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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Flying the Family-Unfriendly Skies of United (and Many Other Airlines with R-Rated Movies)

Movies are not a priority in my life, partly because we simply don't feel we have time for them, and partly because so much of what passes for entertainment these days is at best a distraction and often a major detour from the path of happiness, in my opinion. Don't worry about me missing out on all the fun, though, because on my international flights from China to the US and back, I have the stomach-turning pleasure of being exposed to dozens of flicks on the personal monitors that passengers have. For those moments when I don't have a blindfold on, it's hard to avoid seeing abundant evidence of just how unwholesome Hollywood has become.

On my recent flight from San Francisco to Shanghai, for example, I was seated behind a lovely family with two young boys. Were the parents worried about all the scenes of violence and salaciousness that the kids might encounter? Probably not, because I had to be careful not to pay attention to either of the two monitors that the parents were viewing. One was some kind of splatter-flick with a woman in leather fighting hordes of zombies or something. The dad was watching something about rock stars with offensive sexuality. R-rated and unrated but questionable movies seemed to dominate the selections. For parents who wish to avoid R-rated content for themselves and their children, it's almost impossible. It wasn't this way a few years ago, but the advent of increased personal choice for passengers means parents have a lot less choice about what they and their kids are exposed to.

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this nuisance? Have you found any international airlines that are more family friendly?


Jennifer Neal said...

I don't fly often, so take it with a grain of salt, but I enjoyed my time on JetBlue. They may have an R-rated option, or two at most, of the six movies they offer. They're cheaper--particularly if you fly often and build up points--and the service was great. You might try it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what you can do to convince United to shape up. As I understand it, competition is intense in the airline industry, and pretty much every decision an airline makes is based on the bottom line. Presumably that includes the decision to offer R-rated inflight movies. Most likely they've studied it out and decided it's more profitable to appeal to the more jaded customers while alienating others like you. But you should probably write to United anyway (and encourage others to do so).

My own feeling is that none of us should have to be told to keep things G-rated in public. I guess the inside of an airliner is not really "public," but it should be treated as such insofar as it's a place where all kinds of strangers, with all kinds of values, are thrown together willy-nilly. In that kind of situation, keeping it clean should be just a matter of common courtesy.

I'm sorry to hear that movies are not much of a part of your life. You're right that there's plenty of schlock and sleaze out there, but there's also plenty of brilliant and moving art, now easily accessible via services like Netflix. I'm not talking just about Hollywood films here (though Hollywood has produced some truly great art); I'm talking about real masterpieces, from Aleksander Nevsky and Battleship Potemkin to Rashomon and Ran to Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity and On the Waterfront to contemporary films like The Lives of Others and.... I could go on and on. There are enough great films out there, enough aesthetic masterpieces with weighty moral themes, to set aside one night a week to viewing and discussing them as a family. It seems to me that if you truly don't have time for this it's a pity. When it comes to engaging with the world's great cultural heritage, I recommend we all make the time. In any event, to speak of "the movies" as if they were just Hollywood junk is to dismiss a significant part of the joy this world has to offer.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

When I fly United, I don't need an R-rated movie to put me in a profane, violent state of mind.

Plus, they break guitars.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Point well taken, Eveningsun. We have finally managed to get Netflix to work here in China and have watched a couple of things. Appreciate the list, and welcome other suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Do I have suggestions? Oh, boy... First let me suggest some classics that you've probably already seen, but just in case...:

The Grapes of Wrath
Lawrence of Arabia
My Fair Lady

Some great films about just how different other people's lives are:

Nanook of the North
Man of Aran
Story of the Weeping Camel

The best John Wayne films (IMHO):

The Searchers
True Grit

Some amazing nature films:

Winged Migration

Great war films:

All Quiet on the Western Front (either version, but the 1930 version is special)
The Great Escape
Bridge over the River Kwai
Battle of Algiers

Great films with religious themes:

Inherit the Wind
God on Trial

Early, influential, and still quite watchable science fiction films:

Frankenstein (1931)
Modern Times

The world's most amazing children, ever:

Rabbit-Proof Fence

Introduction to Akira Kurosawa:

Seven Samurai

Great films I can't think of a category for right now:

Cinema Paradiso
The Miracle Worker

I believe these are all G or PG, and marvelous, each and every one--if anyone out there disagrees, or has other/better suggestions, I'd be interested in reading what you have to say.

-- Eveningsun