Chris Rock's 2008 HBO comedy special Kill the Messenger is raising eyebrows again after Delta Airlines pulled the show from its in-flight entertainment selections following a passenger's complaint about a bit that tries to explain when it's appropriate to use the word "faggot."
— Jeremy Foreshew (@jeremyforeshew) August 18, 2016
The customer, Grindr employee Jeremy Foreshew, was on a Delta flight from New York to Los Angeles last week when he found Rock's unedited special available for free in-flight viewing, according to the original report on GayTravel.com. Foreshew complained to the flight attendant, who then set up a meeting with an airline representative once the plane landed in L.A. Foreshew, who used to work for a company that helped airlines select their in-flight media, told the gay travel blog that he was shocked by the show's presence, knowing what goes into the vetting process for in-flight entertainment.
After Foreshew took to social media (and met with Delta officials in L.A.), the airline issued a public statement Wednesday.
“The Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger segment should not have been uploaded on flights based on our criteria for excluding onboard programming that includes content featuring explicit language, slurs, extreme violence, and explicit scenes,” the statement said, according to GayTravel.com “We apologize to any customers who were offended by the content or our airing of the segment, and we are working as quickly as possible to remove it from our aircraft.”
The latest in-air controversy comes just weeks after Delta was lambasted for featuring an edited version of the critically acclaimed lesbian love story Carol — with all of the love scenes removed, including any scenes of the two female stars kissing.
Rock has not publicly responded to Delta's decision or Foreshew's complaint, but he has spoken out about homophobia in comedy before. Back in 2011, he denounced ;fellow comedian Tracy Morgan's joke about stabbing his kid if he were gay, but only after pressure from GLAAD.
Critiques of Rock's latest film, Top Five, pointed to the cheap jokes surrounding Rosario Dawson's character's boyfriend. The punch line framed the boyfriend's desire for anal penetration as alternately humorous and traumatic for Dawson's character, which critics said amounted to comedy at the expense of gay men. In a December 2014 interview, NPR's Terry Gross asked Rock about perceptions of homophobia in his film and his broader repertoire.
"I feel your pain — but I've never thought about any joke or anything like that deeply," Rock said in response to Gross's question about whether the scene could misconstrued. "I might be the only black comedian in the country who hasn't gay-bashed. Ever."
It's not just Rock whose problematic jokes are in the crosshairs. Seth Rogen recently acknowledged in an interview that some Superbad jokes are "borderline ... blatantly homophobic," though the actor did not address the list of questionable "gay jokes" that permeate many of his other films.