Historians have discovered that Dante actually envisioned a tenth circle of hell, with sinners condemned to spend their eternities traveling from one destination to the next on any one of America's insufferable airlines. It appears that the people running this industry have found a way to make every single aspect of this form of travel an experience in misery.
The latest casualty is to be found in the in-flight movies. Most offerings these days are monumental cinematic embarrassments, movies that would never rise to the level of the $1 stack at Blockbuster's, and probably cost the airlines even less. So most passengers take a pass these days when those $5 headphones are offered, finding it more entertaining to stare at the back of the seats in front of them.
I can lose myself easily in work or a book while these movies are playing, but a strange thing happened a couple of weeks ago during one of these flights. After hearing the ping of a couple of attendant call buttons I looked up and saw that all the screens had gone blank A few minutes later the stewardess came on the intercom to announce that because numerous complaints from passengers with families about the graphic violence being shown in this particular film, it had been stopped.
Chalk up a new outrage. The airlines are now airing graphically violent and sexualized R-rated movies, and it matters not a bit to them that children cannot help but sit there and watch, headphones or not. Delta started showing R-rated films in December, while United and US Airways have increased the frequency with which they show such films. Last month the three airlines all featured Fracture, in which Anthony Hopkins shoots his wife in the face, then drags her body away from the pool of blood
The New York Times published a report on the trend, focusing on Thomas Fine and Sara Susskind of
But even more shocking than that frustrating situation is how callous some airline executives sound in response to protests. "Parents have to be responsible for the actions of their kids — whether they shouldn't look at the screen or look away," said Eric Kleiman, director of product marketing for Continental Airlines. If you think that was a dodge, try this: "People love Pepsi, and we don't serve that, so there you go, we just ruined their flight. That's an accurate analogy," he added.
That's a ridiculous analogy. Next we will be told that a quarter-ounce bag of stale pretzels constitutes a meal. Such is the arrogance of those who care not a whit about their passengers.
What in the world is wrong with these airlines? For decades they entertained their passengers with quality films. Every once in a blue moon they still do, and passengers are treated to a movie they otherwise might never know existed. A couple of years ago I caught The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean, a fascinating work of creative genius. A few months ago it was Copying Beethoven, with an extraordinary performance by Ed Harris in the lead role.
When quality films contained adult matter, the airlines simply edited it out, respecting that impressionable children – and discerning adults, too – were on board. Have you ever heard a passenger exclaim after a flight that he would have enjoyed the film more had there been graphic violence or gratuitous obscenities?
The situation has become so obnoxious that
L. Brent Bozell III is President of the