Accepting the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture, Rami Malek thanked Freddie Mercury: “You beautiful man. This is for and because of you, gorgeous.” He also gave a shout-out to the members of Queen who produced the Mercury biopic that shocked Hollywood by winning Best Drama on Sunday night. “To you, Brian May, and to you, Roger Taylor,” he said, “for ensuring that authenticity and inclusivity exist in the music, and in the world, and in all of us.”
Authenticity—what a fight starter! Bohemian Rhapsody, picked apart by cultural commentators for its divergences from the real story of Queen’s rise, is great for its realness? A band that campily reimagined rock and roll as opera, that played with baby talk and disco beats, whose lead singer paraded about in royal finery, is the ensurer of authenticity? Wittingly or not, Malek was framing what might become the key division of this awards season’s battle of the band movies.
Pundits are puzzling out how Bohemian Rhapsody beat A Star Is Born, another musical drama, which featured bigger stars, won warmer reviews, and performed better at the U.S. box office. But fans of Rhapsody know how to feel. One tweet praised Rhapsody’s “validity as a memoir and narrative of a factually based story about a band many of us loved.” A Tumblr post with scores of likes defended Rhapsody on the grounds that “these actors had to study other people day and night, learn how [to] get every live performance on point, learn how to talk like someone else, act like someone else, even look like someone else.” Another fan posted, “This is why bohemian rhapsody deserves all the awards,” with a video comparing Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance with Malek’s re-creation.