When a Booksmart fan tweeted about trying to watch the movie from an airplane, she probably didn’t know the stir she was about to cause. Olivia Wilde has been calling out airlines for censoring lesbian scenes in Booksmart ever since, and the film’s cast has followed suit.
It began on Twitter, where Michaela Barton wrote this: “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.”
Wilde, the film’s director, wrote back: “This is truly a bummer. There is no nudity in this scene. What makes it too obscene for airplane viewing? What airline?”
Barton replied that she’d been on Etihad, but had heard Emirates censored the scene too. Others responding in the thread have shared their own experiences, with some claiming United left the film untouched, and conflicting reports of whether or not Delta had censored the scene too.
One accusation stood out: “I understand Delta censoring sexual scenes in Booksmart but they also cut the use of the word lesbian and not legitimate expletives?” a fan tweeted. Wilde replied: “Censoring the word lesbian is just batshit insane what is going on.”
This is truly a bummer. There is no nudity in this scene. What makes it too obscene for airplane viewing? What airline? https://t.co/5QwlomY2fR
— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) October 27, 2019
Censoring the word lesbian is just batshit insane what is going on 😳 https://t.co/Rdq2wh68QO
— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) October 28, 2019
At the Academy’s Governors Awards, Wilde spoke to Variety about her disappointment and confusion at these airlines’ choices. “I don’t understand it,” she said. “There’s censorship, airline to airline, of films, which there must be some kind of governing board to determine. We rate it a certain way. If it’s not X-rated, surely it’s acceptable on an airplane.”
When compared to what hasn’t been censored on airlines, the choice makes even less sense, Wilde argues: “There’s insane violence of bodies being smashed in half and yet a love scene between two women is censored from the film. It’s such an integral part of this character’s journey. I don’t understand it. My heart just broke. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it; I want people to experience the entire film.”
Booksmart stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever also weighed in: “It’s ridiculous,” Dever offered. “That makes me so mad.” For her part, Feldstein vowed to make things right.
“We’re on the case to get this rectified,” Feldstein told Variety. “Our movie is a beautiful representation of the queer experience as young people…I’m a queer person. So we’re getting to the bottom of it, don’t worry. If you can watch me and Skyler kiss, you can watch Diana and Kaitlyn kiss.”
UPDATE: Delta has released a statement: "Delta’s content parameters do not in any way ask for the removal of homosexual content from the film" https://t.co/SFXjjQ8Ptq
— Variety (@Variety) October 29, 2019
Given the accusations on Twitter, Delta has taken it upon itself to respond to this issue. Their official statement says this: “Delta’s 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 Delta spokesperson further told Variety that, if Booksmart censored in an unsatisfactory way on Delta flights, it was due to a third-party editing company they use.
Vulture reported that during a Q&A of the film at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival Wilde expressed her disappointment to an audience:
“What we discovered is that on certain planes, this film has been edited in a very slanted manner. That there are certain words and certain scenes that are cut out, that aren’t the swear words. It’s ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’ all day, but they removed the word ‘masturbation,’ they removed the word ‘vagina.’ So I’m just curious what a woman is supposed to take from that. That it’s an obscenity? That it’s inappropriate? You can say ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’ … But you can’t show the Barbie sequence when they take off their Barbie clothes and have Barbie boobs, which by design, have no genitals, which is the entire fucking point of the scene.”
Wilde theorized they [Delta] made these cuts “because it might suggest to you that women, I don’t know, have bodies or can experience pleasure, or deserve it. And so that is… it’s a problem. It’s a problem.”
Yes, yes it is.