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In-Flight Entertainment: Not Always Suitable for Children

And when the movies aren't appropriate for kids, it's not like you can get up and leave.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

Bio

September 27, 2009 - 12:00 am
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While there were a couple of lines of dialogue that might have pushed it over the border from PG to PG-13 anyway (and one of them was actually subtle enough to have gone over the heads of younger kids), this sequence by itself turned what would have been a PG movie into a PG-13 movie — without making the movie funnier or more entertaining.  And more importantly, from the standpoint of showing it on an airliner, if your kids weren’t listening to the movie, they would not have heard the two or three lines of dialogue that might have been of concern. The exotic male dancer sequence would have been impossible to miss.

Now, let me be very clear about this: I’m not upset that the entertainment industry is making TV shows and movies like these.  My complaint is that you can’t walk out of an offensive presentation on a plane. (Well, you could, but most travelers don’t bring parachutes.)  If you think I’m being a narrow-minded fuddy-duddy, let me change the equation a bit. Imagine if in the middle of an otherwise unoffensive film shown on an airliner, there were two minutes of very graphic torture with fingernails being pulled out with pliers. Is that something that you would want your eight-year-old watching?

Hollywood’s penchant for throwing in one or two unnecessary and offensive sequences into films has long bothered me. It appears to me that the objective is to have something that they can edit out for broadcast television. It is obvious that this is the purpose, because these sequences can be removed without impairing any other part of the movie.  I would not be surprised if the movie leaves the studio in two forms: “let’s offend traditional values just a little” and “edited for television.” I do wish the airlines would consider showing the latter.

What amazes me is that airlines are terribly concerned about being “culturally sensitive” in the handling of travelers (as I gather from some of the questions on the United Airlines customer satisfaction survey that I just completed). And yet I am sure that many Third World travelers probably respond even more negatively to the sexual innuendo than I do. Worse, it creates an impression of the United States as a moral cesspool that isn’t quite true.

Yes, lowest common denominator entertainment may not be challenging enough for you. Yes, it isn’t “transgressive” as culturally progressive sorts love to see. But this is an airline flight. Can’t airlines be a bit more careful on this?

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Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.
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