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Appearing on Fox News on Sunday morning, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lambasted Hollywood for censoring scenes with gay content in the Chinese release of Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Yes, that Ted Cruz.
Amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed over 67,000 lives in the United States as of May 4, Cruz has introduced new legislation to Congress that aims to tackle film censorship in foreign markets.
Specifically, Politico reports, Cruz’s Script Act would ban the Department of Defense from cooperating with film studios that edit content to appease censors in China.
In a statement, the senator said the legislation would “serve as a wake-up call by forcing Hollywood studios to choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China.”
During the interview on Sunday, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo said that Chinese censors had “really bullied Hollywood and Hollywood producers roll over about it. You’ve mentioned a couple of films before Top Gun, Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Cruz agreed, saying it “really is tragic that Hollywood has been willing, over and over again, to kowtow to the Chinese communists and let the Chinese government censor American movies.”
He mentioned Top Gun, which featured a reworked version of lead character Maverick’s jacket that omitted the Taiwanese and Japanese flags, adding, “we’re saying Maverick is afraid of the damn Chinese communists.”
Bartiromo then turned to Bohemian Rhapsody, the Oscar-winning musical biopic about bisexual Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Chinese censors excised around three minutes of references to and depictions of Mercury’s same-sex relationships in the cut of the film that reached theaters in the country.
“How about Bohemian Rhapsody?” Bartiromo asked. “The Chinese communist government wanted them to edit out part when [Mercury] was gay? How do you tell the story of Bohemian Rhapsody and not say that Freddie was gay?”
“You don’t,” Cruz responded. “But Hollywood was more than happy to edit the scene out. They did it because the Chinese government didn’t want to acknowledge that Freddy Mercury was homosexual. Look, that’s a huge part of the story!”
“The problem is Hollywood is more interested in making millions of dollars from the Chinese market than they are in free speech, than they are in artistic integrity,” Cruz said. “What the Script Act says is if you want access to the Pentagon, you can’t let the Chinese censor their movies.”
Watch the segment below:
While Cruz’s support for LGBTQ content in mainstream Hollywood films is admirable, it is unlikely to continue beyond the specifics of the Script Act.
And while Chinese censors have been targeted for Bohemian Rhapsody, it is not alone in censoring — or even outright banning — LGBTQ-themed films.
Last year, Russian censors removed five minutes of footage from Elton John biopic, enough to remove all instances of gay sex or same-sex relationships from the film, including a pivotal scene showing the singer and his manager John Reid having sex for the first time.
In addition, scenes showing drug and alcohol abuse were also cut — which only further hampers the version of the film being distributed in Russia, as Elton John’s downward spiral into substance abuse is a central part of the narrative.
Delta Air Lines was also criticized last year for reportedly stripping “almost every gay reference” from a version of Rocketman shown on its planes. The edit had removed a “chaste kiss,” but left a scene featuring John Reid, Elton’s manager, assaulting him, according to one passenger.
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