Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mad Hot Bleeping Ballroom--How American Airlines Shields Its Passengers From History

Is it possible to be too sensitive about 9/11?
It had been a while since I had been on a flight with a movie, let alone one with a movie that I actually wanted to watch. So, it was a pleasant surprise Wednesday when my American Airlines flight from New York to Dallas had the documentary "Mad Hot Ballroom" on offer, a winning film about a ballroom dancing competition in New York City public schools.
It's rare that a documentary would be a featured film on a plane, but this one was engaging and harmless, though not harmless enough for American.
In the beginning, the principal of an elementary school near Ground Zero expressed reservations about her school taking part in the competition, which began in 2002, "just after 9/11." Except that "9/11" was bleeped out. At first, I thought it was a glitch in the plane's sound system, but quickly enough realized the context of the statement.
Taking into account that American lost two planes that day, I nonetheless had to wonder what the hell they were thinking. Would passengers start breaking into uncontrollable sweats or have anxiety attacks at the mere mention of 9/11? Would the sky marshal seize the tape?
Studios have a long history of bleeping out, excising or re-editing anything that might push a film beyond PG so airlines can show it to everyone without fear. "Mad Hot Ballroom" has no such concerns.
Nearly four years after 9/11, I think it's time to give airline passengers a little credit lest they miss out on a poignant moment in a special film that they unexpectedly get to see.

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