Airlines have traditionally not shown controversial films on flights, making sure to stay far away from anything that might be slightly objectionable. That's why you've never seen a disaster movie (although you've probably seen movies that have been disasters) while jetting across the continent. That may all be changing soon as airlines have decided to show more mainstream fare like Brokeback Mountain and Transamerica in an effort to upgrade in-flight entertainment, and provide more choice, variety, and current releases to passengers.

Airlines edit films for content even more stringently than television networks do, cutting out language, sexuality, and anything that might even suggest that an airplane has a problem. According to the World Airline Entertainment Association, films are edited "because airlines carry young children as well as a diverse population of passengers from diverse cultures, many airlines require movie edits for language, sex, violence and political or religious content. The film distributor generally handles this process."

I remember flying from Los Angeles to Dallas and watching a cut of the Jennifer Lowe Hewitt film Heartbreakers that featured a digital insert over the cleavage of one ghost whispering actress. This reflects an oddly reciprocal effect between films edited for American vs. European airlines; Europe edits out violence, and America edits out sex. Apparently breasts might incense an American passenger to hijack the plane and fly to Club Med, but a bullet-riddled body will lull them into complacency.

I suppose I can understand the need to edit films on flights, because in a way it is forced viewing. You can't exactly get up and leave the theater if something on the screen bothers you. It is also understandable that you wouldn't want to watch anything that features a spectacular plane crash on a flight, for obvious reasons. However, more planes are starting to feature in-flight entertainment that allows each individual passenger to choose what they want to watch. What happens if the person next to you on that JFK-to-SFO flight wants to watch something featuring ultra-violence and you find that objectionable? It's hard to go through a flight with blinders on, but perhaps the next-generation of flight entertainment will feature a digital alternative.

What do you think? Should films be edited for airlines, or should you be able to watch whatever you want?
categories Movies, Cinematical