Despite facing censorship over its bisexual lead, Bohemian Rhapsody has topped the box office in at least 12 countries with anti-LGBTQ laws.
Almost two weeks after its U.S. release, the biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury has hit #1 in nine nations where same-sex marriage is banned under the constitution. According to numbers from Box Office Mojo, these countries include Bolivia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Paraguay, Poland, and Slovakia.
The Bryan Singer-directed film also made its way to the top in Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
While Turkey hasn’t formally outlawed same-sex unions and a voter referendum on the subject failed in Romania earlier this year, both countries have laws on the books prohibiting LGBTQ people from donating blood. Ukraine has LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws at the federal level but prohibits same-sex couples from adopting children.
Meanwhile, Russia passed an anti-gay propaganda law in 2013 outlawing the spread of information on “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors. Its unanimous passage led to a twofold increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ people.
Bohemian Rhapsody also went all the way to #2 in Serbia, where same-sex marriage is illegal, and #4 in Turkey, where anti-LGBTQ discrimination is legal.
While full box office data is not available for Indonesia, the film is likely to have debuted near the top of the box office there. Bohemian Rhapsody earned more than $1 million in its first week in Indonesian theaters.
Homosexuality is legal in Indonesia everywhere except the semi-independent province of Aceh, where those convicted of sodomy are subjected to public lashings under Sharia law. But amid a recent crackdown against the LGBTQ community, the once-permissive nation has weighed legislation criminalizing same-sex intercourse as part a proposal outlawing premarital relations.
To date, Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed more than $290 million worldwide. It’s already the third-highest grossing LGBTQ film ever in the U.S., where it has amassed over $104 million in its first 11 days of release.
But as the musical drama continues to roll out to more foreign territories with anti-LGBTQ laws on the books, it’s likely to face controversy.
In Malaysia, censors have snipped at least three minutes of footage depicting Mercury’s relationships with men and women. One of the scenes which was reportedly met with objections from the Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF) was a moment in which the singer (played by Rami Malek) confesses to then-fiancee Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) that he’s bisexual.
Footage excised included “men kissing each other, men rubbing each other, and a group of men in dresses partying in a mansion,” as board chairman Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz told Malay Mail.
Other reports, however, suggested that up to 24 minutes of material was cut from the film, resulting in “huge plot holes.”
As of 2010, its film censorship board bans any depiction of LGBTQ people in media, unless the characters “repent” or die. Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, which featured the studio’s first “exclusively gay moment,” faced similar criticism to Bohemian Rhapsody under those guidelines. Censors, however, eventually backed off threats to make major cuts to the film.
In Malaysia, individuals accused of same-sex intercourse face up to 20 years in prison under its colonial laws banning sodomy.
Conversely, criticism of Bohemian Rhapsody from audiences in the U.S. and U.K claimed the film didn’t go far enough in its depiction of Mercury’s sexuality, accusing the movie of straight-washing the queer icon. His sexual relationships with men, including partner Jim Hutton, largely take place offscreen.
Meanwhile, the singer’s HIV diagnosis is portrayed as leading to his “downfall,” despite the fact that he didn’t contract the virus until well after the film’s events take place.