In a Dark Year, 2018’s Film and Television Made the Case for Kindness and Decency

/Film | 12/24/2018 | Josh Spiegel
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You don’t need me to tell you that 2018, like 2017, has been a uniquely dark time. (Well, you shouldn’t need me to tell you that.) One purpose of an entertainment website, and indeed popular culture in general, is to provide a distraction from or a refraction of the world at large. But as that world grows grimmer, it’s unsurprising to see a lot of popular culture that serves as a funhouse-mirror version of our world’s grimness. I mention this not because I want to wallow in that grimness; instead, as we approach the end of the year, I think it’s valuable to highlight a trend in 2018: that some of the year’s best films and TV celebrated or championed goodness and decency.

Is it possible to be a good person in a truly selfless way? If you’re good on Earth because you hope to be sent to Heaven when you die, does that make anything you do on Earth actually good, or are you being selfish? And is it even fair for some unknown force to decide what is or isn’t good enough to send you to the best version of the afterlife?

Questions - Foundation - Show - Network - Television

These questions are the foundation of what is arguably the most ambitious show on network television, The Good Place. It’s right there in the title — for 3 seasons, The Good Place has been focused on the goodness of humanity, or lack thereof. (If you have somehow avoided details regarding this show’s twists and turns, a warning: I’m about to spoil it for you.) The setup in the first season was as such: Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) wakes up in a waiting room, with a friendly greeting facing her: “Welcome! Everything is fine.” She’s greeted by a kindly older gentleman named Michael (Ted Danson), who informs her that...
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