Russia censors ‘Rocketman’ under ‘gay propaganda’ law

Sam Ashurst
Taron Egerton as Elton John and Richard Madden as John Reid in Rocketman (Paramount)

Rocketman is a glorious celebration of Elton John’s life. Unsurprisingly, that includes frequent references to the singer’s sexuality, which is a part of his public identity.

Well, unless you’re in Russia. Russian censors have cut significant swathes from Rocketman’s narrative, removing references to Elton John’s gay relationships. That isn’t limited to the film’s sex scene, or same sex kisses - it also includes the references to Elton’s real-life happy ending, raising kids with the love of his life, David Furnish.

Read more: Elton didn't want to leave out drugs, sex in Rocketman

It’s a pretty disgraceful state of affairs, and it’s proven to be an unpopular decision among Russian critics, with one commentating that he felt he'd "woken up in Saudi Arabia" (another country notorious for its strict censorship rules).

According to Russian distributor Central Partnership, "The film was indeed edited to meet the requirements of Russian law.” Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry Of Culture blames the distributor for the decision to cut.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the issue is connected to the Russian federal law ‘for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values’ which is also known as the ‘gay propaganda law’ and the ‘anti-gay law’ in English-language countries.

The law bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" among minors, an offence punishable by fines.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/05/20: Elton John and David Furnish attend the UK Premiere of Rocketman at the Odeon Luxe, Leicester Square. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This includes materials that "raises interest in" such relationships; cause minors to "form non-traditional sexual predispositions"; or "[present] distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships."

Read more: Sex scenes are never fun, says 'Rocketman' star Richard Madden

What’s especially confusing about the Rocketman story (outside of the fact this law exists at all) is that the film is rated 18 in Russian, which means it shouldn’t be legally accessible to minors.

British rock star Elton John, foreground, and his manager John Reid, left, attend a soccer match in Moscow between the Central Army Club and Dynamo Minsk, May 26, 1979. (AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko)

The decision is sure to have an impact on Rocketman’s Russian box office, with tech-savvy fans likely to turn to illegal downloading in order to see the uncut film, which would be more bad news for the industry.

It’s just a sad situation all around. And we don’t want to be in the room when Elton finds out!