Where’s the racial outrage against this miscasting?

Last night, the world got its first look at Rami Malek portraying the late, great Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the upcoming biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” via Entertainment Weekly.

Malek is Egyptian Coptic, Mercury was Zanzibari Parsee.

There should be outrage about this, right? The appalling cutural appropriation of someone of the wrong race and background taking a role?

Or is it that vaguely brown people are all the same these days?

46 thoughts on “Where’s the racial outrage against this miscasting?”

  1. I don’t get this apparently universal love for Queen.

    When I say that I think they are overrated, I get blank looks, followed by a list of songs that apparently evidence their genius.

    Radio Ga Ga is not proof of much at all. Bohemian Rhapsody even less so. Although Leno Riefenstahl would probably have done a great live film of one of their gigs.

  2. John Square,

    I think they’re fine, but like Bowie, it’s nearly all in the arrangement, performance, production. Almost no-one covers Bowie or Queen songs.

  3. Orwell’s rules apply: if you don’t have words to express your complaint, it’s not a problem.

    Thus, only ethnicities with widely-recognised names count. You shouldn’t have an Italian-American mobster role played by an Irish-American actor; but actors from most of the rest of Europe fall into the generic “white American” label.

    This leads to some oddities. The movie Hidden Figures was based on the life of Katherine Johnson, an African-American NASA mathematician who (going by photos from the time) could pass for white on a cloudy day. But because she was labelled African-American, it was acceptable to have her part played by a much darker-skinned actress.

    In the case of Freddie Mercury, the terms “Egyptian Coptic” and “Zanzibari Parsee” simply aren’t familiar to most people. Any complaints would be met with glazed eyes.

  4. @ Roue le Jour-

    Spell check foxed it- Leni. Lemmie Riefenstahl played bass for Motorhead.

    @BiM4
    “I think they’re fine, but like Bowie, it’s nearly all in the arrangement, performance, production. Almost no-one covers Bowie or Queen songs”

    Nirvana- Man who Stole the world? Didn’t the Foos cover Under Pressure (as a twofer)?

    I think ‘fine’ is probably supportable, as far as Queen goes. It’s the ‘Genius’ label that floors me. The Who, who invented Heavy Metal can have that. Not a sorta prog, sorta rock, sorta pop band (although I acknowledge Barry’s ability as a front man).

  5. “Nirvana- Man who Stole the world? Didn’t the Foos cover Under Pressure (as a twofer)?”

    Yes. There’s a couple of good Bowie cover versions. That, and Beck’s version of Sound and Vision. But it’s not a lot. Bands like ABBA and The Kinks have more.

  6. I’m a fan of Queen, and I think that most of their best work didn’t get released as singles. The stadium rock stuff wasn’t as much fun as when they did pastiches of other styles. Try “Seaside Rendezvous”, “Sleeping on the Sidewalk”, “Good Company” or “The Millionaire Waltz”.

  7. Plus Brian May has seemingly become a bit of a twerp.

    Yes, well done to him for getting his PhD around age 60, but using “Dr. Brian May” on Twatter seems a little…. showy, no?

  8. Only born in Zanzibar by British Colonial accident, his father, a Parsee Indian civil servant, having been posted there by the Colonial Office

  9. “Malek is Egyptian Coptic, Mercury was Zanzibari Parsee.”

    Look, non-whites is* oppressed -> We is* homogenous (except, of course, when it’s in our interests not to be). Don’t try to play off Copts and Parsees, you racist, free-market scum…
    cont’d p.94

    *we reject your racist grammar

  10. The film is bound to be rubbish. Why? Because I was invited to be part of it 4 times, and four times they decided that after all, I wasn’t suitable. Jus’ tryin’ to work out if they are being wacist, fattist or ageist….

  11. Theophrastus said:
    “Look, non-whites is* oppressed -> We is* homogenous (except, of course, when it’s in our interests not to be).”

    Educational achievement, for example, where it is definitely not allowed to lump together black and asian.

  12. I rather like Queen. Not enough to pay to go to a concert but have several albums.
    Nice music. And they certainly sold plenty of music.

    Not to everyone’s taste. Then again I’m not into One Direction and they had a film made. Which I have no interest in seeing.
    I would see a film about Queen / Freddie – on TV anyway.

  13. @Martin

    I think the problem with all music films is as follows:

    If it’s for entertainment, it’ll be lies; if it’s a doc 90% of it will be facile. In both cases, it’ll be that way because the budgets required need the film to appeal to many people, a load of whom won’t give a shit about the artist beyond superficialities.*

    The exceptions are small budget films with limited aims about really big bands, who somehow represent an era. An example of a good film that meets those standards was Supersonic, about Oasis. An example of a film that tried to meet those standards, but failed was Eight Days a Week.

    *only bit of the Queen story I’m interested in- the Dwarf with the dish of coke.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    The spiritual heir to Freddie Mercury (and Marc Bolan, for that matter) is Luke Spiller from The Struts, probably the most fun band to have emerged in the last ten years. He’s got a touch of the Jaggers about him, too. He’s a white middle class boy from Derby, but who cares? Some of these people are so obsessed with the minutiae of racial classification they’d have Josef Mengele telling them to dial it back a bit.

  15. Best “Music” movie I’ve seen awhile is “Killing Bono”. Pretty sure the actors were all Irish. Apparently based on a true story.

    Wait, Bono has been killed? How did I miss this excellent news?

  16. The best music film is “The Last Waltz” It’s a load of concert footage and rambling interviews hurriedly cut together – by Martin Scorsese.

    That it all.

  17. @BiCR

    That singer from the Struts is more than Merciry’s spiritual heir- he’s almost a tribute act.

    Still, he looks like he’s having fun

  18. John Square,

    “If it’s for entertainment, it’ll be lies; if it’s a doc 90% of it will be facile. In both cases, it’ll be that way because the budgets required need the film to appeal to many people, a load of whom won’t give a shit about the artist beyond superficialities.*

    The exceptions are small budget films with limited aims about really big bands, who somehow represent an era. An example of a good film that meets those standards was Supersonic, about Oasis. An example of a film that tried to meet those standards, but failed was Eight Days a Week.”

    Yeah. Music biopics are best avoided because in order to get the rights to the music, they generally have to play nice. So, the worst parts of the character get ignored. So, the cheating on their wives or whatever don’t get covered.

    About the only film I’ve liked recently is Gimme Danger, the Jim Jarmusch documentary about Iggy and the Stooges. Mostly, because Jarmusch knows how to make a good film, and Iggy is fascinating to listen to.

  19. I saw a Queen tribute band once called Mercury Rising.

    They were pretty good.

    But the really weird thing was they were selling CDs at the front of the stage.

    And people were buying them.

    Oh, almost forgot. Murphy’s a cunt.

  20. I’m getting the hang of this cultural appropriation malarkey. Well, nearly.

    Every time I see a Black in a suit…

    You can see where I’m going here…

  21. Another Paul – there aren’t many Japanese actors of the likes of their greatest. Godzilla.
    He is appearing in fewer films these days.

  22. ZT – when doing a parody the rules are a little different and the words do get changed.
    Its not covering the song. Its taking the Michael usually.

  23. Oasis were the best band in the world for about 7 or 8 months in 1993/1994…”Supersonic” is the best comedy film EVER!

  24. Saw Queen do an early & not very well attended gig at Kingston Poly. The lead singer seemed somewhat…if you’ll excuse the expression…up himself. General impression taken away was crap but entirely suitable for the arsoles at Kingston Poly.

  25. “I don’t get this apparently universal love for Queen.
    When I say that I think they are overrated, I get blank looks”

    Of course you get blank looks. People are embrassed for you.

    “it’s nearly all in the arrangement, performance, production.”

    Not true at all. Yes, those things are great, but so are the songs.

    “Almost no-one covers Bowie or Queen songs.”

    Something of an overstatement — and Queen tribute bands are extremely popular – but irrelevant anyway. How can you follow Queen’s own performance? How can you follow Bowie’s? How many people do you hear covering Wuthering Heights?

  26. “Something of an overstatement — and Queen tribute bands are extremely popular – but irrelevant anyway. How can you follow Queen’s own performance? How can you follow Bowie’s? How many people do you hear covering Wuthering Heights?”

    Queen tribute bands are mimicking the performance of Queen. And yes, Wuthering Heights isn’t that good a song. It’s production and performance. Babooshka, Wow and This Woman’s Work are better.

  27. “Or is it that vaguely brown people are all the same these days?”

    Its this.

    Look, when ‘Ghost In The Shell’ announced that Scarlett Johanssen would get the role of a Japanese woman IN A FULL BODY PROSTHESIS (ie, her whole body sans brain is a robot) people freaked out that she was white and Kusanagi is Japanese – even though, as mentioned, she’s in an artificial body (and one, storywise, that was deliberately chosen for not standing out in a multicultural Neo-Tokyo that still has a fetish for western women).

    Alternative actresses were suggested by people – and they were all Korean or Chinese actresses who happened to be famous in the US at the time.

    Because it was ‘racist’ and ‘disrespectful to the Japanese’ to have this character played by a white woman but perfectly fine to have her played by one of the ethnicities that the Japanese have a loooooong history of hate with.

    Because, to Americans, the Japs, Koreans, and Chinese look alike and they didn’t think that maybe to the Japs, Koreans, and Chinese that they look very different and carry a lot of historical baggage.

  28. Agammamon

    One of the most wonderful features of identity politics is that there is absolutely no need to know anything at all about other cultures other than the colour of their skin. Yellow people are just yellow people. brown people are just brown people, and white males are just guilty for everything. Perfect world view for lazy people.

  29. I saw Queen in South Africa in 1983 and it still remains one of the best concerts I have been to (best being The Rolling Stones). Saw them again in Manchester with Adam Lambert a couple of years ago and they were just as good as I remember. Lambert is no Mercury nor does he pretend to be and he almost has the vocal range that Freddie did.

  30. I think you’ll find it was 1984, Henry Crun. We only arrived in South Africa the beginning of that year.

    MrsBud was a huge fan, loved Freddie almost as much as Sean Bean, but didn’t trust anyone to babysit the baby Buds so we didn’t go.

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