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Delta Airlines cuts out same-sex scenes in films

By Melissa Mora

Stares, whispers, people I used to call friends slowly disassociating themselves from me – I’ve experienced it all. As an openly bisexual woman, I’ve had to learn to recognize my safe spaces through some unfortunate experiences.  School, work, home: good. Grocery stores, movie theatres, airports, especially airports: not so good.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me at all that Delta Airlines would pull something as unprogressive as editing out same-sex love scenes in the films that they screen in-flight: specifically, Elton John’s biopic Rocketman (2019) and Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart (2019).

A scene in the biopic where two men are seen kissing had been taken out, as well as a sex scene. The film is actually even banned in Samoa. In Russia, the gay scenes are also edited out. 

The coming-of-age comedy had been robbed of its lesbian kissing scene, too. Any mention of the words “vagina” and “lesbian” had been cut out, meanwhile, all other profane language had been kept in.

The director of Booksmart, Olivia Wilde, had a lot to say after watching her own film on a Delta flight. She took to Twitter to say, “What message is this sending to viewers and especially to women? That their bodies are obscene? That their sexuality is shameful?” 

Wilde continued with, “Turns out some airlines work with a third-party company that edits the movie based on what they deem inappropriate,” she tweeted. “Which, in our case, is… female sexuality?” The actress kept it classy without the direct mention of the airline, while still getting her point across.

In a statement, Delta Airlines responded that they were unaware of the scenes being edited out of the versions of the previously mentioned films on their flights. “We are immediately putting a new process in place for managing content available through Delta’s in-flight entertainment.”

The airline claimed that it was a third-party who had edited the films and that they had not asked for those edits to be made. “Currently we have Gentleman Jack, Imagine Me and You, and Moonlight onboard and countless content in the past that clearly shows it is not our practice to omit LGBTQ+ love scenes,” the carrier said in an attempt to reassure the public of their intentions. They have since restored the same-sex love scenes.

“Every airline, especially those who pride themselves on inclusivity, stop working with this third-party company, and trust the parental advisory warning to allow viewers to opt-out if they choose,” Wilde urged.

While their apology for the mishap seems to be genuine, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t at least monitor what they screen for their passengers. It just seems like they only decided it was an issue after an important person spoke up about it. Had it just been a regular passenger, I don’t think they would’ve done anything to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 

I highly agree with Wilde’s comment about the representation of female sexuality. We’ve come a long way with representation, but it’s taken a long time. I think back to the times when it wasn’t even allowed to show men and women kissing in films. The fact that we can have same-sex love scenes today is a big deal. Having those scenes edited out is like taking one step forward, and then two steps back.

Reading about the news of this all happening just took me back to the time my girlfriend and I were highly discriminated against while on a flight. It just made me think about how other members of the LGBTQ+ community may have felt being on a Delta flight and seeing their representation being thrown out the window.

When I’m choosing what airline to travel with, it feels a lot like choosing whose hands to put my life in; you are supposed to feel safe with your airline. Before this incident, I thought that only entailed physical safety. It may not seem like it to many people, but having a safe space is extremely necessary and important for us.

Now I wonder, how safe can you actually feel if you’re unsure of whether or not the people whose hands your life is in are truly supportive of your life?

Melissa Mora can be reached at Melissa.mora@spartans.ut.edu

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