Eddie Pensier writes:
Upon boarding my Virgin Australia flight to the USA, the following message tsk-tsked at me from the launch screen of my seat-back video:
There are a few important points to remember while using the System. We’re in an open space so please use your best judgment when viewing content as you may be seated next to a child. Some of our content is not suitable for all audiences and we cannot take responsibility for the content of TV, movies, and other programs shown, or the communication or entertainment choice of our passengers. The System may also be monitored and information collected on its usage.
(Ominous capitalization and poor punctuation in original)
Now this message raised at least three hackles of mine.
1. In our ever-more child-centered society, I’m now expected to “use my best judgment” as to the level of emotional maturity which the stranger’s child in the next seat has reached. I’m supposed to turn off the sex and violence to appease them and their helicopter parents. The amenity kits in economy class come with eyeshade masks: I suggest parents use them on the little darlings to prevent any untoward exposure. Because I’m not going to switch off the R-rated movies if kids are around me. If Virgin wants unoffensive content to placate travelers of all ages, let them stock the video-on-demand with Disney, otherwise let me watch my filth without moral judgment.
(As it happens, one domestic leg of our flight featured no less than SEVEN squealing, screaming children surrounding me. Neither earplugs nor $200 Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones were up to the task of silencing these demons. The parents of the little shits in question did not appear inclined to use their “best judgment” as to whether I would want to listen to their brats hollering for four hours straight, nor did they make any credible effort to silence them. Is it possible that adult-content films might have done the trick where technology and common courtesy failed? I wonder.)
2. The company providing The System, Virgin (!!), takes none of the responsibility for content that I’m suddenly and involuntarily tasked with. They can put it out there to be watched, but it’s become MY job to decide what is and is not appropriate for this new and unwanted immediate family of mine known as “fellow passengers”.
3. Of course, they’re collecting usage information. I’m at a loss though, to divine what useful marketing could come from knowing that the fortyish occupant of seat 32G watched Blue Jasmine and Casablanca, listened to Queen’s Greatest Hits and Anna Netrebko’s Verdi album, and played several cutthroat rounds of Super Trivia Blast with the pipsqueak in 27B.
Eventually, I entertained myself as I’d planned to do all along: pulled out my tablet loaded with episodes of Game of Thrones (nudity, sex, violence, incest), Boardwalk Empire (ditto), and Mad Men (sex, misogyny, smoking, drinking). I only wish I’d had WiFi so I could catch up on the latest batch of depravity on Uncouth Reflections X (so very NSFW).
You have your ways of occupying yourself on 15-hour plane trips, I have mine.