Why Did Delta Edit Same-Sex Love Scenes Out of ‘Booksmart’ and ‘Rocketman’?

In-flight entertainment is a godsend for any traveler. Whether your phone is low on battery or you finished the book you brought, these shows and films that on planes can make or break a flight. But some travelers found Delta, along with Etihad and Emirates, cut essential points in Booksmart and Rocketman from their airline-provided versions. 

The upsetting coincidence? These movies both have queer main characters, which also seemed to be the aspects that were cut. Many fans and even Booksmart director, Olivia Wilde, got in on the conversation, urging Delta to explain the edited versions. 

'Booksmart' director Olivia Wilde with stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein at a screening of their movie.
Kaitlyn Dever, Olivia Wilde, and Beanie Feldstein at the ‘Booksmart’ New York screening | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Reports poured in that Delta cut female sexuality and same-sex love scenes from their flight’s movie selection

Both films are rated ‘R,’ and both got their ratings because of language, drugs, drinking, and sexual content. However, it was pretty clear why the airline cut certain aspects, considering they left all the f-bombs in Booksmart but not a no-nudity sex scene, as early reports on Oct. 27 said

Wilde tweeted that not only was the sex scene between Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Hope (Diana Silvers) cut, but so were the words “vagina” and “lesbian,” talk of masturbation, nude (but genitalless) Barbies, and the word “genital.” 

The Washington Post reported Delta had been called out in the past for censoring same-sex relationships in their movies, like with Carol, and a kiss in Bad MomsBooksmart leads Beanie Feldstein and Dever were angry when they heard about the incident on Oct. 28.  

The airline cut all references to Elton John being gay in ‘Rocketman,’ too

According to The Washingon Post, Elton John (Taron Egerton) and John Reid’s (Richard Madden) relationship in Rocketman was also censored in Delta’s version of the film.

Digital Director for Entertainment Weekly, Shana Naomi Krochmal, tweeted on Oct. 29 that on a Delta flight, she “discovered that #Rocketman is stripped of almost every gay reference or scene that @eltonofficial fought to keep in the film’s mainstream release, including a simple chaste kiss.”

Why did Delta censor these things?

As Variety reported, an outside third-party company edits the films for Delta to make sure movies on their flights are within their guidelines. However, the censorship of same-sex kissing scenes and words that relate to female sexuality, is telling when heterosexual counterparts are left in. Delta spokesperson Emma Protis made a statement regarding this situation, pledging to make amends in the future. 

“We are immediately putting a new process in place for managing content available through Delta’s in-flight entertainment. 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.

— The Hollywood Reporter

Wilde thanked Delta in a followup tweet. It seems like the airline is moving forward to make sure all movies are kept within their guidelines, while not unfairly censoring others that are.