Rami Malek accused of bi-erasure for calling Freddie Mercury “gay" during Oscars speech
25 February 2019, 12:26
Viewers of The Oscars are criticising Rami Malek for his Best Actor speech...
Every year the Oscars provides us with its fair share of comedy, controversy and candid heartfelt, moments. From its fashion to its speeches, the prestigious awards ceremony never fails to make headlines. 2019 was no different. First of all, there was no host this year (Kevin Hart refused to apologise for homophobic tweets), then there were the snubs (and memes) and now Rami Malek is facing backlash.
Rami won the Best Actor award for his role as Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. The controversial film had already received backlash for being directed by alleged sexual predator Bryan Singer and for glossing over Freddie's sexual identity. Now people are mad at Rami's speech. In it, he calls Freddie "gay", despite the fact that Freddie had relationships with both men and women.
After thanking his parents, the Academy, his cast and Queen, Rami stated: "We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant who lived his life unapologetically himself and the fact that I'm celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we're longing for stories like this". The sentiment was sweet but fans were disappointed that Rami called Freddie "gay".
Here are just a few of the reactions.
Bisexual and gay is not the same thing. Put some respect on Freddie’s identity. #Oscars— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) February 25, 2019
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.— ✨ɯɐɥɓuıuunɔ uıɹǝʞ✨ ECCC Q9 (@KerinCunningham) February 25, 2019
I cannot think of a more poignant example of bi erasure than the actor who said the words “I think I’m bisexual” on screen calling Freddie Mercury gay in his Oscars acceptance speech.— Bryce Hammer (@BryceHammmmer) February 25, 2019
I really don't need Rami Malek stans down my throat, BUT FREDDIE WAS BISEXUAL AND BRIAN SINGER IS A CHILD MOLESTER.— ❄️Ashley J. Leckwold❄️ (@misskittyf) February 25, 2019
Freddie never publicly labeled his sexuality but it's widely believed that he was bisexual or queer. In the film itself, Rami says "I think I'm bisexual" as Freddie and then his fiancée, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) says "No, Freddie. You’re gay.” The scene is a candid portrayal of the ways in which bisexual and queer identities are routinely dismissed even by close, loved ones.
Given this context, it seems odd that Rami called Freddie "gay" in his speech and didn't call him bisexual or queer. Labels are important and getting them wrong is not acceptable, particularly when you're playing someone LGBTQ+. With that in mind, it's no surprise that people are calling out Rami for bi-erasure (even if Freddie never publicly identified as bi).
As it stands, Rami is yet to respond to the backlash for his speech.