*** Save the Queen

By Sean Carroll | January 4, 2007 10:23 pm

The QueenA couple of days ago, flying from Washington to LA, I was happy to discover that the in-flight entertainment was actually a decent movie: The Queen, featuring a fantastic performance by Helen Mirren. (Not that Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights, which I managed to see on more than one flight in December, wasn’t a piece of cinematic magic in its own right.)

At one point in the film there was a strange moment of silence, as if the soundtrack had momentarily cut out. Airplane movie technology being what it is, this hardly registered as unusual. But then it happened again, and later on it happened yet again — and every time, when one of the characters was clearly about to say a particular word. The word was “God.”

So, like, anyone know what’s going on here? This is clearly an intentional feature of the “edited for content” version of the film that was being shown by United. I checked with others (same airline, different flights) who confirmed the phenomenon — the word “God” has been censored out of United Airlines’s version of The Queen. As far as I could tell, the word wasn’t being used in any especially problematic context, whatever that might be — basically it was people saying “God only knows” or “for God’s sake” or something equally mild. Someone apparently thought that somebody should be shielded from hearing the word “God,” but I honestly don’t know if it was for fear of having the Lord’s name taken in vain, or dislike for heavy-handed religiosity. Neither one of which would have fit the circumstances at all. (Could Richard Dawkins be succeeding in his nefarious campaign to criminalize all forms of religious speech?)

According to the World Airline Entertainment Association, the edited-for-airlines versions of films are provided by the film distributors themselves. But I couldn’t find anything from Miramax, who distribute The Queen, about this particular phenomenon. I simply refuse to believe that someone is going around deleting the word “God” from movies, for whatever reason, without stirring up enormous resistance (or at least argument) from someone else, for whatever other reason.

Worst of all, the Internets are failing me. I’ve googled around, searching for any chitchat about film distributors expurgating the word “God” from airline movies, only to come up short. Can I really be the only one to have noticed this? I feel lost without the internet to guide me.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Entertainment, Religion
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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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