Why Queen’s New Biopic is No Rhapsody for Young Artists

October 31, 2018  |  art / people / psychology  | 

As a teenager, I was a crazy Queen fan. T-shirts, figurines, DVDs of live concerts and music videos, with obsessive recollection of the track listings of every Queen album. I loved Freddie and his story most of all. I would read bios written by anyone and everyone to learn as much as I could about his journey.
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Bohemian Rhapsody does no justice to that journey.
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The film is as grandiose, pompous and cliche as a good many Queen tracks but it does a huge disservice to future artists by the way it tells Freddie & the band’s story. There is no suggestion as to how Freddie became a musician, no inkling as to how he grew as a performer. He enters the film as a fully formed superstar destined for stardom and stardom is dutifully delivered. The impression that a talent, voice and presence as immense as Freddie Mercury’s was something ever present tells young artists “you either have it or you don’t” and if you have it, your rise to meteoric fame will be easy. There was no exploration of the struggle, the tireless grind, the growth, obsession and commitment of his story. The part I always found the most interesting and inspiring.
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In addition to this, the film expertly paints characters as one-dimensional heroes and villain (guess who’s the hero – spoiler, it’s Queen) and reduces homosexuality to moustaches and a leather-clad gay club montage (no.)
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I’m sure my fourteen year old self would have loved the film – the fabulous outfits, the awesome soundtrack, the glossy, vintage glimpse into an epic band’s rise to glory. However, my older, more cynical self sees how destructive representations of success can be in the eyes of young, impressionable creatives. Making Freddie’s journey come off as a “bed of roses” or “pleasure cruise” makes it all the more difficult for people to recognise that effort is an essential ingredient to any success story. Although, if you’d prefer to keep kidding yourself and see rockstars as divine entities with untouched, god-given talents who were always bound for greatness then you might enjoy this film. However, my suggestion would be to go back, listen to their records beginning to end, and let the music speak for itself. That’s Freddie’s true legacy and his story – told when he had the voice to tell it.

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NB: If you’re hungry for some musician biopics with a little more grit or insight, some of my favourites are Tina & Ike’s story in Whats Love Got To Do With It, the last days of Brian Jones in Stoned, early Beatles story with Backbeat and The Doors.



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