Same-sex love scenes or words like “vagina” shouldn’t be removed from inflight entertainment when it’s almost 2020
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut for Booksmart was a massive hit. The film scored a whopping 97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and successfully explores themes of friendship and female empowerment, while still being incredibly hilarious.
The film also explores one main character’s journey of finding herself and feeling comfortable in her sexuality. In a pivotal scene, Amy sees the girl she has a crush on kissing somebody else at a party. She ends up crying in the bathroom before making out with another girl in her class. The hardly-steamy kissing scene, set to Cold War by Cautious Clay, was nothing more than a slightly passionate, messy, nudity-free, consensual kissing scene between two young women.
Some audiences, however, found the scene problematic — quite clearly because it was a same-sex couple. As a result, multiple airplane companies, including Delta Air Lines, removed the scene from their inflight screening of the movie. In an era of acceptance and positive cultural change, I find this extremely disturbing and upsetting.
Tried watching Booksmart on the plane and they cut the ENTIRE lesbian hookup scene like not even a KISS was allowed! oh but don’t worry guys, the Straights got their kiss 🙄— michaela👻🎥🏳️🌈 (@MichaelaBarton_) October 27, 2019
Apparently airlines also consider words like “vagina” and “masturbation” equivalent to scenes with weapons and same-sex kissing, as they were also cut from the film.
Same-sex kissing scenes or talk of vaginas and masturbation should not be treated the same way as firearms, drugs or knives and banned from airlines. It’s ridiculous to even think they could fall into the same category.
— Most disappointingly, they cut most of Amy and Hope’s love scene in the bathroom, which involves zero nudity, but does involve an essential plot point for a lead character. Wtfffff.— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) October 30, 2019
Similar actions were taken with the movie Rocketman, where its inflight version was stripped of any reference to Elton John’s sexuality — a major part of the singer’s life. Films such as Carol and Vox Lux were also subjected to homophobic and sexist censorship in order for them to be shown on certain airlines, according to some Twitter users.
Hi everyone I am finally seeing the sex scene in Carol for the first time (unfortunately watched an airplane edit a few years back) and I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS— Jess McGuire (@jessmcguire) October 31, 2019
Wilde took to social media to express her anger about the edits and concern for what removing scenes that involve female sexuality could do to young women. Implying that scenes which discuss or celebrate women’s bodies are too inappropriate or risqué to be included on flights is simply not OK.
“What message is this sending to viewers and especially to women? That their bodies are obscene? That their sexuality is shameful?” Wilde tweeted.
And she makes a great point. There is nothing wrong with discussing UTIs or female masturbation or watching two girls kissing.
What message is this sending to viewers and especially to women? That their bodies are obscene? That their sexuality is shameful?— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) October 30, 2019
Dimitrios Latsis, an assistant professor of film studies at Ryerson University, appreciates Wilde’s sentiments and is not against her “calling out” the airlines.
“Everything that surpresses same sex love on screen should be called out. We need those role models,” he said. “It is a real issue.”
Although he agrees with Wilde, he thinks her thoughts could have been expressed in a more collective way than social media.
“I believe her intentions are good but I’m skeptical about the efficacy of social media,” he said. “She was just ‘preaching to the choir.’”
Latsis suggests to find allies. “Find people that are impacted directly by that kind of censorship and let them talk.”
I grew up in a weird crossover era. I watched Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family — husbands who rarely shared an on-screen kiss or showed affection. Since the show first aired in 2009, viewers have only started seeing the couple show more on-screen affection in recent years. We are in an era where we are seeing more sexually curious and queer characters in film, as well as more same-sex couples engaging in the same romantic scenes that heterosexual couples would be shown in.
What’s frustrating is that despite the evident progress, it’s difficult to feel like we’re actually moving forward. The controversy surrounding Booksmart and Rocketman are harsh reminders of this.
Latsis also recounts how Hollywood has proven time and time again that it stays away from anything with controversy or potential controversy.
More often than not, that means that “LGBT stories are still getting excluded from the big screen,” he said.
Atypical, a heartfelt Netflix series which just released its third season, deals with teenagers who have autism. A more recent storyline in the show explores characters who are discovering and navigating their sexuality. Casey, the protagonist’s younger sister, finds herself extremely confused about the love she has for her long-time boyfriend, Evan, and the new feelings she has for her female best friend, Izzy.
Atypical addresses modern, relevant issues in a heartfelt and comedic manner. It doesn’t overdramatize these issues, rather it portrays them in realistic ways. The protagonist’s autism, Casey’s sexuality and even their parents’ separation are all appropriately dealt with.
Hollywood seems to be increasingly embracing plotlines that explore sexuality, showing the real struggles that people encounter.
Latsis says he sees these changes happening on streaming services and on TV a lot more than on the big screen.
While times are clearly changing, it’s expected that we’ll take a few steps back along the way. And the airline incident was just that. But with more shows and movies like Atypical and Booksmart, hopefully these storylines will be celebrated and appreciated. If more people started supporting these storylines rather than censoring them, we may be on our way to making some real progress.
Story updated on Nov. 26, 2019.