Historians have discovered that Dante actually envisioned a 10th 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, 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 of 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 Cambridge, Mass., who were forced to spend two hours on a United Airlines flight desperately trying to distract their 6-year-old son from screens displaying the R-rated "Shooter," which depicts multiple gory killings.
"It's not like he can look away when he hears the sound (of gunshots coming through nearby headphones), and he's sitting on a plane bored, and he's 6," Fine said. The Times also featured a mother whose 7-year-old daughter has nightmares after watching a graphic preview for the latest "King Kong" movie on a US Airways flight.