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Transcript of Finding Forrester
The Ethical Educator
Ethics on the Big Screen
by: Shirley Guillen-Fleitas, Lisa Hatcher, Mark Headen, & Jannette Hughes
November 8, 2013
Finding Forrester is a 2000 American drama film written by Mike Rich and directed by Gus Van Sant. A black American teenager, Jamal Wallace is invited to attend a prestigious private high school. By chance, Jamal befriends a reclusive writer, William Forrester through whom he refines his natural talent for writing and comes to terms with his identity.
An Ethical Analysis
My name is William
My name is William Forrester.
A Friend of Integrity. . .
The Pulitzer Prize
Are you Challenging Me?
You're the Man Now Dawg!!
Free Throw Shootout
The Key to Writing . . .
At the Movies . . .
Forrester realizes the impact Jamal has had on his life, and quickly acts to amend the situation in regards to Jamal’s writing. This realization makes a lasting imprint on Forrester’s life, and is supported by Palmer’s (2004) statement, “The soul wants to keep us connected to the community in which we find life, for it understands that relationships are necessary if we are to thrive” (p. 33). Before this scene, Forrester was a recluse trapped in his own world, unwilling to let anyone in, or himself out.
At the point Forrester realizes the seriousness of Jamal’s predicament, he becomes like a father figure and goes to Jamal, putting himself at the center of attention, a place he has strenuously avoided for many years. In speaking of the soul, Palmer (2004) affirms, “I know I have a true self when my self-protective heart opens up and another person’s joy or suffering fills me as if it were my own” (p. 34).
In the clip of Pulitzer Prize, the pursuit of excellence, is an example of an ethical activity that helps our soul grow in wisdom. Prior to meeting Jamal, Forrester is an accomplished man who has no apparent need to do anything else with his life. But a feeling of emptiness emerges after meeting Jamal with his dreams of becoming a writer. As Palmer (2004) states “we trust the soul, its reality and power, its self-sufficiency, its capacity to speak the truth, its ability to help us to listen and respond to what we hear” (p.66).
Palmer states (2004) “that we are born with a seed of selfhood that contains the spiritual DNA of our uniqueness an encoded birthright knowledge of who we are, and how we are related to others” (p. 32).
In addition Palmer (2004) reports that “the soul wants to keep us connected to the community in which we find life, for it understand that relationships are necessary if we are to thrive” (p.33). In the movie clip, you're the man now Dawg, Forrester is an example of why we need to be connected to others, to those that need our help in one way or another. Forrester is supporting Jamal by recognizing and praising his untapped talent for writing and opening up the possibilities to pursue his dreams. The connection with others, is essential for the soul. In this case Forrester is opening himself up to Jamal, he learns from Jamal the gift of love and friendship. Forrester has been living in a solitary life for such a long time that he has lost that human relationship necessary for the soul and happiness. This is an example of good ethical decisions that feeds the soul.
According to Palmer (2004), all souls are born pure, however from birth our souls are impacted by various factors, specifically in this case racism, economic injustice, and resentment (p. 34). Professor Crawford assumed that because Jamal was African American and playing basketball, that he was not capable of the amazing writing he was turning in. How could a poor, African American boy from the Bronx produce such amazing work? Crawford resented the fact that Jamal was placed at Mailor, and projected his resentment onto Jamal. However according to the movie, it appears as though Crawford’s diatribes were unleashed towards many a student at Mailor.
Even though Jamal was banned from the school writing competition Crawford and others are surprised to see him there. The competition begins, but in the middle of it, William Forrester, the great author whom the students have studied in class and whom Crawford highly reveres, walks in causing quite a stir. He nervously asks permission to do his own reading to the group, and Crawford readily accomodates. Forrester takes the last step to become a true leader: he steps out of the shadows to defend his protégée and friend (ultimate sacrifice for his protégé) "I spoke here today because a friend of mine wasn't allowed to. A friend who had the integrity to protect me, when I was unwilling to protect him. His name is Jamal Wallace." “Moreover, transforming leadership taps into deep levels of meaning as it changes both leaders and followers; it occurs when one or more persons engage with each other in such a way that leader and follower raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality (Burns, 1978).” (Klenke)
In the movie clip William pulls out two old typewriters and instructs Jamal to sit and write. William begins typing away effortlessly on one typewriter, but Jamal just stares at the blank piece of paper in his own typewriter. The two are facing each other. William gives Jamal a bit of advice, "the first key to writing is to write, not to think." By this time William has typewritten a nice long paragraph, which he rips out of the typewriter and hands to Jamal, whose only response is "Jesus!" At that moment Forrester becomes a mentor/leader for Jamal. “Transformational leaders exhibit charismatic behaviors, arouse inspirational motivation, provide intellectual stimulation, and treat followers with individualized consideration.” (Bass & Avolio, 1994). (Klenke)
In this scene we see William and Jamal standing on the pitcher's mound in the middle of Yankee Stadium, an experience that deeply touches William, who has fond memories of going to baseball games years ago with his now deceased brother. He tells Jamal the sad story of his brother's accidental death, and how at the hospital, a nurse told William how much his book meant to her. This realization makes a lasting imprint on Forrester's life and is supported by Palmer's (2004) statement, "A circle of trust consist of relationships that are neither invasive nor evasive. In this space, we neither invade the mystery of another's true self nor evade another's struggle" (p. 64). Perhaps that was William's first direct confrontation with deciding that what is more important: loving connections with family and friends or one's creative work? William begins to realize that Jamal is the first person to make an effort to befriend him in years.
At Mailor Callow, Jamal is immediately recruited onto the basketball team, where he meets teammate and tough competitor John Hartwell, a half white, half black student with a chip on his shoulder. He is an aggressive fame-seeker at the school. As Hartwell tells Jamal after practice one day, "you may think we're the same but we're not." Psychologically, Hartwell represents the potential shadow aspect of Jamal's psyche. In relation to Palmer he stated, " . . . I have met too many people who suffer from an empty self. They have a bottomless pit where their identity should be - an inner void they try to fill with competitive success, consumerism, sexism, racism, or anything that might give them the illusion of being better than others" (p. 38). Jamal never becomes like Hartwell, instead he confronts the shadow particularly on the basketball court, where he and Hartwell are fierce competitors.
Klenke, K. (2007). Authentic leadership: A self, leader, and spiritual identity
perspective. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 13(1), 68-97.
Palmer, P. (2004). A hidden wholeness: The journey toward an undivided life.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
[Please acknowledge the program will not italicize references]
A Friend of Integrity.
Are you Challenging Me?
My Name is William Forrester.
The Key to Writing.
Free Throw Shootout.
The Pulitzer Prize.
You're the Man Dawg!
"The authentic self is the soul made visible"
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach