Bryan Fuller, the mastermind behind TV shows like "Hannibal" and "Pushing Daisies," noticed something important not included in the trailer: Mercury's sexual orientation.
"Anyone else mildly annoyed (enough to tweet about it) that the #BohemianRhapsody trailer features gay/bi superstar Freddie Mercury flirting with and twirling with a woman but no indication of his love of men?" Fuller tweeted.
(There does appear to be a split-second moment in the trailer showing Malek's Mercury close to a man, for what it's worth.)
Fuller also responded to the studio's description of the film, in which it vaguely describes Mercury as "facing a life-threatening illness."
"Yes, it was a life-threatening illness, but more specifically it was AIDS. From having gay sex with men. Do better," Fuller wrote.
Fuller's concerns seem legitimate given that, in an interview explaining his departure from the film, Sacha Baron Cohen lamented the surviving members of Queen's micromanagement of the project and desire to make this a story about the band rather than the individual, downplaying Mercury's HIV/AIDS diagnosis.
Fuller elaborated on his tweets and LGBTQ representation in the media.
"It's important because of Hollywood's long history of erasing queer history, or at the very least minimizing it," Fuller writes. "Even Mary Austin, who Freddie Mercury called the love of his life, somewhat famously corrected Mercury when he told her he was bisexual: 'No, Freddie, you're gay.'"
"By emphasizing heteronormative images without a balance of same-sex images, the marketing folks are making a statement of what content they feel more comfortable putting forward about this film," he continues. "Judging from this trailer alone, it felt to me like queer erasure — regarding Freddie Mercury’s bisexuality or his relationships with men [that] felt conspicuously absent, or rather significantly de-emphasized."
Bryan Fuller onstage during a panel discussion at the 2016 Television Critics Association Summer Tour. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.
"The use of 'life-threatening illness' in the publicity material smacked so disturbingly of Reagan-era AIDS denial, my ass was triggered like Roy Rogers," he adds. "Representation matters. If a story I'm telling isn't necessarily a queer one, I want to make sure the audience understands there is a queer one telling it."
Fuller has talked about this topic at length in years past, often in the context of how, despite his best efforts, higher-ups would quash his attempts to provide representation on TV. During his acceptance speech for the 2017 Outfest Achievement Award, Fuller reflected on the state of representation now and at the beginning of his career.
"The first show I created was called 'Dead Like Me.' As a proud homosexual, I wanted to represent queer characters," he said during the speech:
"[The protagonist] George's father was gay, and as the product of a gay person who bred despite better instincts, George's life was an even greater miracle — and that she lost it so young an even greater tragedy. Mandy Patinkin's monologue would write itself — except it didn't. The studio and the showrunner made the character straight, and I was powerless to stop them."
Looking at his own career, from the complete straightwashing of the characters he created in "Dead Like Me" to the queerbaiting (where it's suggested that one or more characters in a show might be LGBTQ but is never actually addressed) of "Pushing Daisies" and "Hannibal" to the upfront portrayal of queer characters in "American Gods," it's easy to see that there has been progress in this area.
Even so, the fact that a biopic of queer icon Freddie Mercury dances around such an essential part of his life and death shows just how much more there's left to go.