Uh oh. Is this another opinion piece about various, unrelated topics? You bet it is. I know what you’re thinking. “A woman with opinions? Burn her at the stake!” While you may be right, you’ll never take me alive.
Obviously, if you read my blog, you care about what I have to say. So, despite my facetiousness, I really don’t have any qualms about sharing my opinions with you. Besides, it’s my blog. I’ll write what I want on it. And what am I writing about today? Settle in, this could take a while.
- So There’s More Bohemian Rhapsody Controversy— Here’s My Hot Take
As you know, I recently saw Bohemian Rhapsody and loved it. I gave it a glowing review, while also addressing the prior controversies over this film. And— spoiler alert for November’s Music of the Month post— I’ve been listening to Queen almost non-stop for the week and a half since. I’m not ashamed to say the movie turned me from a casual listener to a full-blown fan.
Of course, not everybody felt that way. Among those who had problems with the film are gay people. The film is now receiving backlash for how Freddie Mercury’s gayness was portrayed. One critic even said the other members of Queen must’ve hated Freddie, if their involvement was what turned the movie into what it is. But what was so harmful about the movie’s depiction of Freddie’s gayness?
Well, according to these critics, the film portrays Freddie’s gayness as a self-destructive trait. The suggestion, they say, is that being gay was his ultimate downfall. I’m not going to tell anyone how to feel, especially the gay people (many of whom are gay men, the group most impacted by the AIDS crisis and who still live with the stigma to this day) who saw this movie and felt this way. What I am going to say is that I’m gay and I didn’t interpret it this way at all.
Firstly, before anyone feels the need to correct me, “gay” is being used as an umbrella term in this case. As far as we know, Freddie Mercury never used a label and experienced attraction to multiple genders. No one is erasing this fact by criticizing or praising this film’s handling of his gayness. In fact, even I think it could’ve been handled with more nuance. The film should’ve done more to show that Freddie’s attraction to his ex-wife was just as valid and real as his attraction to his eventual boyfriend. I don’t think the film did a terrible job, I just think it focused too much on same-sex attraction over multiple-gender attraction.
Also, I’m speaking only about claims on how the movie portrays Freddie’s gayness and whether or not it implies he developed AIDS as a consequence of being gay. I am not speaking about how Freddie or anyone else contracted the disease in real life. That’s not to say there aren’t real-life implications in this. How this movie portrays Freddie, both in general and in his gayness, will color how people view the real Freddie Mercury. If you believe the film implies his gayness was his downfall and that AIDS was his punishment, you will see it as having a negative impact on his legacy (and gay men as a whole). If you believe the film does not imply this and may even be striving to do the opposite, you will see it as being a gateway to learning more about the real Freddie Mercury (and hopefully multiple-gender attraction).
So, how do people like myself interpret the film’s overall portrayal in a wildly different manner to some gay critics? Personally, I think it comes down to looking at the bigger picture vs. focusing on one aspect of Mercury and his “decline.”
Freddie Mercury is not always depicted favorably in this film. Sometimes he is, but sometimes he’s kind of an asshole. I found this to be honest. Mercury is shown as flawed, like any human is. This “bad behavior” starts increasing as his marriage with Mary falls apart. After their divorce, he’s shown as deeply sad and lonely. I mean, just imagine it. You feel that high of being on stage, beloved by hundreds and thousands. You give an interview and know that millions of people are listening in because they care about what you have to say. And then you go home to your empty house and it all comes crashing down.
During this period, two things really start negatively impacting Freddie’s life: drug use and Paul Fetch. Freddie throws lavish parties filled with people he doesn’t know. He starts showing up late to work and slowly begins to drive his friends away. He watches Mary move on with another man and wonders why he can’t seem to do the same. I interpreted all this as a sign of a mental health issue.
In this fragile mental state, Freddie turns to drugs and alcohol. He’s also in a prime position for Paul Fetch to swoop in and slowly cleave his way between Freddie and the rest of the band. He manipulates Freddie, takes him to places he’s not entirely comfortable, and lies to him at every turn. And Freddie, vulnerable and often high, lets him.
While all this is happening, Mercury is also finally exploring his attraction to men. He’s being raked through the coals by the media over his sexuality. He’s labeled as too shocking— too queer— for the public. As such, I can understand why some people view this as an issue of his gayness being his “downfall.” We also have to acknowledge that queerness and risqué behavior (like drug use) have often been tied together in the general public’s mind. But is it enough to say that’s what the movie (and thus, the other members of the band) are trying to say?
To answer that, I turn to the last half hour or so of the movie. Freddie realizes Paul has been a snake all along and fires him. He decides to reconnect with the rest of the band. A few of these scenes in particular, to me, suggest that this interpretation doesn’t have enough context to hold weight (though I welcome evidence from the movie that says otherwise).
The first scene is the one where Freddie reconnects with his friends. He comes to them with humility, acknowledging that he treated them poorly and apologizing. This is the first time in a long time that he has seemed like their Freddie. He’s got a plan to get his life back on track. He’s learning to love himself. This shows Brian, Roger, and John that they can trust Freddie again.
The next scene is the one in which Freddie confesses to his friends that he has AIDS. Nowhere is this treated as a consequence of his actions, let alone his gayness. Instead, his friends are heartbroken. They’ve finally gotten him back only to lose him again. But they respect his wishes and don’t make a big deal about his diagnosis nor do they reveal it to anyone. They respect both his privacy and his decision. Moreover, this is the first time where Freddie actually talks to his friends about what he’s going through and how he’s feeling. This, again, shows growth.
The last scene isn’t really a scene per se, but rather a collection of moments. Freddie finds Jim, ready to start a relationship now that he’s learned to love himself. For the first time in the film, we see him proudly and openly date a man. He takes Jim to meet his family and brings him backstage to Live Aid. His friends are explicitly happy for him. We’re even told during the credits that Freddie and Jim continued their relationship until Freddie’s passing in 1991. We’re also told that Freddie remained friends with Mary as well. In fact, the entire Live Aid scene is shown as an overwhelming success, causing the amount of donations to skyrocket.
Hollywood liberty? Probably. But I think it helps prove my point. Yes, Freddie does have a huge downfall, but he gets back up. He spends the rest of his life surrounded by people who love him and doing what he loves. In the end, his gayness— and everything else about him— is celebrated.
Wow, I really went on and on here. Here’s a TL;DR for this section: Some gay critics say Freddie Mercury’s gayness is portrayed as self-destructive and the cause of his downfall. I disagree, believing those critics are focusing solely on Freddie’s sexuality and not on his character (used both to refer to the film’s portrayal and the actual man’s overall self) as a whole. In fact, I think the movie is instead opting for an honest depiction of Freddie Mercury, flaws and all. It’s not perfect, but it’s not demonizing either. (Please don’t revoke my gay club membership.)
UPDATE: I actually would like to address this interpretation with historical context. In real life, Freddie Mercury wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS until 1987. The film ends in 1985 with the historic Live Aid performance. Given the fact that the filmmakers played with the timeline a little, I can better see why some feel the movie portrays Mercury’s diagnosis as a punishment for his gayness.
After all, the film places his diagnosis during his narrative low point. He’s alone, having just discovered Paul’s treachery. Prior to this, he’d been spotted with countless men. It’s not hard to come to that conclusion.
However, to me, this reads more as a typical narrative film structure than a condemnation of Mercury. Again, see the evidence I laid out above. If anything, it seems as if the film wanted to portray Freddie as thriving while living with AIDS. After all, he ends the film at his happiest— openly in a healthy relationship with a man and doing what he loves most in the world. Any suggestion that contracting AIDS was his punishment for being queer is accidental.
This isn’t even the only chronological liberty the film takes. The recording session for their first album, for example, actually features a song from their second album. Moreover, EMI didn’t sign them until after their third album. But that doesn’t make for a streamlined story. Does that mean they had to move Freddie’s diagnosis to two years earlier? No, but they probably would’ve gotten a lot of flack if they didn’t address it at all and they clearly wanted to end the film on a high note.
As for the band’s falling out, the film takes liberties here as well. Obviously, it was not all Freddie’s fault the band went on hiatus. Each member of the band was responsible. But this is a Freddie Mercury biopic, not Queen. It’s going to focus on him. So no, we didn’t get any nuance on this issue (aside from the band later agreeing to split the money for each of their songs four ways). But we also didn’t get any nuance on the other members of the band, period. We hardly get to know them here. This film is, quite literally, The Freddie Mercury Show.
So, all in all, I understand the criticisms a little more given the historical context. I just don’t think that was the intent of either the filmmakers or the other members of Queen to imply that Mercury contracting AIDS was a punishment for his gayness.
TL;DR for this update: Historical context lends more credence to the assertion that the film portrays Freddie’s gayness as the reason he develops AIDS. However, given the evidence I provided in my original essay and typical Hollywood narrative structures, I still don’t think this is the intent or, necessarily, the case.
2. Can You Fire Someone From Writing Their Own Series? Asking for a Friend.
So, The Crimes of Grindelwald is out. According to countless reviews from Harry Potter fans and casual viewers alike, it’s god awful. I almost want to see it just so I can include it on my Worst Movies of 2018 list. But I ain’t paying for that shit.
It seems like JK Rowling is more focused on reminding us that she wrote Harry Potter than actually telling a good story. It is, as everyone says, a cash grab.
As I haven’t seen it myself, I don’t want to offer my own criticism of the spoilers I’ve seen. I fear I’d only be repeating what those who have seen it have said. Instead, check out this review by Buzzfeed (I know, but it’s a thorough review) or watch Jenny Nicholson’s take on the film.
3. The Lion King remake is unnecessary and I can’t wait.
The Lion King is my favorite movie of all time. Ever since Disney announced they’d be doing a live-action remake, I’ve been skeptical. Well, the trailer finally dropped yesterday. It’s just as I thought— all CGI, no live action.
Moreover, based on the trailer, it’s a shot-for-shot remake of the original. Why even bother wasting all that money if you’re not even going to tell a new story? All that said, you know your girl was in tears watching it. It’s the most pointless movie ever made and you bet your ass I’m seeing that shit in theaters.
Long live the king.
4. LM5? More Like LMWhy.
I’ve always liked Little Mix. Each girl in the group is a fantastic singer and their music is fun and empowering. However, when they announced their fifth album’s title was LM5 (something typically used as a placeholder until the real album title is revealed), I felt a sense of foreboding. Couple that with three singles ranging from underwhelming (“Woman Like Me” and “Told You So”) to downright terrible (“Joan of Arc”), and I was afraid this album was going to be a mess.
As it turns out, I was right. I think I only like three songs off this entire album (“Motivate,” “More Than Words,” and “American Boy”). I don’t know if this is because my music taste has changed or if this album really is a letdown. It just feels like they’re retreading ground they’ve covered before, but worse. It saddens me to say, but I really did not like this album.
I still encourage you to check out L5 for yourself. Because, even if I was disappointed, I can’t bear to see a girl group fail.
5. Leave! Demi! ALONE!!!!
Earlier this month, Demi Lovato checked out of rehab. After a three-month stint, she is absolutely glowing. She looks happy and healthy… except, of course, when the paparazzi won’t leave her alone.
Look, I get it. They’re just doing their jobs. But she’s fresh out of rehab and is clearly doing everything in her power to stay out of the public eye right now. Can they at least wait until she officially returns to the business before they start snapping pictures?
I want whatever is best for Demi. Due to her silence, I’d guess what’s best for her right now is readjusting to life outside rehab and focusing on her physical and mental health. She’s taking this time to cut out the toxic people in her life and figure out who truly cares for her. So why can’t we just leave her alone and let her?
And for the love of god, quit it with the overdose memes. They’re weren’t funny when it happened and they’re definitely not funny now. Stop saying you wish she’d died instead of Mac Miller. You realize she’s a human person, right? You’re saying this about a person with feelings and emotions. If you do this, you’re garbage— full stop.
In conclusion, let Demi heal and don’t be an asshole. The End. Love, Ren Strange
P.S. Demi’s first post out of rehab being about her doing her civic duty and voting? We stan a responsible queen.
And there you have it. These are the topics I’ve been making pretend YouTube videos about (You do it too and you know it). Do you agree? Disagree? Have a thought I didn’t think of that relates to any of these things? Tell me all that and more down in the comments!