The Good Place, a Michael Schur sitcom dealing with philosophy and the afterlife, came to a bitter-sweet goodbye this past week. This show explored philosophy through the experiences of four humans in the afterlife – Chidi Anagonye [William Jackson Harper], Eleanor Shellstrop [Kristen Belle], Tahani Al Jamil [Jameela Jamil], and Jason Mendoza [Manny Jacinto]. They are joined by a reformed (spoiler alert) demon, Michael [Ted Danson] and a not-a-robot-not-a-lady AGI Janet [D’Arcy Carden] as they navigate, and later try to fix, the afterlife.
This show meant a lot to me – it featured multiple people of color and had a largely diverse cast. It had characters from all over the world. Characters have a variety of sexualities and genders. There was nothing forced about the relationships, they came naturally and unfolded with rich developments. But I think the biggest impact of the show, and I hope that it’s not just for me, was the philosophical argument of the show itself – everyone has the capacity to be the best version of ourselves. Each of the characters are shaped distinctly by environment and circumstance – and when they are in the afterlife, are able to become better people because of their connections to others and the lack of interference from daily life.
The other message of the show, which I find comforting, is that the end-all-be-all isn’t people or the universe is good or bad. In fact, pure goodness gets nothing done, and pure badness is torture. What the show does argue is that the pinnacle of behavior is humanity and choice. Janet develops and learns skills each time she is rebooted, making her more and more “human” – the first time she is rebooted, she learns the concept of love. Michael, a demon, learns how to be human through his friendships with the others, through the choices he makes. We have to make the choice to be better, to listen to our own “little voices” in our heads, to make the forking decision to be kind, to listen, to be empathetic.
“A Kinder U – Kindness Curriculum” by Ben Simonson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
This show was endlessly positive, as has become Schur’s trademark. His other hit sitcoms, Parks & Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, all have a fierce positivity about them, and an overarching message – kindness matters. Kindness creates connections and positive relationships in our lives. And, most importantly, everyone is deserving of kindness.
I am going to miss this show. If it gets removed from Netflix, I may simply implode. And I cannot wait to see what Michael Schur comes up with next.
Catch you on the Jeremy Bearimy.