Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in 1975 and is one of the most remembered songs from their entire collection. Freddie Mercury was a gay man. The specific theory that I decided to apply in this case was Cass’ Sexual Identity Development. I do believe that Freddie Mercury’s lyrics in the beginning of the song implies that he is well into Stage 2: Identity Comparison. In this stage the individual has accepted the possibility that they might be gay, and in this case I do believe that is what Mercury is trying to say.
Stage 2: Identity Comparison
Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I've gone and thrown it all away
Didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters
Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Goodbye everybody - I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooo - (anyway the wind blows)
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all
Body's aching all the time
I don't want to die
He sings of how he killed man. The man refers to the man he once was, the straight closeted gay man. He now has rid himself of that identity and cries of how everything he had when he was that man is now gone, in a sense, everything he believed and what others believed is no longer true. He shares how he knows his mother might not be accepting of the fact that he is now gay and goes as far as telling his mother to carry on without him. In lines 26-27 we see how this struggle to be himself has questioned why he even was born. I believe this is a thought that crosses many individuals who are struggling to come out.
Lines 28-48 definitely highlight this internal struggle. In the song these lines are sung between Mercury’s voice against the voices of the rest of the band members. In a sense it’s the internal voices or battle raging in Mercury’s head. This comes out when he sings Galileo to make the connection of persecution that he may feel that he is experienced similar to the persecution Galileo experienced with the church. I believed this is confirmed when he screams out Bismillah which translated is in the name of Allah. He continues with this struggle up until the point where he mentions how Beelzebub has put a devil aside just for him. I think this depicts with the struggle of how different religions and organizations condemn homosexuals to hell.
Internal Struggle of Identity
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening me
Gallileo Figaro - magnifico
But I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go - will you let me go
Bismillah! No - we will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let me go
Will not let you go - let me go (never)
Never let you go - let me go
Never let me go - ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no -
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
In the last part of the song we have him triumphantly sing in lines 49-52 how he will not let others stone him or leave him to die. I believe he has become comfortable with who he is here and is willing to stand up for himself as well as leave those who might have attempted to leave him first. In a sense I get that he wanted to have the last laugh with an affirmed identity.
Identity Pride or Identity Synthesis
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh baby - can't do this to me baby
Just gotta get out - just gotta get right outta here
In the end he sings that nothing really matters to him and I see that as a confirmation of his acceptance of who he is. I would place Mercury at either stage: identity pride, or stage 6: identity synthesis according to Cass’ theory.
While many students today know of the classic Queen songs, I don’t believe as many know of the identity Freddie Mercury had. Perhaps using Queen and their biggest hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” and pressing students to study the lyric could bring out many new allies from all identities. While I can’t guarantee all individuals will become strong supporters or even advocates for individuals who may identify as LGBTQA, I do know it could give them a new lens to see experiences through. It is up to us to better inform and prepare all students to work towards a place where everyone can belong. Many shared they had no idea what the song was about and just jammed out to it because it was so catchy. Others were speechless afterwards. I was happy. I was happy they learned theory they could potentially be seeing in action with their residents. I was happy because for that moment at least, the hall staff knew how tough it could be for some to come out.
Sergio Perez is currently a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse working towards his Masters in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education. He currently works as a Complex Director in REsidence Life at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. In addition to his work in Residence Life, Sergio has worked in Multicultural Student Services. Sergio earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Internation Studeies in 2013 from Loras College. His interests focus on equity and inclusion and public policy in higher education.
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