In a recent letter to The Atlantic’s James Fallows, who originally broke the story of the United passengers, Rob Cohen, director of Alex Cross, writes that the PG-13 film “is not meant to be shown to people under thirteen unless accompanied by an adult. To me, this clearly defines a box office situation where you are voluntarily purchasing tickets to view something that has been clearly rated as not kid-friendly. It does not, however, really accurately cover the airplane experience.”
He points out that going to the movies with your family is a voluntary act, while being stuck on a plane where your only choice is to distract yourself from what’s being shown on the big screen is a different beast, “even if you are not using the headphones in such a situation.”
“I felt extremely sympathetic to the family involved and, in some ways, quite apologetic,” continues Cohen. “It seems to me they (the family) were well within their rights to request some control as to what their two young children were exposed. As a father of five year old triplets, I, too, would not want them to absorb some of the images we created for my film.”
As for what motivated the plane’s captain to take the unusual step of diverting the flight and having the passengers removed, Cohen admits that he doesn’t know the captain’s side of the story. But he does advocate for a “standard of judgement or set of editing guidelines for airline consumption. PG-13 should mean what it does at the box office, at the very least meaning no one under 13 should be exposed to it.”
Following the incident, United told Consumerist that the captain made the choice to divert the plane after “the crew reported a disturbance involving a passenger.” The airline also says it has since conducted a full review of its in-flight entertainment.
The folks at Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood have applauded United’s decision to review the movies it shows during flights, but is asking the airline to go one step further and pull all PG-13 movies from the list of films shown on shared screens. The group is not asking for the removal of movies that are shown on personal screens.