One of the best shows in history and the afterlife is about, well, being good. It revolves around four humans who’ve died and gone to secular heaven, where they’re awarded a modern version of The Fields of Elysium where there’s free-flowing froyo, your very own soulmate, and the house of your dreams.
The Good Place takes a unique yet simple premise and takes it all the way with its humor and endearing characters. It’s a great sitcom, but the best part about it is that it gives viewers the chance to introspect about morality.
Needless to say, spoilers ahead!
Doing good deeds doesn’t make you a good person.
Tahani Al-Jamil is the most fabulous name-dropping philanthropist you could ever have the pleasure to meet — yet she’s been sent to The Bad Place. This is because all her points were deemed invalid, thanks to her motivations. She only did those things just so she could be noticed by her parents and the world over her more successful sister, Kamilah.
Do good cause it’s good, kids, not cause your sister is better than you.
Believe the best in everyone.
Michael, the demon architect of their neighborhood (lovingly referred to as Neighborhood 12358W), designed it as a prototype where Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason would torture each other just by being their bad selves. Judging by the hundreds of reboots, he obviously failed. He soon saw that despite humans initially torturing each other, they would always always ALWAYS end up helping each other.
We can take this as a lesson in giving people chances — sometimes they just had a really rough childhood or you know, lived in Florida (Sorry, Jason). Also, just so we’re clear, this doesn’t include murderers, rapists, sexual harassers, and people who take their shoes off in flights.
Empathy is important.
Chidi teaches Eleanor a crash course in ethics, and while they go through the basics (Aristotle, Plato, Socrates), he makes her read Tim Scanlon’s What Do We Owe Each Other?. This is basically a manifesto that proposes the concept of contractualism wherein we have an inherent responsibility to be good to each other.
This, of course, hits Eleanor hard as her character flaw is being selfish and thrives on making other people miserable.
Ethics is a lot more complicated when applied.
Chidi, like many ethics professors, is often crippled by the many theories that years of philosophical arguments have provided about morality. While he acknowledges that there’s a gray area to it, he’s physically incapable of making a decision because he keeps making arguments for both sides.
During their stint to infiltrate The Bad Place, Chidi has one of these breakdowns because he can’t continue impersonating someone else. Eleanor swoops in with the concept of moral relativism, where in it’s impossible to actually apply universal laws (especially Kantian *blech*), so it’s up to you to determine the best for the situation at hand.
It’s never too late to learn to be good.
As the great prophet Eleanor Shellstrop said, “Pobody’s Nerfect.” It took her dying and getting a second life to officially become a better person (and not the human garbage she always says she is).
It might be harder for grown-ups to learn to be good, but it’s a lot more rewarding when you unlearn all your toxic behaviors and see yourself become better.
It pays to think about what you’re doing.
Jason’s major flaw is that he’s ignorant and impulsive. Given that he also wasn’t well off or that he didn’t get the same opportunities as most people (or that he was from Florida), he did a lot of bad stuff just cause he felt like it. He sold fake drugs, made molotovs, and you know, other petty crimes. While it can be argued that he didn’t have malicious intent, it still got him negative points in the afterlife because of willful ignorance.
tl;dr: you’re a human, not a goldfish — you should know what’s happening.
If you repress your feelings, you’ll explode. Literally.
Just ask Janet. When she fell in love with the charming Jason (Yes, AIs have feelings,too), they got married and lived happily ever after… until the entire neighborhood got rebooted where Tahani and Jason fall in love with each other, that is. Because Janet couldn’t hide her feelings anymore, the neighborhood was on the brink of collapsing in on itself. Yikes.
Long story short, maybe you need a healthy outlet that won’t destroy the fabric of the universe.
It’s ultra frustrating to be good.
When Eleanor got her second shot at life, she tried to be good. And she meant it. She even joined that environmentalist group she always yelled at outside the supermarket. But soon enough, she realized how hard it is to change the world. It’s so much easier to be a d-bag. (That’s the challenge us mortals have to face, unfortunately.) But a few episodes later, after going through the immense hassle of returning some guy’s wallet, she realizes that there’s something inherently great in doing good things.
Just keep putting good out into the world!
The first three seasons of The Good Place can be streamed on Netflix, and the first episode of the final season just dropped! Get the fork out of here and watch the shirt out of it.
What did The Soul Squad teach you? Let us know below!