Thursday, October 13, 2016

When Entertainment and Philosophy Collide!

Under most circumstances I have a lot of trouble watching comedies, whether it be a 90 minute movie or a 30 minute television episode (or anything in the middle). I am too analytical to enjoy a show or movie that is only there to entertain. I normally get annoyed and irritated and either end up skimming the episodes/movies to get the basic plot and a couple of jokes here and there. This is what happened with Psych, the Office, IT Crowd, Angie Tribeca, Raising Hope, Baby Daddy, How I Met Your Mother, (to a lesser degree) The Big Bang Theory, and, unfortunately, Speechless (although I will still watch it because it is a good show). Continually, I would start these comedic shows and within 4 episodes I would be throwing things at the screen/plugging my ears/skipping large portions of the episode to avoid the comedy. The only comedies that I have, until now, been able to watch thoroughly are Parks and Recreation and Wonderfalls. The former because of the large cast and often cynical undertones (although I still got annoyed at the more typical comedy moments) and the latter because it is the center of extreme sarcasm.

The Good Place is completely different.

For once in my life, I was able to sit down and watch an entire episode of a comedy show without groaning, throwing something, or muting the show and closing my eyes. This is also the only comedy I have ever found where I can actually sit down and talk about philosophy and have it actually be directly applicable to the show... granted, doing so makes the eyes of whomever I am talking to glaze over, but at least they don't tell me to shut up as often. I had been looking forward to this show since I first saw the trailer for it and was so happy that after 3 episodes (as of 2 weeks ago since the first and second episodes were combined on Hulu) I was still just as invested and excited for the next.

The show has such an interesting concept, subtly combining major philosophical theorems and average comedy to create an enjoyable and yet stimulating show. The entire idea that all of our actions are graded on a point scale, Eleanor's comments about a "middle place", and the actual lessons about Plato and Aristotle given by Chidi caught my attention in the first couple episodes. The fact that the show makes such a comparison between different kinds of virtue (Tahani helping others out of the goodness inherent in her but also because she wants to be recognized and respected verses Chidi devoting his entire life to the study of virtue/seeking the truth) is amazing, really showing that there is no one true way to go about living.

While I am still uncertain what to think of Jianyu, AKA Jason Mendoza, (although I suspect that he slipped in through the loophole/rift that Eleanor made), Eleanor is extremely interesting because, up until her "life" in the Good Place, she was a pure hedonist. She did what brought her pleasure. Honestly, it would be hard to be a pure hedonist, only ever thinking about your own happiness. Eleanor is now living her "life", trying to learn to be virtuous. And, it seems, that the Good Place is somehow connected to her virtues (she nearly destroyed the neighborhood her first day, the Tahani tree, the crater when she destroyed the cake). All of the disasters she caused were repaired when she realized/understood/internalized the necessary virtue or selfless action (choosing to clean up the trash, making friends with Tahani, mending her relationship with Chidi). I think that, based on the pure point system, Eleanor does belong in the Good Place, albeit on a different scale, which is why she is connected to the neighborhood in such a fashion. The Good Place is trying to account for hedonism (which is basically Eleanor) instead of virtue and has hit a glitch and since Eleanor is the ultimate hedonist, the glitches are centered around her actions.

The Good Place itself is very interesting, as it is practically a hedonistic paradise. "Now that you're dead, have fun living your life and doing whatever the heck you want!" There seem to be no stipulations, no judgement, and no rules about what most people there can do (Eleanor being the exception) as evinced by the direct interface, Janet, basically offering anything and carrying out odd requests. The hedonistic nature of the Good Place itself is why I believe Eleanor actually belongs there, even though she was accidentally brought in under false pretenses.

I am so very pleased to have found this show and love the ambition and ingenuity that allows for philosophy to be included in a weekly comedy in such a way that everyone can enjoy and understand it without the glazed look and severe headaches.

I will definitely review the entire season when it's over, including my favorite scenes, thoughts, and general feelings towards the finished season.

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