The decision was made by the distributor of the film in Russia, and the Russian Culture Ministry has denied that they ordered the cuts to be made. However, whether the cuts were ordered because of the government's recommendations or not, the decision was ultimately made because of the "gay propaganda" law enacted by Russia in 2013. The law was passed with the goal of ending the "promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors." Thus, all references to the LGBTQ+ community are outlawed under the guise of protecting children. The censoring was done regardless of the fact that "Rocketman" carries a rating in Russia which prohibits viewers younger than 18 years old from viewing the film.
Elton John and the stars of the film have strongly condemned the decision.
Speaking out about the issue on social media, Sir Elton John wrote, "we reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to censor Rocketman for the Russian market." He went as far as to say the decision is "a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people." John has publicly denounced Russia's anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the past, even doing so while performing in the country. Taron Egerton, who plays John in the film, took to social media to say that he was "crestfallen that the decision was made to censor our movie for the Russian market." He went on to rebuke the move, saying, "I in no way condone this decision and feel disappointed I wasn't made aware and given the chance to fight this move. Love is love. No compromises."
This move shows that there is still so much work to be done worldwide to protect the LGBTQ+ community
June marks the celebration of LGBT pride month in the United States, but it is important to remember just how much LGBTQ+ people are still suffering all over the world. The censorship problem in Russia is one result of the oppressive laws that are still present and harming LGBTQ+ people. It is important, now more than ever, that LGBTQ+ people are actively and realistically represented in the media.
"Rocketman" is about more than Elton John's sexuality, but it is undeniably a large part of the film because it is a part of his real life; to erase that is to do a disservice to his legacy as a queer icon/activist. One of the most heartbreaking results of the cuts in Russia is the loss of one of the end slates which informs the audience that John is now happily married to his husband David Furnish, whom he has two children with. In the movie (spoiler alert), we see Elton spiral after his mother tells him "he'll never be loved properly." The end slate shows the audience that Elton did find love and has triumphed over the demons which once plagued his mind.
John's story has the opportunity to give a lot of LGBTQ+ people hope for their future, and I think that should be celebrated, not erased.