This world that we live in is an empty, boundless, void that stretches afar eternally. A space full of unpredictability, dilemmas and contentment, but what it isn’t is the perfect utopia we take it for. Nothing here is constant or will remain constant, that’s one thing the architects of The Good Place wanted to preach, not just Michael Schur, the brains behind this phenomenal setting but also our friendly neighborhood demon, Michael!
Set in the epiphanic universe of non-denominational heaven it premiered with the most absurd plot of a wrong human mistakenly being welcomed into heaven as someone they were not, and with this came the question of moral imperativeness and ethical perplexity. Subject to more such ideas, this show dealt with something more than a juxtaposition of moral ideas; it also bought the audience an element of humor and philosophy. As unconventional as it seems, the premise of human existence was its area of focus with some connotations about reality and metaphysics. This extremely vibrant series delivered a complete package of philosophical existentialism that encircled the whole notion of moral quandary. From Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative to the doctrine of double effect, who could’ve thought that an NBC show would show it all?
Moreover, it dealt with some major issues like fake positivity by stating that in order to be good one does not have to be omnipotently extraordinary but believe in change. All a person needs is to struggle for change. It said that change isn’t easily achievable, especially in this dynamic world where individualism is worshipped and no matter how hard one tries, they always end up forking ‘things’ somewhere, pointing out the ambiguity involved with decision making in today’s world and our environment that is not always the most nurturing place. If Parks and Recreation was a liberal fantasia, The Good Place is a dystopian datum; it’s a comedy about being moral even when truths are bent, bullies win, and sadism thrives, and it secured that position with the most real form of a cinematic universe ever seen. The female leads here didn’t follow the usual -enemy-trope, they were smart and rugged, and they had their own personalities which developed throughout the show. There was a representation of communities with not just actors but their accents, names and uniqueness.
One of the most integral themes it covered was the notion of a moral dessert. Something that most of us find ourselves engulfed with, how we think that if we’re a good person, we deserve something in return. But, to quote every parent everywhere, life’s not fair – and, as Eleanor discovered, the pride of a job well done isn’t really enough to sustain a lifetime of unerring virtue. So, if you can’t count on a moral desert, why even try to be a good person? For a self-centered person, the idea that the answer might be related to our relationships with other people is more than a little mind-blowing. After looking up, ‘what do we owe each other?‘, a pointed question that Michael dropped during their conversation, many of us struggled to analyze what it actually means but somehow we knew that the answer is the feeling of togetherness. The Good Place, with its pastel hues and twee, euphemistic cursing became the most whimsically escapist yet.
No matter where and when The Good Place’s characters found themselves – Heaven, Hell, Australia – their fundamental inquiry remained the same: How can humans help one another be better? On the show, Chidi taught his friends the basics of the trolley problem, the categorical imperative, contractualism. As the series went on, Schur and his writers revealed how its own guiding philosophical principle had changed from Sartre’s No Exit (“Hell is other people”) to the title of a Season 4 episode: “Help Is Other People.” Furthermore, when the character Doug Forcett after accurately predicting the afterlife points system while high on mushrooms (but having no confirmation of his hypothesis, of course) decades ago, dedicated himself to the type of utilitarian existence so often mentioned throughout the series: ‘act in a way that maximizes the overall good’. In doing so, Doug ate only radishes and lentils to preserve the environment, tested harmful cosmetics on his own face to spare animals from pain all while living so selflessly sounds, though this sounds good in theory, Doug illustrated how such a severe commitment to utilitarianism is actually a terrible idea. He has become what Janet calls a happiness pump; in other words, he’s trying to pump as much happiness into the world as possible at his own expense.
In the end, this show radically reworked itself each season, but its underlying architecture of people striving for goodness and falling short didn’t change, it exhibited that change is the only constant. Instead of having to work around that limitation, The Good Place made it its central theme. With its sarcasm and humor, it became the standing proof that slapstick and banter can coexist alongside tragedy and hardship – a show doesn’t need to be self-serious to be serious-minded. Celestial beings can learn humanity and death is never the end of the journey. No other series can drop such highbrow references then go from 0 to 100 with its visual gags and entertainment, or consistently crack you up while raising your IQ at several points. It’s both perversely, hilariously fantastic and deft at keeping its drama grounded, often doing it all at the same time.
Amber is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Varda Ahmad
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.