A retired Minnesota military officer is asking Delta Air Lines to stop showing an in-flight movie that she said degrades women and promotes stereotypes of Middle Eastern men.
Lori Ahlness, who was a major in the Minnesota Army National Guard military intelligence office, said she watched the movie “Elli Ekhtashou Mato” while flying from Seattle to the Twin Cities.
It portrays an honor killing — the murder of a sister suspected of bringing shame on a family — and men rudely ogling half-dressed women, Ahlness told Delta.
“It is disgusting, reprehensible, culturally divisive and insensitive,” she wrote the airline, saying the movie “perpetuates racism.”
In response, Delta spokeswoman Shannon Ledwich said movies and TV shows shown in-flight are chosen to appeal to a wide audience. Considerations include “box office success, social media buzz and international appeal,” she said.
Ledwich on Friday didn’t commit to pulling “Elli Ekhtashou Mato” and said that the movie met the airline’s content guidelines. She added that Ahlness’ comments will be included in future audits on guidelines and content.
Teasers for the Egyptian-made “Elli Ekhtashou Mato” say the plot revolves around seven characters who “represent different types of women in society.” The movie also shows women’s “search for lasting joy,” according to an online promotion.
Ahlness saw the movie on a Delta flight on Sept. 27. She selected the movie, she said, because she thought it would provide some cultural insight and because her daughter is engaged to a man of Middle Eastern heritage.
She sent a written complaint to Delta on Nov. 2 and received a response on Nov. 30.
A Delta customer service representative told her that “choosing movies that meet all our passengers’ needs is a tricky business,” and apologized for the offensive material. Ahlness called that response “disappointingly generic” and said Delta should ask Minnesota’s large ethnic communities to review the movie to determine its suitability.
“I remember when I lived oversees and how people viewed me as an American based on movies they’ve seen, that I’m loose, that I’m always drinking,” said Ahlness, who lives in White Bear Lake. “It’s perpetuating that stereotype.”
In an e-mail Thursday to Delta, Ahlness again asked the airline to explain “how this film was chosen to be suitable for customers flying Delta, and which ethnic audiences, if any, were considered when selecting this film.”
Ahlness served in the National Guard for 13 years, and before that was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. She chairs the board at the Minnesota Veterans Campground on Big Marine Lake in Washington County.
Although she complained to Delta as a customer and not because of her military background, she said, “the military has always taken pride in diversity and inclusion way before the general population.”