The concept of loyalty in movies. An analysis of 'Interstellar' and 'Walk the Line'

Term Paper, 2015
16 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

Table of figures II

Part 1: Basic understanding of “Loyalty”
Towards a definition of “Loyalty“
The inner hierarchy of loyalty patterns
The loyalty check-up

Part 2: Loyalty in the movie “Interstellar”
Plot outline of “Interstellar”
The concepts of loyalty as applied by a selection of single characters
Prof. Brand
Conclusion and further discussion

Part 3: Loyalty in the movie “Walk the Line”
Plot outline of “Walk the Line”
The concepts of loyalty as applied by a selection of single characters
Johnny Cash
June Carter
Ray Cash
Conclusion and further discussion

Part 4: Final comparison

Sources III

Table of figures

Figure 1: Attribution of loyalty patterns towards given reference cases and explanation (own depiction)

Figure 2: The loyalty Check-up process as derived in the seminar

Part 1: Basic understanding of “Loyalty”

The following paragraph tries to summarize the basic understanding of loyalty as derived in the seminar on 5/23/15. The outcomes of the seminar can be briefly summed up in the graphic the participants derived.

Starting from three slightly different opinions on what loyalty is, each of three groups discussed their approach with an excerpt of Michael Sandel’s “Justice” (pp. 234 – 243) and added significant layers to a process we could name ‘the loyalty check up’.

Towards a definition of “Loyalty“

An example for one of those opinions was a two layered approach where loyalty is related oneself (also known as integrity when acted out over several time or confidence in short terms of time) and to others. Loyalty here is understood as: “[I – To yourself]: Sticking to your own given rules; [II –t o others]: Helping others, even in case of doubt.” This definition holds some significant insight:

I: Loyalty to yourself means to apply a self-given set of rules and behaviour patterns to your actions. It also involves the assumption that you and your actions underlie only your own judgement. Neither instances nor people have any influence on that. This definition of loyalty describes a special case, the loyalty to yourself, also known as integrity. II: This definition describes loyalty in common understanding. It focuses on the fact that loyalty is applied to others by providing help in forms of guidance, aid or support etc.. It emphasizes that loyalty even can be applied when the providing person disagrees with the recipient’s actions or intentions but has a somewhat higher trust in his / her person. What this definition lacks is of course a description what should be understood as “others” or who loyalty is applied to. This is a special topic as there are different kinds of people in terms of more outgoing or more introverted and it depends a lot on what kind of trust-bases people have to each other and how fast they can build them up.

The inner hierarchy of loyalty patterns

After having gained this deep understanding of loyalty and its’ patterns, we applied to the excerpt of Michael Sandel’s “Justice” to derive loyalty patterns and to understand what loyalty is based on and if this is just as a matter of fact. Sandel proposes 3 different cases where loyalty is shown: 1. The former Unions’ General Robert E. Lee, who chooses somewhat patriot feelings for his confederate homeland over the fact that slavery is against his understanding of humanity and became the General of the Confederated Army during the American Civil War. 2. The case of the Bulgar Brothers, where a somewhat high ranked politician choose not to help the state to investigate against his brother, an evenly high ranked member of organized criminality. Over this the politician had to finally abandon his career. 3. The case of the Unabomber, where a brother helped to investigate against his brother, a notorious bomber that killed several innocent people. This went decidedly against the beliefs of the first mentioned brother and this ultimately leads him to help the investigation against the Unabomber.

These three cases have shown that there are different reasons why you can be loyal to something, furthermore referred to as (I) emotive, or being loyal as the result of an emotional bond to something, normally family, siblings or yourself; (II) virtuous; or being loyal as the result of a higher belief in a higher, non-tangible instance like home, humanity or religion; (III) normative or the loyalty to a set of rules agreed upon by an social entity such as people or community. Arranging the mentioned cases leads to an understanding of these loyalty patterns as shown below.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Attribution of loyalty patterns towards given reference cases and explanation (own depiction)

The question, which of these patterns holds the strongest in the contest for loyalty regarding specific decisions one has to make is depend on a personal inner hierarchy of these patterns or simply put, the question, which one outmatches the others by stronger confidence in its’ righteousness of act.

This inner hierarchy depends directly to your socialisation. If you had for example a strong bond to your family ever since, the emotive might be your number one on the inner hierarchy.

The loyalty check-up

The whole process of deciding to be loyal and to what can be shown as in the process in figure 2: It bases on the clear distinction between inside, the mental based kind of things based on inner processes of people and the outside, which is basically everything you can interact with.

The loyalty check-up works as it follows (see figure 2): 1. You are exposed to circumstances initiated by institutions from the outside such as society, institutions, family etc. 2. You check these circumstances in regard towards your concept of yourself and imagine possible outcomes

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2: The loyalty Check-up process as derived in the seminar

3. Based on the concept of yourself, in special regard on self-applied values and norms and the imagined outcomes, you set up your inner hierarchy of the three loyalty patterns.

4. Based on this hierarchy you finally take your decision. Big part of this decision is, that it has to be consistent to your former actions and your inner hierarchy of loyalty patterns.

5. Assuring especially step 3 will lead you to the ultimate conclusion that your decision is just as it shows the least creation of inequality based on your judgement on possible outcomes and is consistent to your inner hierarchy based on norms and values. 6. You stick to your decision as it is the best option as mentioned under 5 and influence in some way your surrounding world. This shows, why people are sticking to decisions, even if they seem dumb to others: Because they see them as consistent and just from where they are standing. But this shows as well why many conflicts, on large or small scales, break out: because people have different bases to judge from, namely their own set of values and norms.

If people would have the same set of values and norms as well as the same amount of information on decisions they would have to take, conflicts and problems would vanish more or less.

Part 2: Loyalty in the movie “Interstellar”

By applying the above mentioned concept of loyalty this part takes a deeper look in the aspects of loyalty in the movie interstellar, its’ characters and its’ importance for “Interstellar”’s story.

Plot outline of “Interstellar”

Even though Interstellar is a science-fiction movie its’ setting is not in the so far future. In the second half of the 21st century the earth is an uninviting planet. Human civilisation and number has declined. The rest of them have to cultivate food, which is a rather difficult task since epidemics killed most of nature’s resources as there is still corn to grow but still questionable how long.

The NASA is officially shut down but still operates secretly and has found a wormhole leading to another galaxy. In this galaxy is a system of planets around a black hole. These planets are potentially habitable. The “Lazarus”-programme has sent out 10 scientists to discover if and how these planets could be used as habitats. Three out of those ten scientists have sent promising data (Miller, Mann & Edmunds). In this setting the former NASA-pilot, engineer and now farmer Cooper tries to support his family consisting out of his daughter Murphy, his son Tom and his father in law Donald as good as he can, both economically with his farm and cognitive in giving them support in school and trying to raise them to wise and reflecting people. His smart daughter Murphy starts to recognize abnormalities in her room, as a “ghost” let’s things fall out of her cupboard or causes strange patterns in the dust of her room. His father, still up to date of technical and military topics, identifies these signs as binary codes and together they follow the code towards a secret NASA station. There Prof. Brand, head of NASA, convinces Cooper to fly the shuttle “Endurance” during the next missions following the signals of Miller, Mann and Edmunds to investigate the quality of their proposed planets. Prof. Brand has two plans for the further survival of mankind. His plan A is to solve the equation on quantum gravity to transport people in already built colonies through the worm hole onto the new planets. Plan B is to cultivate a new population right on the planet. The “Endurance” carries fertilized ova. Cooper decides to take part in the operation to save his family with Plan A although his daughter and his ghost are against it. With him are Brand’s daughter Amelia and two scientists and two robots. Making it to the first planet, the team discovers that this planet is rather inhabitable as giant devastating waves cover it every now and then. During their quest of regaining Miller’s data, they almost die because of one of those waves and their start back to their space station prolonged. Since this planet is very near to the black hole which causes time dilatation this stay made up for almost 24 earth years for them. In the meantime Prof. Brand has educated Murphy in physics and is working closely together with her. She discovers some mistakes in the professor’s approach to solve the equation. As he is dying he admits that he does not want to solve the equation but hopes that Plan B works out, as he sees better chances for mankind this way. After Murphy found out, she immediately tells Amelia and Cooper. Cooper is relieved as this is the first time he hears from his daughter ever since he’s gone. Because of their bad luck on the first planet they have not enough fuel to go regularly to the both other planets. As Amelia reveals that she is in love with Edmund who sends reasonable data all long, she is outvoted on the decision to go to Mann’s planet, which seems to be the choice. After they arrive at his planet, they discover that this planet is not inhabitable but an icy desert. Mann has sent out fake data the whole time to be rescued. After having this revealed to Cooper both start to fight. Mann almost kills Cooper and wants to escape solely to the space station but dies while trying to manually link his ship and the station. Amelia, Cooper and the robot TARS as the only survivors can reclaim the damaged space station and decide to turn to their last hope, Edmund’s planet. Lacking enough fuel they use a swing-by manoeuvre around the black hole to gain enough speed to get there. During this process the parts where TARS and Cooper are sitting have to be split off. Amelia goes on to Edmunds’ planet while Cooper and TARS are not dying by the gravity of the black hole as feared but find their selves in a tesseract. This tesseract turns out to be the 4-dimensional manifestation of Cooper’s daughter’s room built by future mankind that operates in 5 dimensions. Cooper discovers that he is the ghost in Murphy’s room as he can’t directly but indirectly communicate to her. As he believes that they can’t be rescued he tries to prevent is former self from leaving. After he figures out how to travel through time he goes further on to Murphy that tries to solve Prof. Brand’s equation for good. As TARS experienced the black hole, he has collected enough data to give a solution to this equation which Cooper provides to Murphy. She can solve the equation and rescue mankind. After the data being sent the tesseract disappears and Cooper awakens on a space station, one of many where people do live now thanks to his daughter, him and TARS . Cooper being 124 by now but not having aged witnesses a big get together of his descendants as Murphy is about to die. He and TARS unwilling to inhabit a copy of his former farm are flying of to Edmunds’ planet where Amelia, is living in a colony by now.

The concepts of loyalty as applied by a selection of single characters

The following part describes the loyalty concepts of the important characters and their effects on the story.


The loyalty in Cooper is equally strong and consistent towards his children. It follows clearly emotional patterns. All the way through the movie, in the beginning when he defends his children against the influence of school on their live tracks with the school’s decision that they should become farmer, from his actual intention to pilot the “Endurance”, to save his children, towards his potentially last moments when he almost dies by the hands of Mann, he always thinks about the best outcome for his children. He even said about his situation, if you become parents your survival instinct spreads incredibly fast towards your children. When confronted with the actual situation of betrayal by Prof. Brand is even willing to cancel the whole mission. The only time he did not think about his kids is when he finally found out that there may be no more way to see them again, this is when they are confronted with so little amounts of fuel, that they can hardly reach Edmunds’ planet. He then immediately puts his actions in favour of Amelia’s happy ending as he selflessly sacrifices himself to make sure she gets to the next planet. All his actions can be described as incredibly selfless and in favour for those he knows and he has an emotional bond to, which is in the end, when he knew his daughter is safe, Amelia. It is worth to mention that he does not feel any bond towards his descendants, even though his grandchildren might be among them and travels with hesitation through the whole galaxy. It seems that he lacks both of the other loyalty patterns and acts simply out of emotive loyalty.


Excerpt out of 16 pages


The concept of loyalty in movies. An analysis of 'Interstellar' and 'Walk the Line'
Technical University of Munich  (Carl von Linde-Akademie)
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ISBN (Book)
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Interstellar, walk the line, johnny cash, loyalty, moral, Sandel
Quote paper
Felix Zappe (Author), 2015, The concept of loyalty in movies. An analysis of 'Interstellar' and 'Walk the Line', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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