It wasn’t just Freddie Mercury who liked to dress like a “lady”, many did it before and many have since, but it appears that cross-dressing is a pursuit that we British find particularly humourous.
The rising synth’ introduction to Queen’s 1984 classic I Want to Break Free is set against a roofscape of anonymous urban terraces. Shortly thereafter the action zooms in to Roger Taylor bedecked in hair curlers, fumbling with a comically malfunctioning Teasmade. As the rhythm starts, and Brian May’s agile but driving guitar sound scours the scene, Freddie Mercury sashays across the Living room, vacuum cleaner in hand, glancing provocatively to camera in the most deliberately unconvincing drag attempt yet committed to film. The setup is an obvious pastiche of, or maybe even homage to the soap opera Coronation Street; it is this unusual choice of setting which lends the song a beguiling duality of meaning. Does the protagonist want to “break free” from the proletartian drudgery of the setting, or perhaps something else entirely? In the case of Freddy Mercury one can’t help but think it must be the latter!
Often this joyous, Vaudevillian accompaniment is “flagged for inappropriate content” on YouTube, a sad sign that America is as prudish as ever and still hasn’t broken free! Oh, how Freddie would weep if he knew!