How "Bohemian Rhapsody" Inspired Me: A Letter from a Teenage Lesbian

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Some movie spoilers ahead!

From taking Princess Di to a gay bar to pissing off Sid Vicious, Freddie Mercury has, and will always be, known as a man who was never afraid of a risk. The film Bohemian Rhapsody did not shy away from the risk of trying to embody him. 

By politics editor, Cameron Price

Freddie Mercury has been deceased my entire life, but Rami Malek’s portrayal makes me feel like he is still alive. I feel that I know him on a more personal level after watching the film. He perfectly embodied Freddie, with all his quirks and mannerisms. I have now seen it twice, and have ended up in tears both times. 

Bohemian Rhapsody has given new life to him and Queen’s music. So many young people have become fans of the band since watching the movie. All over Instagram, Queen fan accounts run by LGBT teens are popping up, and they are saying they have become fans after watching the film.

Freddie’s style, in both fashion and music, have become emblematic of gay camp. On stage, he was known for his extreme showmanship. From his iconic bottomless mic, to him coming out on stage on Darth Vader’s shoulders, Queen’s stage was always full of eccentric quirks that were exclusive to the band. The movie did not shy away from showing what a real Queen concert was like. 

Even the guitarist of Queen, Brian May-- played by Gwilym Lee in the film-- thinks Malek should receive an Oscar for his portrayal of Mercury because it was so on point. 

It has become the second highest-grossing music biopic of all time, deservedly so. 

In the film, we see a young immigrant from Zanzibar, Farrokh Bulsara-- with long hair and a pronounced overbite, working at Heathrow Airport in London. When he goes home from work, he tells his parents he would like to be called “Freddie,” much to his father’s distaste. 

Not long after this, he also changes his surname to Mercury. 

The movie then dives into Queen’s iconic career, with its focus on Freddie’s life and how it changes throughout the years. It guides us through Freddie becoming more and more successful, all while discovering his own sexuality. He gets engaged to a woman, understanding his interest in men at the same time. The two remain friends after she finally confronts the fact that he is gay, even though he continually calls her the love of his life. 

Soon enough, he starts a relationship with a man, Paul Prenter. Prenter takes advantage of him and his fame, leading to Mercury’s short-lived solo career. 

After truly facing the fact that Paul is no good for him-- shortly after he discovers he has AIDS-- he returns home and reunites Queen. They practice for a performance at Live Aid, a concert where the biggest stars of the time were performing.

The most difficult part to watch was when Freddie announces he has the syndrome to his bandmates. The three other members all begin to cry as he says he does not want pity, that he does not want to be the poster boy for the AIDS crisis. 

In that moment, I thought about how the LGBT community was ravaged during this era. I thought about how many of my forefathers contracted the disease and did not live to tell the tale, including Freddie himself. I thought about how my muse and inspiration only got to live two months after his forty-fifth birthday due to the disease.

My greatest wish would be to see him on stage, to see him light it up. I will never experience this, or even anything close. 

Even now, I tear up writing this.

For no one has or ever will be like Freddie Mercury.

I do not think I will ever be able to truly word his impact on my life, other than saying he is my greatest influence.

While it did break my heart in two, this movie also inspired me greatly. Seeing a gay, brown, HIV-positive immigrant grow into such an icon made me feel like I could do anything. I fell more in love with Queen, especially Freddie, than I ever have before. Freddie’s power lies in the fact that he can connect with so many marginalized groups, that he did not belong to just one category. 

Near the end, Freddie reunites with a man he kissed earlier in the film, Jim Hutton, and takes him to have tea with his family immediately before the big show. After the couple get to Wembley Stadium, we see a recreation of the iconic Queen Live Aid performance. They only cut one song from it, Crazy Little Thing Called Love -- a fantastic song Freddie wrote as a tribute to Elvis Presley that is rumored to be in the bonus features of the film.

The moment that Freddie was singing We Are the Champions, I felt like I was there watching him perform. Malek perfectly captured Mercury’s ability to execute a live song. It was so powerful to see this man captivate the audience in such a way, all while singing his victory song. In that moment, I cried harder than I had the entire movie.

(To watch the real Live Aid performance, click here.)
While it is hard to pinpoint just one quality of Freddie that makes him such a revered icon in both the LGBT and cishet (cisgender heterosexual) world, the way he expressed himself on stage clearly contributed to that standing. His unashamed partake in the iconic fashion of gay culture and performance is just one of many reasons why I love him.

Mercury is the person I look up to in literally any difficult situation. He went through some of the hardest things people could go through, and he still went out there and performed in a way only legends could. Freddie will forever be a light in my, and countless others’, lives. 

Freddie Mercury was closeted during his career, but it is now known he was a member of the LGBT community. 

His ex-fiancee and closest confidante, Mary Austin, believed he was gay. 

The man he called his husband, Jim Hutton, believed the same.

Watching the film for the first time opened my eyes to so many hidden parts of Freddie Mercury’s life and made me feel so close to the lead singer of Queen. I would have never known about Mercury’s long-time boyfriend without it. 

Though this story was slightly altered during the film, Jim met Freddie in a gay club, where Mercury took a liking to him. They soon began dating. Hutton even moved into Freddie’s mansion, where he gardened for him-- perhaps, the gayest thing I have ever heard. Jim and Freddie remained together until Mercury’s death in 1991, when Freddie died of pneumonia caused by AIDS. Hutton also was HIV-positive, but died in 2010 of cancer. 

(Left: Hutton, left, sharing a kiss with Mercury, right. Right: Jim giving Freddie a bath while the latter sings)

A letter from Freddie to Jim

In 1994, Hutton published a book titled Mercury and Me, where he detailed the nature of his relationship with the Queen frontman. In the novel, it became clear to the general public that Mercury was a gay man who had been in a loving relationship with another man. Though they could not legally married, they still considered themselves a marries couple. With his sexuality much speculated throughout his career, this gave confirmation to the suspicions that he was not straight. 

Even though Freddie was pretty much a “gay icon” during his career, the knowledge that he was gay gave him that official title posthumously. (Perhaps he even is the Gay Icon.)

Freddie Mercury’s personality, voice, style, and every other aspect of him cannot be reproduced completely, but Malek did a damn good job. 

Freddie is a legend that will never die. He will always be number one in my book. This movie has brought new life to him and Queen’s music and I am so grateful that young people, including myself, are learning more and more about him due to it. 

Click here to listen to the songs that are quintessential Freddie.

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