Elton John fought tooth-and-nail to ensure his biopic, Rocketman, was screened around the world with its scenes of gay intimacy intact.
This on-the-ground fight for gay visibility has now taken to the air. According to multiple social media users, Delta is screening a degayed edit of the musical about the life of the world's most famous gay singer.
Shana Krochmal, the digital director of Entertainment Weekly, posted a Twitter thread Tuesday detailing how Rocketman was "stripped of almost every gay reference" in the version she viewed on the airline, including a "chaste kiss" between the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" singer and his former manager, John Reid.
In the thread, Krochmal pointed out the illogic of allowing scenes of domestic abuse — as well as violence more broadly — to slip through the censors, while depictions of same-sex love are scrubbed.
After Krochmal's posting, other Twitter users responded with similar experiences of viewing a censored version of Rocketman. A Facebook user complained of the censorship to Delta as early as September 13.
This is not the first time Delta has come under fire for queer censorship. Olivia Wilde slammed Delta and other airlines this week for excising a lesbian kiss from a film she directed, Booksmart. In past years, Delta has also streamed degayed versions of Carol and Bad Moms.
In 2017, a Delta spokesperson told The Advocate that the airline does not have the right to edit films; it simply screens the edited versions that are offered by studios.
However, "Delta has committed to not showing a film at all when an edited version is required but goes beyond omitting explicit material to remove scenes that reflect the diversity of our employees and customers," the spokesperson said of the company's policy at the time — a policy that, if followed in 2019, would have prevented a degayed Rocketman from making it to air.
Delta, a frequent sponsor of Pride events, scored an 85 out of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign's 2019 Corporate Equality Index. It lost points for not having "equivalency in same- and different-sex domestic partner medical and soft benefits," plus "exclusions for transition-related care" for transgender employees.
In a June statement, John spoke out against a Russian film company's decision to make similar cuts to his film in a country where "gay propaganda," or the viewing of LGBTQ materials to minors, is against the law.
The excisions were "sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people," the statement said.
"We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world," the statement said.
The Advocate reached out to John and Delta for comment but has not yet heard back.