The Good Place, Essay 1: Female friendships

My latest television obsession is The Good Place, a show about the afterlife, and a woman who isn’t supposed to be there. It’s pretty clear from the start that Eleanor has been sent to the Good Place by mistake, as they think she was an important humanitarian when in reality she sold fake pharmaceuticals to gullible elderly people. She is introduced to her afterlife soul mate, Chidi, who is an ethics professor. He agrees to help hide her identity and teach her how to be a good person to fit in. Their neighbors are Tahani, a British philanthropist and her soul mate, Jianyu, a silent Taiwanese monk.

The two other main characters are Michael, the immortal being  in charge of the Good Place, and Janet, the friendly AI who keeps it running. But they’re not discussed much in this post.

This show is brilliant, philosophical, and hysterical. I’ve been wanting to write my thoughts for some time, and am only now getting to it. Holidays, y’all. You know. (Did you have a good new year?)

Unfortunately, to blog about The Good Place, I’m going to have to spoil the hell out of it. This show has a lot more to spoil than the classic “will they/won’t they” sexual tension. So if you haven’t seen it, please please please go watch it and then come back to my post. Unless you like being spoiled. I’m not judging.

Eleanor and Tahani bond

Spoilers ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It turns out that Eleanor isn’t the only fraud. The silent monk is actually a pre-successful professional DJ from Florida (JACKSONVILLE!) named Jason, who’s basically a guy with a toddler’s brain – he has a heart of gold, is an idiot, and really doesn’t know right from wrong.

The best way to get to know Jason is to know how he ranks the F&F movies. Number 5 is Number 1.

While there’s not a lot of sexual tension in the show, Eleanor and Chidi do bond, as he is impressed with her growth and she appreciates his dedication to helping her stay in the Good Place, even though it means he may never meet his real soul mate. And Chidi, an intellectual like Tahani, helps Jason do things for her that she would appreciate, Cyrano-style.

In the Season One episode, “Chidi’s Choice,” a whole lot of stuff happens. Eleanor realizes she’s in love with Chidi. Tahani find’s out Jianyu/Jason is a fraud and that Chidi has been helping him talk to her. And the “real Eleanor” (Chidi’s real soul mate) is back from The Bad Place in order to change places with the Fake Eleanor.

The episode gives a lot of back story to Chidi: he has trouble with decisions, and we get a flashback to his childhood where, after his failure to pick kids for a soccer team, his best friend says, “Way to go Chidi. You just filibustered recess!” However, the real shining point is the relationship between Eleanor and Tahani.

After her realization, Eleanor sits Chidi down and gives him a very sweet, very clumsy, kind of insulting proclamation of love. “You’re way more of a buzzkill than any [former boyfriend] and yet I never want to leave you!” Then Tahani barges in and says she knows Jianyu is a fraud, and that Chidi has been helping him, which proves Chidi loves her. Chidi is shocked, and deals with it in a very Chidi way.

How Chidi deals with affection from two women.

The two women are left alone with the discomfort of realizing they want the same guy. They begin to argue, and then Eleanor stops and takes the story in a direction THAT NO OTHER SHOW HAS EVER GONE IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION.*

She says, “No. We are not going to be those women that fight over a guy. We have a weird, forked up friendship, but it’s our friendship.” And then she says they’re going to spend the day together.

They do something Tahani wants to do, which is watching a classic BBC comedy about a sophisticated woman and her friendship with an uncultured idiot, and then they do something Eleanor wants to do, which is give Tahani hair extensions. “These are real cheap. You’ll want to stay away from open flames and altercations at outlet malls.” Then she apologizes for hiding Jason/Jianyu’s identity from Tahani. Tahani forgives her.

More happens, like they wonder if Jason and Eleanor are soul mates, and then they find out that Jason has proposed to Janet the AI because she’s the only person who’s nice to him, and she has accepted. Eleanor and Tahani arrive to witness their wedding, which is one of my favorite weddngs in all of television and includes vows like, “Janet, my digital queen. We can dare to dream. Send nude pics of your heart to me. Jacksonville Jaguars RULE!” but that’s beside the point.

My favorite takeaway from this episode is that it introduced a love triangle and then sidestepped it ENTIRELY. Chidi does make a decision (we don’t know what it is), shows up to tell them, but they brush him off saying they both may have been mistaken regarding their feelings, and besides Tahani has an idea how to keep Eleanor in the Good Place for good, so they run off to figure that out. Chidi is left behind, having no knowledge of the Jason/Janet whirlwind romance, watching them dance at their wedding and repeatedly saying, “What?”

Thank you, Good Place writers, for giving two women a deeper friendship that isn’t focused on mooning over men, competing over men, or discussing what woman to backstab to get ahead (or get a man).

NEXT FEW BLOG POSTS: I discuss Mindy St. Claire and the male gaze, and come up with a way to make my two favorite bit characters, Tahani’s sister Camilla and Jason’s best bud Pillboi, regulars on the show. And also we must discuss why, on a scale from 1-13, 8 is the highest.



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