The In-Flight Entertainer

It is somebody's job to screen and select movies to be featured on flights, and I wonder why it is not this person's top priority -- nay, ONLY priority -- to veto movies whose plots include an airplane crash.
03/29/2013 01:29 pm ET Updated May 29, 2013
airplane parked in airport...
airplane parked in airport...

It is somebody's job to screen and select movies to be featured on flights, and I wonder why it is not this person's top priority -- nay, ONLY priority -- to veto movies whose plots include an airplane crash.

Maybe this is just me, but when I'm caught in a metal tube that's careening through the sky at 500 miles per hour at an altitude of 30,000 feet, pretty much the last scene I want to watch is of a character in my situation where, instead of landing safely, something goes horribly wrong: the plane drops, the wings tear off, passengers are sucked into the atmosphere, other passengers hit the ceiling, and general chaos ensues while the pilot loses control and the plane nosedives. Perhaps I'm a wimp, but when I look around to find myself in a scene with the same disastrous potential, I find these images unsettling. Show me war; show me horror; show me tragedy -- just so long as the war is not with fighter jets, the horror is not engines failing, and the tragedy is not an unsuccessful emergency landing.

The particular movie I selected to view on my flight last year was not centered on a crash, but the depiction was graphic and realistic. When the scene began, I was confident a movie with such content would not be available on a flight and expected the scene to end peaceably. Some heroic passenger (most likely the masculine leading man) would kick down the cockpit door, seize the controls, and guide the plane and its passengers to safety, thus inspiring the viewer with renewed faith in humanity and trust in the guy sitting next to her. But, when all of this failed to happen, and the fictional plane actually crashed, I sat, blinking. My pulse quickened. Where were those emergency exits? Were the passengers in the emergency exit row strong enough to get the damn things open? Could I trample them on my way to safety? I waited for the oxygen masks to drop.

I'll give this much to the movie screener: the film did not focus on the catastrophe of the plane crash. No, the crash was only the inciting incident. I thought, well, okay, if they approved this movie even with the plane crash, surely the remainder of the film will compensate for that trauma. Yes, people died, but the surviving passengers must triumph over tragedy.

Wrong again.

The crash resulted in a slaughterhouse of dead bodies, the blood of which attracted a pack of ravenous and conspiring super-wolves. The survivors of the crash spent the remaining 60 minutes of the movie attempting to outwit these devil monsters. Not one character succeeded. They all suffered in arctic conditions for several days, watching one another be attacked, before they themselves met their ghastly end at the sharp points of fangs and claws.

The moral of the story, in simple terms, was: if you ever find yourself in a predicament involving a plane crash, do yourself a favor and die in the accident.

You would think that whosever job it was to handpick the movies available for viewing would have considered the emotions such a "moral of the story" might evoke in the 400 passengers trapped in Flight EI0109, all of whom now had no way of combating such a destiny. You would think that the movie screener would have passed on this film in Act I, as soon as the plane began to rattle, and certainly would have stamped her veto when she discovered that not one character in the film came out alive.

I imagined the movie screener at work, sitting in a space designed to look like an airplane, complete with overhead compartments, whirring white noise, a flip-down tray table, and access to a toilet that sounded forceful enough to take her in its flush and drop her somewhere over a large body of water.

She greeted her colleagues wearing sweatpants, a messy bun, and carrying an eight-dollar neck pillow. Then she walked into her pressurized cubicle, buckled herself in, stowed her purse, released her office chair from its upright position, and began to enjoy the in-flight entertainment.

Every hour or so, a begrudging coworker plastered on a uniform and a smile and visited the movie viewer's cubicle. On one visit the coworker served up a mini bag containing approximately four pretzels; on another he/she poured water from a liter-sized bottle into a little plastic cup designed to hold only a few meager sips; and on a final visit, the coworker arrived with a plastic bag to collect the trash -- or, if the flight experience was simulated to be over the UK, the rubbish.

The movie screener saw this movie, and made a grave mistake. But hey, we all make mistakes on the job. Maybe before calamity struck, she took a bathroom break and was sucked down the drain.


Unless this cinematic choice was intentional -- some twisted "how to" -- a subliminal extension of the pre-take off safety demonstration:

In the event of an emergency, please assume the bracing position. If we land in water, a life vest is located in a pouch underneath your seat. If we land in the Alaskan wilderness, and you have the misfortune of living through the impact, poison is located between the armrests. Trust us, you're better off.

What a sicko.