Wednesday 16 May 2018 12:30
news

A trailer for a biopic that explores the life of music icon Freddie Mercury has drawn criticism for allegedly “de-gaying” the star.

The first teaser for Bohemian Rhapsody shows Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. When it was announced that Malek would be playing the lead singer of Queen, fans had their doubts, but the release of the newest trailer has appeared to confirm some of their hesitations.

The teaser seems devoid of any of Mercury’s partnerships with men - although the film will cover his sexuality.

But the bigger problem fans have taken issue with is that the film appears to omit the AIDS crisis entirely from Freddie's story.

Although Mercury’s AIDS status was not disclosed publicly until the day before his death, it was undoubtedly a huge part of the star’s life and surrounding culture at the time.

Nicholas Baker, outreach and communications manager GMFA, the gay men’s health charity, highlights the importance of telling the stories of the AIDS crisis.

This teaser trailer alludes to Freddie Mercury’s sexuality but regrettably it’s a definite blink and you’ll miss it moment.

There’s also no mention of his HIV status and death from AIDS related illness. This is disappointing given how much his fame has helped to raise awareness of the epidemic over the years, before effective treatment was available.

It's important to tell these stories and we hope the film does not miss the opportunity to share them.

One of the many tragedies of AIDS epidemic was that the creativity and insight of a generation of gay and bisexual men, including Mercury, was lost. Matthew Hodson, executive director of HIV and AIDS organisation NAM Aidsmap, explained to indy100 why exploring the stories of men like Mercury with sensitivity is so important.

Despite huge advances in the medical treatment of HIV the condition remains one of the most misunderstood and stigmatised illnesses of modern times.

It’s a shame, if true, that Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t refer to Mercury’s diagnosis, illness and death. He was just 45 when he died. Even now, being open about your HIV status remains a brave thing to do. There is still far too much ignorance about HIV in our society.

We should ensure that all generations are informed, not just about the losses we suffered through the 1980s and 1990s, but about the enormous progress we have made in HIV treatment since then.

Although the drama does not profess to be a factual documentary, many fans of Mercury, including HIV advocate Tom Hayes, believe that the omission of these storylines does a disservice to future generations. He told indy100:

While no one person should be remembered solely for their HIV status, to omit such an important part of history, both for Freddie and for the LGBT+ and HIV communities, is incredibly disrespectful.

To selectively show only those parts of history that sit with your comfortable sensibilities is no longer history, that’s fiction.

More: Conchita Wurst reveals she is HIV positive after former boyfriend 'threatened' to out her

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