Killer Queen: The Trouble with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Trigger warning:  Bryan Singer, sexual assault, sexual abuse against minors.

This essay is by our guest writer, Lindsay Miller.

It was announced a few days ago that Bryan Singer would be receiving directing credits for the upcoming Queen/Freddie Mercury biopic, despite being fired three months into principal photography due to his “unexpected availability” on set.  And while his replacement, Dexter Fletcher, directly expressed not wanting the credits himself in an interview last month, this brings up yet another issue in the ongoing saga that I like to call: Bohemian Rhapsody Hell.

I was not planning on seeing this movie before this news was announced.  I love Queen and I love Rami Malek, but nothing about this project really seemed to spark my interest besides the awesome photos of Malek in that Mercury Mustache.  It just kinda seemed like the standard music biopic that comes out once a year to pretty good reviews but is then altogether forgotten in six weeks time.  It is rare for movies of this nature to transcend the border of mediocrity, either due to the film itself or because of poor marketing. When both elements are seemingly in sync, you get a hit like Walk The Line or Ray but when one of them fails, you get duds like CBGB.

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To many, Bohemian Rhapsody seems to be on the fast track to success thanks to Malek’s casting (“Somebody just give Rami his Oscar already”) and the overall attention the movie is getting from the media. But despite my overall apathy, I really cannot bring myself to support this film in theaters for one reason and one reason only: Bryan Singer.

If you are reading this, I assume you are pretty up to date on everything that has been going down in the entertainment industry as of late, particularly the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.  If not, a brief recap:

On October 10, 2017, the New Yorker published an article exposing the sexual misconduct allegations against the famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.  The article opened the floodgates and since then, many women have come forward with their own stories of abuse at the hands of important people in Hollywood, including Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, and Bryan Singer.

A lot of people were shocked by these allegations, myself included.  It was incredibly upsetting to come to terms with the fact that someone I had admired for so long had done such terrible things.

At one point I just got fed up and stopped feeling sad because at the end of the day, my disappointment was doing nothing for the victims of this abuse and if anything, it was further drowning out their voices in favor of my ambivalence towards some classic movie that I’ve seen once and that’s just not fair.  So I swallowed my inner fanboy and watched as reputations and contracts were torn up one by one and you know what? It felt good to see people finally be held accountable for their actions. It really was about time.

This is what bugs me so much about Bryan Singer directing Bohemian Rhapsody. By the time his name became attached to the project in 2016, he had already been accused of sexually assaulting a minor twice, and while both cases were eventually thrown out at the request of the plaintiff, this news still stuck with people. Singer is mentioned multiple times in An Open Secret, a documentary on sexual abuse against minors in Hollywood. Not only is the man notoriously difficult to work with (as seen by the multiple times he was absent from a set) but he also has a whole list of awful grievances against him. Many people have spoken out about these allegations in the past, so why was Singer still hired to direct this movie?  

I chalk it up to the system which is something I hate to do.  Back in 2016, abusers in Hollywood were still very much under the radar and had no problems getting work.  A lot of people in the entertainment industry didn’t know the extent of this problem and sometimes when they did, they looked the other way in order to turn a profit. And this acceptance by the industry, whether voluntary or not, is what ultimately swayed the public opinion about these people. It was not until multiple voices began speaking up about these injustices that people began to pay attention.

There are people that do not see things the way I do and they are allowed to think that. Yes, it’s upsetting to me that Singer will be receiving directing credits, but it also makes total sense considering there were less than three weeks left on the shoot. I’m just happy that the studio fired him for being completely unprofessional, as they should. Anyone is free to see Bohemian Rhapsody in theaters if they want to, regardless of their reasoning. I have no right to stop that or to judge them in making that decision. Hell – I love Rami Malek, too. Please give him an Oscar.

These topics are complicated and touchy and not many people want to wade into something as messy as systemic abuse in Hollywood.  I get that. But these are issues that cannot be ignored anymore. We as filmmakers, film lovers, human beings, need to be critical of who is creating the art our society consumes because it instills in us ethics and values that we do not always agree with. Films may be made by many, many people but at the end of the day it’s the biggest name on that poster that gets the praise and ultimately sets the legacy. I’m not comfortable letting Bryan Singer have that platform when so many people in this industry have spoken out against him. There are so many talented individuals in this world that could have done the job just as well, if not better than him. They need to be given that opportunity and the only way that is going to happen is if we stop blindly accepting who is making the content we consume.

More info:

The Deeper Significance of Bryan Singer’s Firing

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