Delta Airlines Caves, Restores Gay Sex Scenes to In-Flight Films

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by Martina Moyski  •  •  November 5, 2019   

Succumbs to criticism from celebrities, director

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ATLANTA, Ga. ( - Delta Air Lines announced recently that it will be restoring gay love scenes to in-flight viewings of Rocketman and Booksmart after receiving blowback for showing censored versions of both films. 

Elton John biopic Rocketman (2019), directed by Dexter Fletcher, depicts the life of British entertainer Elton John including homosexual liaisons, alcoholism, bulimia, mental illness and drug use. Booksmart (2019), directed by Olivia Wilde, has been described as "a coming of age film," depicting lesbian sexuality in a story about two high school girls.

Delta was quick to respond to critics and make up for its gaffe, explaining through spokesperson Emma Kate Protis that "We selected the edited version and now realize content well within our guidelines was unnecessarily excluded from both films. We are working to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Delta explained that it receives edited versions of films through third-party companies and does not control what cuts are made, adding that the love scenes in Rocketman and Booksmart were "unnecessarily excluded" and "a new process for managing available content" will be implemented "immediately."

Delta's in-flight version of the Elton John biopic Rocketman had deleted a love scene between stars Taron Egerton (plays Elton John) and Richard Madden (plays John Reid) and is billed as the first major studio film to feature gay sex scenes.

Edgerton, who recently clarified that he is "not gay but is able to appreciate other men's looks," said he "loved" doing the sex scene in Rocketman with Madden. "I think the film feels like something that the gay community especially can take ownership of," he has said.

One Delta-flying Twitter user wrote, "On @Delta today discovered that #Rocketman is stripped of almost every gay reference or scene that @eltonofficial fought to keep in the film's mainstream release, including a simple chaste kiss." 

Rocketman lovers

Booksmart tells the story of  two academic superstars and best friends, who in a carpe diem epiphany, determine they "should have worked less and played more," trying to cram four years of fun and experience into one night.

The director of Booksmart worried about the message Delta's edits were sending to viewers, especially young women and LGBTQ people. "What message is this sending to viewers and especially to women? That their bodies are obscene? That their sexuality is shameful?" she wroteadding: "I urge every airline, especially those who pride themselves on inclusivity, to stop working with this third party company." 

In an interview with Variety, Wilde expressed more of her feelings over the censorship. "There's insane violence of bodies being smashed in half  [in other films] and yet a love scene between two women is censored from the film," she said. "It's such an integral part of this character’s journey. I don’t understand it. My heart just broke."

Booksmart stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein also reacted to the edited versions. "We're on the case to get this rectified," Beanie told Variety. "Our movie is a beautiful representation of the queer experience as young people." Kaitlyn called the editing "ridiculous," adding: "I don't even know what to say to that. That makes me so mad."


Booksmart director Olivia Wilde (center) with

Beanie Feldstein left and Kaitlyn Dever right

RVA Magazine laments that "[W]e are nearing the end of the year 2019, and people are still uncomfortable when two consenting adults kiss or show any kind of affection, simply because they happen to be LGBTQ. This is where we are. Still."

For LGBTQ and its allies, Delta's faux pas, RVA continued, "pull[s] us two steps back, and make[s] sure we continue to 'sleep with one eye open,' reinforcing that traumatic thought process that is ingrained in us in varying ways."

"Until things like Elton John kissing his husband, or two teen girls holding hands, become normalized to the point that no one cares anymore, there is still going to be ground to cover in the fight for LGBTQ rights," RVA declared.

President of the Lepanto Institute Michael Hitchborn has raised an alarm about in-flight pornographic "entertainment."

Referring to entertainment choices offered on an Aer Lingus flight, Hitchborn wrote, "I didn't really understand why lengthy scenes of nudity, sexual intercourse, and graphic rape were popping up on screens all around me," adding:

And truth be told, I'm not sure what shocked me more ... that these scenes were being played on screens easily viewable by young children, or that the viewers (mostly women) didn't seem to be ashamed by the graphic nature of the scenes played before their eyes in a public space. 

When Hitchborn got home from his trip, he contacted Aer Lingus's Press Office to complain about the films and let them know that he planned on writing an article about his experience.

Defending Delta's pro LGBTQ+ stance, their spokesperson said it was not Delta's practice to omit LGBTQ love scenes, saying, "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." 

Delta Airlines can be reached for comments at 1-800-221-1212 (say "comment" or "complaint" when prompted) or via an online form.

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