By Sean Huncherick
Two weeks ago, the popular AMC TV series, “The Walking Dead,” moved from a TV-14 to a TV-MA rating (the equivalent of an R-rated film), due to graphic violence and language. Even though Indiana Wesleyan University has a set media policy for movies and video games, television shows aren’t restricted in any way.
In the past year, “The Walking Dead” has been extremely popular with students at IWU. For each new episode, students in Bowman Hall and Scripture Hall gather together and watch the zombie drama.
Rett Huntington (fr) has been watching the show since its start in 2011. Last week, he saw it with nearly 20 other students in the Bowman lobby. Despite the show being a gory zombie series, he sees several morals in the show.
Huntington finds that the show “revolves more around humanity and being civilized in an uncivilized world than on zombies.”
“The main character, Rick, constantly makes sacrifices for his family,” said Huntington. “He is trying his best to be a good father in a bad situation.”
Scripture Hall Resident Director Ian Slater said the role of entertainment should be used for the glory of God.
“The show itself and our generation’s fascination with zombies have both good and bad qualities,” said Slater. “One hand, you can use it to engage in conversations exploring what it means to be human and seeing what humanity really means in a crisis. On the other hand, when we consume media with dark elements, it is important to question if it is praising the dark elements.”
Aspects such as this call “The Walking Dead” into question.
The IWU handbook states that no student is allowed to watch any R-rated movies while enrolled at the school apart from ones on the approved list. Realistic violent films such as “The Patriot,” “The Book of Eli” and “The Last Samurai” are approved, but the fantasy-violence of “Pan’s Labyrinth” is denied.
The handbook is much less clear on the media policy regarding television, books and music. It states that unless the medium contains excessive profanity, sexuality, violence or the occult, it is generally permissible.
The dean of student conduct, Andrew Parker, said an RA or RD can exercise his or her own judgment if a student watches a show that could cross the line of vulgarity. The RD or RA can have the show turned off or even banned.
Parker said the handbook, which is updated every year, is likely to stay the same for now.
“At this point, I would say the university is not going to have a list of shows students can’t watch,” Parker said. “It’s hard enough with movies.”
Tim Witte (sr) is doubtful a ban on TV-MA shows would be successful, because he said he thinks students would continue watching anyway.
“I don’t think students care,” he said. “It wouldn’t be shown publicly in any dorm, but students will still try to get around it.”
Huntington also thinks it would be more beneficial to give students guidelines than a full-out ban.
“I understand regulation to an extent,” Huntington said, “but for the most part it should be left to the students.”
At the same time, Witte also believes a ban could give students a chance to use integrity. If the student handbook ruled out TV-MA shows, he wonders if students would have the respect to say, “No, I signed an agreement that I won’t watch it.”
Parker added that students are encouraged to continue addressing the media policy. Whether they are for or against it, he said their input makes a difference.