In celebration of the Seollal (Lunar New Year) holidays in Korea, the television broadcasting channel SBS aired the beloved American movie, Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie premiered in Korea back in 2018, immediately becoming a national hit, and it currently remains the most watched musical film in the history of Korean movie screening.
As a biographical film about the British rock band Queen‘s lead singer, Bohemian Rhapsody includes a scene in which the actor Rami Malek portraying Freddie Mercury kisses actor Aaron McCusker portraying Jim Hutton.
This romantic scene has since been considered iconic, as it captures the romantic interaction between Freddie and Jim, partners who eventually become inseparable.
When SBS aired the movie on February 13 at 8:40PM — as a Saturday nighttime special, however, the channel opted to omit the scene entirely from the movie. In fact, according to Korean viewers, all other same-sex kiss scenes from the original had been blurred as well, if omitting seemed unfit “for the music’s sake.” After promoting this broadcast to be “The World’s First Television Premiere,” the censorship greatly underwhelmed the viewers.
Soon after, SBS faced blatant criticism from Korean viewers who claimed, “There is no need to censor Freddie’s sexuality when the movie is supposed to be biographical.” Some also condemned SBS as homophobic, calling out the channel’s “two-sidedness” of wanting to bring in the views with the movie, but feeling the need to delete the kiss scene.
- “Here we are, in 2021… but nothing has changed at all. LOL. If this is how you’re going to air things, please don’t air them at all.”
- “You know, if the LGBT scenes would become problematic for some reason, the channel should not have chosen this movie in the first place. How could they omit that scene, these dumb idiots.”
- “Play the movie as is, please.”
- “Wow… I’m embarrassed. This is disrespect to the movie and Freddie Mercury. This is legitimately SBS saying, ‘We don’t like that Freddie’s sexuality, but we like the money his biographical movie will bring to the channel.’ Am I wrong?”
Koreans also pointed out “the audacity to be so hypocritical,” citing SBS News‘s March 2019 coverage on how the LGBT scenes in Bohemian Rhapsody got censored in China.
SBS has not yet responded to the public frustration.