Some viewers of the Oscars are not happy actor Rami Malek described Freddie Mercury as a ‘gay man’ in his Oscars acceptance speech.
On Sunday night (24 February), Malek won Best Actor for his role as Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
The film has been dogged by controversy since being in production. Fox fired original director Bryan Singer from the film, and then an explosive Atlantic article detailed rape accusations against him.
Still, all of this did not stop Academy voters from awarding Malek with Best Actor last night.
In his speech, he addressed the audience: ‘We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically as himself.’
His words continued the controversy and debate around the film and its portrayal of Mercury — a bisexual man with HIV. Many people took to Twitter to express their disappointment with the apparent bisexual erasure.
A film aimed at straight people?
rami malek got an academy award for playing freddie mercury but doesn't know him well enough to know that he was bisexual and not gay, ok.
— Kerin ☾ MCR KICKSTARTER 6/23 (@KerinCunningham) February 25, 2019
How are you at the pinnacle of awards season and STILL calling the REAL PERSON you portrayed gay when he was NOT GAY?! Dammit Rami!
— Mx. Amadi (@amaditalks) February 25, 2019
Some, however, defended Malek’s speech given Mercury never labeled or specified his sexuality. It was known he had relationships with both men and women, but he never explicitly described himself as bisexual.
You know what? We don't know what Freddie Mercury's sexuality was! We don't know. (I mean, obviously, queer as the sea.) But he lived and was famous in a hugely homophobic time and was EXTREMELY private. So maybe he isn't the right poster child for the ~bi erasure~ discourse
— death nell (@theneliad) February 25, 2019
A reminder that Freddie Mercury never revealed his sexuality to the public so it’s not okay to spread things around like “HE WAS BISEXUAL!!” Having a relationship with 1 woman doesn’t determine your sexuality and he’s the only one who truly knew himself.
— kayleigh☁️ (@aimeralafolie) February 25, 2019
This was not where the debate around Malek’s speech — and representation in Bohemian Rhapsody at large — ended, though.
Many critics described the movie as lacking any meaningful or nuanced depiction of Mercury’s identity as a queer man and an immigrant.
Wellll….I'm happy Rami Malek identified Bohemian Rhapsody as a movie about a gay man. I wish someone had told the screenwriters.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) February 25, 2019
Others also pointed out that Malek failed to mention Mercury’s HIV status, and that this movie was ‘aimed at’ Queen’s straight fans.
In keeping with the theme of the movie, Rami Malik doesn’t mention HIV/AIDS once.
— Phillip Henry (@MajorPhilebrity) February 25, 2019
It's probably safe to say that HIV/AIDS activsists, gays AND bisexuals *all* feel a little cheated by the chat around Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen are happy, as are their straight fans, which was who the film was aimed at. So, there's that. pic.twitter.com/GfuW64H3Ay
— Stewart Who? (@DJstewartwho) February 25, 2019
With his win, Malek became the first Egyptian-American actor to take home the Best Actor prize.