Published November 7, 2019|3 min read
NBC's quirky comedy "The Good Place" is mostly — OK, overtly — concerned with moral philosophy lessons.
The basic premise: Self-proclaimed "Arizona trash bag" Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) accidentally gets into heaven and takes ethics lessons (aka "learns how to be good") from her fake soul mate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) in a last-ditch attempt to avoid eternal damnation.
But money and morality aren't necessarily mutually exclusive and there are quite a few financial lessons to be mined from creator Michael Schur's comedic examination of what it means to be a good person. Of course, before we dive, beware:
The big twist at the center of "The Good Place" is that Eleanor, Chidi and their main cohorts — narcissitic socialite Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) and sweet, but perpetually clueless Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) — aren't in heaven at all. They're actually in a very special Bad Place designed by demon architect Michael (Ted Danson) who selected them to torture one another. (Think Sartre's "No Exit," but with a thousand times the yuks.)
The joke's on Michael, though, because our four heroes wind up improving one another instead — and subsequently upend the world's current system of deciding who gets to go to heaven or hell. The TL;DR: You earn or lose points for your actions on Earth and only top scorers get to enjoy eternal bliss.
"The Good Place" posits pretty early on that this system is flawed and spends most of its first few seasons examining what it really means to be a good or bad person. It ultimately lands on the idea that we can all improve our "overall quality level" — as Eleanor puts it — so long as we actually try to.
So go ahead: Open that emergency savings account. Use the avalanche method to pay off some credit card debt. Up your 401(k) contributions by 1%. Release your Bad Janet from her magnet prison. Or, maybe, you know, just check on your credit score. There's more than one way to fix your financial health.
Season three of "The Good Place" ends with the revelation that, thanks to the world's growing complexity, no one has gotten into de facto heaven for more than 500 years. Turns out, the mere act of purchasing flowers can cost you 8.313 points if said flowers were grown in pesticide-rich farmland and another 6.3198 if it was farmed by an unpaid labor force.
The Good Place acknowledges that humans can't possibly navigate all the ethical conundrums advanced society throws at us. But going back to its central thesis, it's important that we try to. If you want to make sure your money is going to a good cause, consider impact investing. That is, invest in mutual funds that consider how a company measures up against certain values. These apps can help.
On "The Good Place," they cost you a ton of points. (See Eleanor's sale of "Dress Bitch" T-shirts after her terrible roommate Madison sues a dry cleaner and turns into a meme.) They also never end well. See every idea pursued by Donkey Doug (Jason's wayward father played by Mitch Narito), including Double Trouble, a body spray/energy drink enterprise that lands him in prison, and a horseshoes-dodgeball sporting venture in which ... everyone dies.
This lesson comes courtesy of Bad Eleanor, who refuses to let a friend purchase her Spider-Man ticket (so they can all sit together) lest she lose out on the credit card rewards.
This lesson comes courtesy of Reformed Eleanor, who encourages her presumed-but-not-actually-dead mom Donna to use the money she's been stealing from new boyfriend Dave to open a college savings fund for his daughter Patricia.
Want more money lessons? Check out these insights from HBO's Succession.
Image: Nastia Kobzarenko
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