November 27, 2019


"The Good Place" taps into our hunger for second chances and redemption (Matthew Robert Anderson & Christine Jamieson, 11/27/19, Quartz)

While producer Michael Schur (who was also behind the American version of The Office) cast racially diverse actors -- Eleanor is portrayed as a white American, Chidi as Nigerian-born and Senegalese-raised, Tahani as a British South-Asian and Jason as a Filipino-American (the actor is actually Canadian)--the setting of The Good Place is flatly middle-American. An International House of Pancakes serves in season three as one of the dimensional gateways.

Far more nuanced are the philosophical questions that plague the four humans in The Good Place: Do I always have to tell the truth? Is it OK to ignore present action for future gain? What if I participate in evil unknowingly--if so, am I to blame for the outcome? Is it possible for an action to be both good and evil at the same time? If so, how does one decide? Should I sacrifice myself for others?

Even those only casually predisposed to reflecting on our actions might be surprised to see themselves in some of these scenes. But The Good Place presents no easy answers.

Our classes on theology in film focus on what it means to be human in relationship to the transcendent--what's called "theological anthropology." Here, the statement by Janet's character rings true: "The more human I become, the less things make sense."

Eleanor's teary words in one of a recent show rephrase the ancient philosophical question of suffering: "What's the point of love if it's just going to disappear? There has to be meaning ... Otherwise the universe is just made of pain."

As the series emphasizes, goodness is not straightforward. What is striking is that in the characters' attempts to "be good" and "do good," they are transformed. The Good Place is really about how to live "the good life." Together, the four do change and grow. They get their second--and 800th--chance. Not only that, they transform the lives of others.

Posted by at November 27, 2019 12:00 AM