Author: Shelby Joy Leone
All images via Jim Hutton
Spoilers Ahead, and by spoilers, I mean I am going to state facts that have been known to the public for years but if you want to wait to watch a movie about it then I would do that and then read this article.
If you have come to the article in search of another critic’s fiery dismantling of Bohemian Rhapsody, the new Queen biopic that has fans raving and critics vomiting, you have only sort of come to the right place. Yes, in my opinion, the film merely skims over the gritty details of Queen’s fascinating rise to fame. And yes, it basically falls victim to every single mistake a biopic can make: oversimplifying the road to success, skipping over years of important details, and of course, making so much of it up.
However, I would like to use this platform to bring to light the beautiful and loving queer relationship that was the true victim of Bohemian Rhapsody, which is that which existed between Freddie Mercury and Jim Hutton and lasted for nearly eight years until the singer’s death in 1991. Viewers of the movie might be shocked to learn that this relationship was so prominent in Mercury’s life, as merely exists at the end of film as a footnote. The film tries to focus on Queen’s career but ends up focusing on Mercury’s life, and builds to and ultimately ends at Live Aid, a large benefit concert that was far from Queen’s last and erases the last years of Mercury’s life that were spent with Hutton. I do not pretend to be blind to the complications of telling the story of a man’s entire life in under three hours, but it is simple fact that the movie industry just can’t seem to get queer stories right. Unfortunately, this film is no exception. It is true that Mercury’s first love was Mary Austin, a young woman (Mercury may have been bisexual!) working at a fashion boutique while Mercury was playing some of his first gigs with Queen. Anyone who sees the film is left with no doubt that there was love between Mercury and Austin but are left with little to no knowledge of Hutton, who occupies maybe three scenes.
So, let’s start at the beginning. Contrary to what the movie will tell you, Freddie did not meet Hutton when he was a caterer at one of Mercury’s parties. They met, brace yourself, at a gay nightclub. Though this film only shows gay culture as a cesspool of drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and emotionally vacant relationships such as the one Mercury had with Peter Prenter, Mercury and Hutton began their almost 8-year relationship in a gay nightclub. Hutton was an Irish hairdresser who originally rejected the famous singer at first due to his relationship status. But one year later, Mercury offered to buy him a drink for the second time and their relationship began. It was only after they slept together for the first time that Hutton found out who Mercury was.
One year after that, Hutton moved in to Mercury’s home, known as the Garden Lodge. What is known of their life as a couple is very little, since both Hutton and Mercury where private people. Mercury was, after all, a rock star whose life was up for public speculation. Rumors of his sexuality and declining health spread like wildfire amongst the British tabloids, so he and his partner lived behind closed doors, and according to Hutton, they liked it that way. In an interview with Hutton three years before his own death, he told the Times that, “[Freddie] might have worried about how coming out would have affected him professionally but he didn’t say that. We both thought our relationship, and being gay, was our business.”
What we know is that the two lived a rather normal life with their beloved cats. Through their relationship Hutton continued as a hairdresser and came home from work to his partner just like any other couple. Eventually he worked at Mercury’s home as a gardener. The two wore platinum wedding bands to symbolize their love in a way the law would not allow, and Mercury was said to become upset when Hutton took his off to garden.
When Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS, Hutton was by his side, not as his nurse, but as his partner. Hutton said of the matter, “When he was diagnosed he said to me, ‘I would understand if you wanted to pack your bags and leave’. I told him, ‘Don’t be stupid. I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for the long haul’.”
When Mercury died, Hutton was by his side. However, Mary Austin took the house they shared, kicking Hutton and Mercury’s beloved cook and assistant out. He then used some of the money Mercury left to him (nearly $1 million) to move back to his homeland of Ireland and build his own home, where he lived until his death of lung cancer at the age of 60. Before his death, Hutton publish a memoir titled Mercury and Me (1994), chronicling their relationship and paying homage to his beloved partner.
This is the story that remains untold by Hollywood. Hutton and Mercury are merely a wink, a nod in the timeline of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour film. The film spends much of its time showcasing the “straight” relationship Mercury was in and chastising his problematic relationship that followed with Paul Prenter, the man who eventually outed Mercury to the public. Mercury’s bisexuality should not be erased, nor should the reason for his downfall and subsequent toxic relationship with Prenter. However, I cannot help but notice the lack of a healthy queer relationship in the film. Any queer romance the film shows is hidden behind cryptic winks and eye contact, paired with wild parties and extensive drug use. When Mercury is gay, he is a drunken mess. When he is with a woman, he is domestic and happy. The easily consumable and seemingly heterosexual aspects of Mercury’s life are put on full display. The movie seems to be fully willing to accept Mercury’s bisexuality, so long as we focus on the pretty lady he was with first.
It’s not that the film is terrible. It is not. It’s not that the relationships with Mary and Paul did not happen. They did. But it’s just that the film could have showcased one of the millions of loving and deep relationships destroyed by the AIDS crisis. It could have shown queer love in its fullest form. The films nearly 50-million-dollar opening could have exposed so many to the real story behind a queer icon. Because at the end of the day, Freddie Mercury, it seems, did find somebody to love, and somebody who loved him.
SHELBY JOY LEONE | Somebody to Love | KXSU Music Reporter