'The Good Place' & Defining a Good Person

In a world filled with heartache, disappointments and despair, it's hard to find feel-good shows that can make you feel better about the world you're living in. The Good Place, written and produced by Michael Schur, has everything you need to both contemplate the world you live in and laugh at jokes about every day human interactions.

The sitcom follows Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani as they explore the difficult and unconventional afterlife, where a point system keeps score on whether you belong to The Good Place or The Bad Place, an alternative to the Heaven and Hell idea. Only the big shock is that Eleanor doesn't deserve to be in The Good Place, as she lived a life with an egocentric attitude and didn’t care for those around her. Eleanor and the gang come together and figure out the basis of ethics, what it truly means to be a good person and why it's so complicated!

The Good Place asks many theoretical questions that leave you as the audience curious and open-minded: What does it mean to be a 'good' person? What is 'good'? Can people change, or become this ‘goodness’ we seek? How do our actions, even the insignificant ones, affect the world around us? The theme of morality and how it differs for everyone shows that being good isn't always easy. The flawed point system that determines whether or not you go to The Good Place or The Bad Place shows that every action you made has an effect on others. 

To give a few examples, Chidi’s anxious indecision and Jason’s blatant ignorance caused harm to others, even if it was unintentional. So, their actions, even unintentional, ultimately decided their fate in the afterlife. Because they struggled in the same cycle without ever changing because of their outside influences, The Bad Place deemed them ‘bad people.’ 

Many episodes of the show bring up the fact that with social progress, it can be hard to be good or ethical. You can make ‘good choices’ all your life, but end up having bad unintended consequences. However, the show highlights that it's not really about being a good person or understanding all the rules of ethics; it's about being a better person tomorrow than you were the day before. 


What I really love about The Good Place is that warm feeling of empathy that it just understands. The show stresses how we all have flaws and get angry or upset at times; it's an important part of what makes us human. But what makes us genuinely good people is what we choose to put into the world. So yes, you have a bad day, maybe your life isn't what it's turned out to be, but why should you choose to be cruel and mean when you can be kind and loving?

It's my favorite show, not only because it makes me laugh and cry and theorize what the afterlife really has in store⁠ — but because it makes me think about the importance of being truly good. I've always lived for the phrase "I live for love and the rest will take care of itself," by Marina Keegan, and I think The Good Place really embodies that. 

Chidi and Eleanor often repeat the question made by philosopher TM Scalons: What do we owe to each other? Or essentially, what do we owe to the world, to the people we love, to the strangers we meet on the street? Whether or not you gather that take from watching the show, or if you simply want a laugh, The Good Place has something for everyone. 

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