BlogOfTheMoon

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Good Place: Making ethics accessible and fun

I got Netflix at the tail end of last year, mostly so that I could watch Star Trek: Discovery.  (Aside: Discovery is good, but it’s turned into a programme that I enjoy having watched rather than actively watching.  That may be a blog post in its own right.)  But since I had Netflix, I took the opportunity to watch a few other programmes on it that had been recommended to me, one of which was The Good Place.  And oh, goodness, gracious me, I’m so glad I decided to give it a go.

The characters in the show are just wonderful.  Eleanor is our main protagonist, someone who is welcomed into the “Good Place” after she dies, and who realises that there’s been a mistake, and she doesn’t belong there.  But, with the help of her soulmate, Chidi, she resolves to become a better person in the hope of earning her place, and following her on that journey is a joy.  Chidi is a professor of ethics and moral philosophy, and he’s the one who weaves in actual ethics and philosophy into the programme, even if it’s usually Eleanor or one of her neighbours, Tahani and Jianyu, who enact what they’ve learned and make it real for the audience.

Although Tahani is a secondary character, she very quickly cemented her place as my favourite character on the show.  Her wealthy philanthropist who’s really insecure inside is so deftly portrayed, and her constant name-dropping is hilariously over the top.  But despite her pretension, she’s a genuinely warm character who cares about those around her.  Following actress Jameela Jamil on Twitter, and seeing her I Weigh campaign, has done nothing but increase my respect for her and love for the character.

And then there’s Michael.  An eternal being and architect of the neighbourhood in which our protagonists live, he’s a dapper fellow, always in a good suit with a bow-tie (bow-ties are still cool!) with Janet, the not-a-lady, not-a-robot, all-purpose sort of PA, who provides the residents with anything they want, alongside him (and who is, incidentally, another brilliant character).  Ted Danson gives Michael an air both of naivety and ancient knowledge at the same time, and his physical portrayal is excellent, with one hand always nonchalantly in his pocket, even when things are going wrong.

One other thing that I really like about the show is how it handles Eleanor’s apparent bisexuality.  Unlike another Netflix show I could mention (*cough*Discovery*cough*), it doesn’t fall into the trap of showing that an evil character is evil because they like men and women.  In fact, Eleanor’s bisexuality isn’t remarked upon at all.  She shows it through her words and actions, but it’s not a thing.  The show doesn’t feel the need to draw attention to it at all, and just lets it be a part of human nature.  And that’s a rare show of maturity in Hollywood, one that I’m really pleased to see.

I’ve not fallen this hard for a TV show for a very long time, but after just a few episodes, I came to adore The Good Place.  The characters are so warm, the humour is gentle and the philosophy is real – you learn without even realising it!  The story moves along apace, with twists aplenty but it stays reasonable, with everything building on what comes before.  It’s a caring show, where the humour doesn’t come at the expense of the characters being nasty towards each other.  Instead they build up a camaraderie and bond that’s wonderful to see, as it’s forming.

For want of a better word, it’s a compassionate show, with a message of hope for all of us, and in this time and place, that’s something that’s sorely needed amongst all the grimdark out there (looking at you, again, Discovery).

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Paddington’s Message

This evening, I watched the Paddington film, and I absolutely adored it.  It shows a stranger, an immigrant, coming here, being welcomed and then accepted for who he is and what he brings to the country.  It shows a positive view of immigration that is sorely lacking in the media at the moment.

But what really brought a lump to my throat (and, I’ll admit, a tear to my eye) was what Paddington’s Aunt Lucy says to him just before she puts him on to a boat for London, near the start of the film:

Long ago, people in England sent their children by train with labels around their necks, so they could be taken care of by complete strangers in the countryside where it was safe. They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.

“They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.”  This is my Britain!  This is the Britain that I love; not the Britain of UKIP, brexit and division.  I’m glad that a film can still be made that has that positive message of compassion, inclusion and acceptance.  Messages like this are sorely needed at the moment and I’m so glad that I finally watched this.  Bravo to Paul King and Studio Canal and I sincerely hope that the sequel doesn’t succumb to the zeitgeist of nationalism and insularity currently sweeping the western world.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Compassion and punishment

One of the many things that has come out of the mass of WikiLeaks documents released recently is that the UK Government was apparently worried about Libyan reaction if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died in jail.  This led to a rekindling of interest in the case and the ‘revelation’ that al-Megrahi is still alive, leading to questions asked of the First Minister on the Today programme revisiting the decision.  Surely I can’t be the only who finds this vulture-like constant waiting for al-Megrahi to die somewhat macabre?

Even if his conviction was completely sound (and there are many grounds for believing otherwise, although that’s neither here nor there for this post) I would still have supported his release from prison on compassionate grounds as the Scottish government did.  I find it almost amusing that the fact he is still alive, despite his illness, is something that would have been lauded, maybe as a miracle, in any circumstance other than this one.  Indeed, if one were feeling mischievous one could maybe argue that that his continuing health is a sign from God…

However, that’s not the point that I want to make.  My point is this: that when Kenny MacAskill released al-Megrahi, he did so for the right reasons, on compassionate grounds for someone who all medical evidence suggested had only a few months left to live.  The immediate flurry of protest is something that I despised because that key fact was forgotten or ignored – that he’s almost certainly going to die soon enough anyway, probably in a fairly painful and slow way.  This decision was one that was made for all the right reasons and under a lot of pressure to the contrary, from both the media in this country and America, and the US Government.  It’s one of the few times that I’ve felt any pride in my elected representatives, and it made me proud to have adopted Scotland, a nation that still understands and values compassion, as my home.

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