Saturday, January 6, 2007

THE GOOD SHEPHERD (2006) Post 2 of 2: Clover's Seduction of Edward

Clover's Seduction of Edward

[This is the second of two posts on The Good Shepherd.]

Off air Gus Lloyd asked me:

One of the things that my wife and I discussed with the couple that we went to see the film with was the seduction of Edward by Clover. We couldn't figure out what that was all about.



Dear Gus:

Edward’s seduction and marriage to Clover is about Edward’s loyalty to his friends.
A good shepherd sacrifices his comfort or what he wants for the sake of those under his care. The Good Shepherd (even as we think of Christ) is always thinking of others. Sure, Edward wants Laura. But, in a weak moment he’s seduced by Clover and with her pregnancy he has a bigger responsibility. Now he has an obligation. Not just to his Skull and Bones friend (Clover's brother) but to Clover and the child. Obligations draw out the depth of a character more than gratefulness.

In my book, The Moral Premise, I discuss how a good story takes a character, especially the protagonist, and creates a main goal and story, and also sub goals and stories around the same character. Each story must deal with the same psychological arcs, and reinforce the same moral premise. Let’s see if I can make this work for The Good Shepherd.

Most times good characters have several physical goals that relate to different aspects of their life. Just as I suggest in Part 2 of my book, Edward has a personal goal, a family goal, and a professional goal.
  • His personal goal is to ensure freedom (in the good sense, not selfish sense) for himself as a boy, as a young man, and as a man on his own.
  • His family goal is to ensure freedom for his family (as a husband and father)
  • His professional goal is to ensure freedom for the United States (as an division head for CIA)
The film's moral premise...
TRUTHFULNESS LEADS TO FREEDOM proven true for each of those storylines. Each story line is fraught with deception and each objective goal experiences levels of imprisonment and freedom based on Edward’s moral decisions about each storyline in his life. The movie ends ironically because Edward’s life is ironic; just like CIA is ironic...Truth is CIA's goal but it thinks it has to embrace deception to get there. The movie resonates as true with audiences because each person has experienced ironic situations regularly in their lives. Good and evil are ironic bed fellows.

NOW, the seduction by Clover is important, as opposed to marrying Laura, for this reason -- remember this has to be about the moral premise, not what you or I would normally do in real life -- Movies are about moral truths, not representations of American suburbia.

In every story line, to prove the ironic nature of the moral premise, Edward has to continually make decisions that have ironic twists.
  • In his personal storyline: Edward's dad tells him that in order to have friends always tell the truth; an instant later, in order to protect the honor of his father, Edward lies. Honor and obligation are more important to him than friends.
  • In the family storyline: Edward loves Laura; but out of loving obligation to friends and his own actions, he marries Clover. Here again honor and loyalty are more important than satisfying his selfish needs.
  • In the career storyline: Edward would love to get out of CIA as he is often encouraged; but out of loving obligation to his country he sacrifices his life.
Do you see how his obligation to Clover and their son parallels his obligation to CIA and the U.S.? He doesn’t love either, but he knows this eternal truth:
What counts is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).
Love is a verb. Edwdard may not love Clover or the CIA (both have seduced him), but he must in faith be loyal to both, and that requires of him charity, a sacrificial love, not out of some emotional, feel-good high, but out of a cognitive obedient obligation.

I have often thought that although Christian preachers say the highest form of love is action out of gratefulness, I disagree. I think the highest form of love is duty out of obligation. Loving your enemies is much more honorable and revealing of virtuous character than loving your friends.

Remember, things happen in successful stories at the bequest of the moral premise, to teach us a moral truth.

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