Moving away from home and coming to college gives a new sense of independence, according to BYU–Hawaii students. While parents and relatives no longer control what media and movies students have access to, students said they try to follow inspiration when deciding what movies to go see. But because of the inconsistency of movie ratings, they said they sometimes watch R-rated movies or avoid PG-13 films after doing research on their content.
Chaz McKinney, a junior from Utah majoring in business, said, “I just let the Spirit guide me when I choose what I watch. I really love movies, but I shouldn’t be watching anything vulgar or unsettling. I feel if you are in touch with the Spirit and you feel like you shouldn't watch something, then don't.
“However, I know that in a BYU devotional, Elder Robbins said, ‘Movies are rated by a Hollywood entity called the Motion Picture Association of America, an organization which has been widely criticized for its inconsistency and skewed values. In fact, Latter-day Saints are usually some of the first to lament Hollywood’s negative influence in the world, so why on earth do we put so much stock in what they have to say?’”
McKinney commented that for every R-rated movie like “Schindler’s List,” an acclaimed Oscar winner about the Holocaust, there will be a “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” a critically hated PG-13 film full of language and crass sexual content.
“I wasn't allowed at all to watch R-rated movies growing up,” McKinney said. “I mostly stick by that now, but I will watch an R-rated movie from time to time. Only after I have done some carefully detailed research about it first.”
“I think that there is a lot grey area between PG-13 and R,” McKinney continued. “I can't say if all of the ratings are spot on or not, but I have watched a few PG-13 [movies] that I think should have been R.”
Marc Duke, a sophomore and psychology major from Laie, said he normally follows the MPAA rating system. Duke said, “It’s a good way to make it so young kids can’t watch anything inappropriate, but all ratings are not created equal. I use my own judgment when it comes down to a hard decision.”
People should always follow what the Spirit is telling them, commented Duke. “[The rating is] there for a reason, and you should take advantage of it when choosing a movie to watch. It can be hard to walk out of a movie theater when all of your friends are there having a good time, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Ephraim Insigne, a senior from the Philippines majoring in accounting, said, “I know there are some that really don't fit the R, but artistically, it needed that string of cursing. I think that R-rated movies are, for the most part, rated correctly. But occasionally, the board will rate a PG-13 film as R instead. While you can mostly trust the rating system, you can’t depend on it completely.
“College life is about becoming independent and making the right decisions for ourselves,” he said. “My parents raised me to make the right choices, but I cannot depend on them forever.”
In a September 1990 Ensign Question and Answer section, Joseph Walker, a national news placement specialist in the Church’s Public Communications Department and former film critic, says, “The Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) ratings system is arbitrary at best, with offensive material slipping into many PG- and G-rated films. Of course, many of the movies that attract young people are rated PG-13 or even R—two categories in which graphic violence, sexuality, and coarse language are staples. Judging a movie—for good or ill—solely on an MPAA rating is a little like playing Russian roulette with your standards: Maybe your values won’t be assaulted, but maybe they will.”
Walker’s counsel to parents is to teach “children to recognize the Spirit of Christ and in strengthening them so they can have the courage it takes to respond to it. And the most powerful way to teach children is by example and by creating the kind of home environment that enhances spiritual sensitivity for the entire family.”
He adds following “Moroni’s scriptural reminder that ‘the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil’,” found in Moroni 7:16, is a good measure to use when deciding what media to watch. “Moroni goes on to give us simple yet extraordinary counsel about how to separate the good from the bad in any earthly pursuit. Anything that persuades men to do good things, to believe in Christ, and to serve him, he writes, “is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ,” and you can feel pretty comfortable with it. On the other hand, anything that glamorizes evil, de-emphasizes the importance of God in our lives, or persuades men to do things that are wrong is inspired by Satan and should be avoided at all costs—even if the cost is popularity.”