The Good Moral and Natural Philosophy of the Afterlife ‘Place’ {Guest Post by Madison Ward}



Introduction: Madison is our entertainment guru, keeping us up to date on the latest books, TV shows, and movies. She loves to cover pop culture and I'm glad to have her voice in this capacity.

{This post written by Madison Ward, Superstar Intern}

I do not recall how my preschool teacher decided to first explain the afterlife, but I remember at that point in time thinking that heaven was a bowl of m&m’s. A big, giant glass bowl of m&m’s on a long wooden table, with me sitting at the head. I am not sure how this image was put in my mind, if my teacher mentioned an m&m’s bowl as an example, or, at that point in time, I was just really feeling m&m’s and felt they represented a satisfying “heaven” for me.

Whatever the reason, my thoughts changed as I grew older. Heaven became less a place, a room, or a table, and more an intangible existence. Many people have tried to understand the possibilities of the afterlife, but as the possibilities are infinite, I have found myself detached from that sort of constant guessing game. I don’t know what the afterlife will bring, I don’t know how we will be judged or if we will be judged, but it is occasionally interesting to study other people’s hypotheses.

A couple months ago, I decided to watch the new show The Good Place, which was an unexpected delight for me and a large bundle of those interesting hypotheses. It looked easy and fun; I wasn’t sure of its quality, but then I wasn’t sure about The Office either before I started that and I constantly rewatch it now.

Not only was The Good Place hilariously charming and undoubtedly creative, it was enlightening and teaches me concepts in very receivable terms every time I watch it.

The cast is amazing. Manny Jacinto, who plays Jianyu/Jason Mendoza has also been in an episode of The Good Doctor and is incredibly good at staying in character, a very stupidly funny character at that. Jameela Jamil, who plays Tahani Al-Jimal, has never acted before in a TV show and has already mastered social gestures and emotional tics as signs of low-key reactions in every episode. William Jackson Harper, who plays Chidi Anagonye, has perfected being a constant irksome, and yet extremely relatable, nerd and continues to surprise with his adaptability handling concepts of moral philosophy and responses to inappropriate humor.

The show, in all, seems like any other late-night comedy on NBC, but has gone further with actually nurturing some key ideas of philosophy and controversial scenarios, similar to The Good Doctor, but in a way that I can actually use as a reference for my AP Literature class for our analysis of the novel Frankenstein.

Romanticism is a big theme of the book and the weight of nature and its inevitable impact can be traced back to Locke, Kant, and other such philosophers, who have also been highlighted throughout episodes of The Good Place. Kristen Bell is the final character of the human quad, Eleanor, and draws on the concept of pushing these natural moral and ethical limits, trying to change after death, and trying to be defined post-judgement.

In the show The Good Place, Heaven isn’t a thing. Not really. Neither is Hell. There is The Good Place and there is The Bad Place and every single act or decision a human makes on earth has a point value like stocks: negative 3.126, positive 7.452, etc., until they ultimately have hundreds or thousands or millions of positive or negative values, or in between, though since this afterlife is strict, the in between is basically negative.

The show does pull from traditional ideas, but is known for tricks and twists that will make you doubt everything you thought you knew. It is a new favorite of all my friends and family who had time to try it out for themselves and a new outlook to an immortal question. What happens when we die?

A bowl of m&m’s will wait for our consumption, if there even is consumption in the afterlife. A neighborhood of positive or negative point-getters will house our souls, socializing for the endless amount of time every death results in. Or a resurrection such as Frankenstein if we are so cursed and evolved by then.

Whatever the case, this show has made me lighter and brighter, literally and mentally. Little brain power is required, but much curiosity and the acknowledgement of potential outcomes nurture our little minds to doubt and to hope, to see the reality of our actions, but also the ability to conquer our predicaments, even if those predicaments may be ourselves.

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Kristin Shaw