Update, November 2, 2019: Delta has announced it will restore same-sex love scenes to Booksmart and Rocketman.
A spokeswoman for the airline told Variety it had been given an "edited" version of Booksmart by the studio and was unaware it censored a key moment.
“Studios often provide videos in two forms: a theatrical, original version and an edited version. 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,” Emma Protis told Variety.
“The studio has agreed to provide a special Delta edit that retains the LGBTQ+ love scenes in both Booksmart and Rocketman that will be on our flights as soon as possible,” she added.
Booksmart director Olivia Wilde responded to the news on Twitter, writing, "Thank you, @delta."
This article was originally published on October 30, 2019.
Director Olivia Wilde is calling out airlines for censoring key moments of “female sexuality” from her hit high school comedy Booksmart.
Booksmart, which came out to rave reviews in May, tells the story of seniors Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who vow to spend their last night of high school making up for all the fun they didn’t have over the last four years. Amy is a lesbian, and during the film, she hooks up with Hope (Diana Silvers), another girl in her graduating class. On October 26, journalist Michaela Barton tweeted that Etihad Airlines censored the kiss between the two women, as well as the rest of the hookup scene. She noted that other sexual encounters in the film, specifically those between men and women, were not removed.
The next day, Wilde replied to Barton’s tweet, shocked at the exclusion of such an important scene, especially since there was no nudity. On October 30, Wilde tweeted that she had a chance to view Booksmart on a plane as well, though did not specify which airline she flew. Not only did the airline edit out Amy and Hope’s hook up, but she claims numerous other aspects of the film had been altered.
Wilde noted that the film cut out or muted the word “vagina,” but kept explicit language in the film, including f-bombs — sometimes, she claimed, even in the same scene where they muted vagina. The edit also removed the word “genitals.”
Wilde added that the airline’s version cut a scene featuring naked dolls even though these toys are “made for children” and have “no genitals,” as well as a masturbation scene, a scene in which Molly deals with a UTI, and a moment in which the girls watch porn for research in the back of a Lyft, which Wilde stated was the movie’s chosen Oscars clip.
Wilde confirmed that the Amy and Hope love scene was indeed edited, despite it involving “zero nudity” and having “an essential plot point for a lead character.”
“What message is this sending to viewers and especially to women? That their bodies are obscene? That their sexuality is shameful?” tweeted Wilde. “I urge every airline, especially those who pride themselves on inclusivity, to stop working with this third party company, and trust the parental advisory warning to allow viewers to opt out if they choose.”
On the red carpet for the Academy’s Governors Awards Sunday, Wilde told Variety that the sex scene between Amy and Hope is “such an integral part of this character’s journey” and that her heart “broke” upon hearing about the edited version being fed to first-time viewers.
“I want people to experience the entire film,” she told the outlet. Refinery29 has reached out to Wilde for further comment.
Feldstein, also at the awards, shared Wilde’s thoughts on the censorship.
“We’re on the case to get this rectified. Our movie is a beautiful representation of the queer experience as young people,” the actress said. “I’m a queer person. So we’re getting to the bottom of it, don’t worry. If you can watch me and Skyler [Gisondo] kiss, you can watch Diana and Kaitlyn kiss.”
This isn’t the first time that someone has accused an airline of censoring sexual content. A writer at SlashFilm, Ben Pearson, accused Delta of removing a key subplot in Love, Actually which depicted two characters as stand-ins in a porn film. Delta also reportedly edited out a love scene between two women in Carol. A fan noted on Twitter that Delta removed the Booksmart Amy/Hope scene as well.
A spokesperson for Delta told Variety that the airline uses a third party company if an unedited version of a film does not meet its content guidelines. Delta will use the third party’s version even if it removes extra material, per Variety.
In a statement to Refinery29, a representative for Delta claimed that their “content parameters do not in any way ask for the removal of homosexual content from the film.”
“We value diversity and inclusion as core to our culture and our mission and will review our processes to ensure edited video content doesn't conflict with these values,” a representative for the airline added.
Refinery29 inquired in a follow-up whether the original film, or a differently edited version, would be added to future Delta flights.
Refinery29 also reached out to Etihad Airways for comment.
One third party that company that edits films for flights, Encore Inflight Limited, claimed it does so only by the standards set by the airlines. Jovitah Toh, CEO of Encore Inflight Limited, explained how it works to The Points Guy blog.
“Each airline will provide the distributors with their censorship guidelines and distributors will work with them on the edits — for example, nudity, implicit sex scenes, religious representations, plane crashes, competitor airlines’ logos, swear words and images or mention of pigs or pork for Muslim carriers are the general items that are edited,” Toh said.
A representative for company Global Eagle echoed the same sentiment to The Points Guy, stating that when they edit films for airlines, they are “required to obey local laws and local religious sensitivities” and that each “airline has its own requests and we respect our customers’ wishes.”
The controversy has opened up a conversation about what content can and should be censored — but if you want to watch Booksmart, your best viewing experience likely won't involve in-flight entertainment.