The Good Place review: much more than a Thursday night comedy
By ADDISON HINTON
“The Good Place” could be described by some as a feel-good show with cheesy humor and an unfolding love story, but under the surface, it is so much more. From its diverse cast to tackling moral dilemmas and philosophical debates, there is a myriad of reasons why we all should be watching “The Good Place.”
The show follows four main characters, each with their own distinct, diverse background. The main heroine, Eleanor Shellstrop, is a selfish and manipulative saleswoman from Arizona. Her “soulmate” in the Good Place is Chidi Anagonye, an indecisive moral ethics professor who was born in Nigeria and was raised in Senegal. Supporting characters include Tahani Al-Jamil, who is a wealthy philanthropist born in Pakistan and raised in the United Kingdom, and Jason Mendoza, who is a failed DJ from Jacksonville, Florida.
The show portrays a lot of feminist values. According to BTR Today in their article “‘The Good Place’ is The Most Woke Sitcom on TV”, Taia Handlin writes that the show, “respects women in a way you rarely see on TV, let alone mainstream sitcoms.” This is expressed when Tahani and Eleanor begin to fight over their love towards Chidi.
Instead of having this conflict take over an entire episode, it is resolved rather quickly when Eleanor says, “we’re not gonna do this. We are not gonna be those women who fight over a guy and find any excuse to rip each other apart.”
This episode goes against mainstream media by not letting the female frenemies of the show be defined by another man. The directors make it very clear to the audience that their friendship does not center around Chidi and that women do not need the approval of a man to be happy.
The need for more representation of people of color in media and film is one which this show takes seriously. Their efforts can be seen through the diversity of the cast. “People of color are good, evil and complex on the show. People of color are, in short, people,” said Handlin.
This sitcom shows that in the afterlife, everyone is treated equal, everyone can be good or bad, and everyone is capable of positive change. “The Good Place shows us we also need mainstream, feel-good media that only happens to be politically instructive,” said Handlin.
The sitcom’s major debate is what constitutes a “good person” and if someone who has been deemed a “bad person” can in fact learn to be good. While the show does take this as an opportunity for comedy- for example paying money to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers or owning a vanity license plate take away from your overall good score- it also focuses on real dilemmas we all face every day.
The show consistently emphasizes that it’s our own intention behind our actions which make them either good or bad. You can do all the right things, but if your motivation is revenge, like Tahani’s, then you are not actually doing anything good.
Another beauty of this show is that you learn without actually knowing that you’re learning. According to KQED article “What ‘The Good Place’ Has Taught Us About Philosophy and Life So Far”, you will also learn that, “Kierkegaard is a lifesaver,” said Rae Alexandra.
“The only reason I know this is because of an episode of ‘The Good Place’ in which Michael references Kierkegaard in order to send a secret message to the humans to have faith in him, even in the midst of their fears that he cannot be trusted,” said Alexandra.
There are many episodes where Chidi teaches moral philosophy to the rest of the cast. This is great especially since philosophy is not particularly popular. He provides a lot of insight into the typical moral dilemmas that philosophers of ethics have tackled forever, and which the show humorously showcases, and it exposes the average viewer to concepts they may be unfamiliar with.
“The Good Place” offers us a progressive cast and a narrative which serves as a relief in this tense period of ripe political tension. And at the end of the day, it’s always good for a laugh.