All overt indications of homosexuality have been removed from the version of Elton John’s biopic, Rocketman, available for in-flight viewing with Delta Air Lines. This news comes despite the company promising two years ago that in-flight movies would no longer censor queer content.
The airline was caught showing a de-gayed version of the film by Entertainment Weekly digital director Shana Krochmal, who tweeted, “On Delta today discovered that Rocketman is stripped of almost every gay reference or scene that [Elton John] fought to keep in the film’s mainstream release, including a simple chaste kiss.”
Krochmal went on, “what does it say that the edit left in a scene of John Reid assaulting Elton but removed any evidence of intimacy between them or for that matter Elton and any man?”
Other folks chimed in on the Twitter thread, reporting similar experiences on Delta. One person noted that they had complained to the airline as early as September 13.
Earlier this week, Olivia Wilde spoke out against Delta and other airlines for removing a lesbian kiss from her movie Booksmart, which has been hailed for its groundbreaking portrayal of relationships between women. Delta’s version also removes the word “vagina,” but kept swears and a male character imitating a sex act on a microphone
“I’m just curious what a woman is supposed to take from that. That it’s an obscenity? That it’s inappropriate?” Wilde said at a panel discussion. “It might suggest to you that women, I don’t know, have bodies or can experience pleasure, or deserve it.”
For its part, Delta blamed the cuts on their partnership with an unnamed third-party company that censors movies for airlines. According to the airline, studios provide two versions of every film: one that’s intact, and one that’s been heavily redacted. If there is one element in the film that violates Delta’s content guidelines, then they run the version that has all of the redactions.
Because those third-party companies may consider queer content to be objectionable, if a film has any other controversial material, then Delta will run the version that also has queer content removed.
Though Delta’s contractor has not been identified, companies that provide expurgated versions of films include Hong King-based Encore Inflight Limited, Global Eagle, and Aeroplay Entertainment.
In 2017, a Delta spokesperson told The Advocate that the airline does not have the right to edit films; it simply screens the edited versions that are offered by studios.
After coming under fire for censored films in 2017, Delta pledged that they would no longer show films with queer content censored. "Delta has committed to not showing a film at all when an edited version is required but goes beyond omitting explicit material to remove scenes that reflect the diversity of our employees and customers," said a spokesperson.
Apparently, that policy was no longer being followed when Delta chose to show the de-gayed version of Rocketman.