Friday, August 7, 2020

Why Choose to Be Good

(Guest Post by Tyler)

Why choose to be good? What is the point of helping other people or doing the right thing if there’s no reward? Or to put it in the words of Eleanor Shellstrop , “I was a good person for six months. That’s like 5 years. And it felt okay, but not as good as I thought it would. And what did I get for it?” (Season 2, Episode 12)

For those who aren’t familiar with it, The Good Place tackles a variety of questions that have been debated for years. Is goodness something you are born with or something you learn? What does it take for someone to change? And most importantly, can one woman play over 10 characters in a TV show without fail (the answer to the last one is an overwhelming yes! D’Arcy Cardon is an amazing actress; more on that in another article). One of the most important questions it asks and attempts to answer is why choose to be good.

At the start of the show, we find the original version of Eleanor, self centered, manipulative and only worried about keeping herself out of The Bad Place. Along the way, she enlists the help of Chidi, her soul-mate and a moral philosophy professor, to help her become better. But it’s not till Chidi and her other friends are put in danger that she puts her instinct for self preservation aside and makes the right choice so that Chidi can avoid going to The Bad Place.

Throughout the next 3 seasons, we see time after time this concept unfolds. The main factor that helps people to change and become good people is their relationships with other people. In the third season, over the course of the third episode, we see various events of the course of a year as the group studies ethics. Many of these events show Eleanor going against what she said in earlier seasons, the main one being birthday parties for other people. “This way, I don’t owe you anything, you don’t owe me anything.”

Over the course of the series we get to see Chidi’s thesis of “why choose to be good” illustrated by the interactions between our six main characters. More to come on exploring those relationships. Chidi sums it up the best.

“So why do it then? Why choose to be good, every day, if there is no guaranteed reward we can count on now or in the afterlife? I argue that we choose to be good because of our bonds with other people and our innate desire to treat them with dignity. Simply put, we are not in this alone.” (Chidi, Season 2 Episode 13)

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