Steven A. Benko
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Watching television need not be a passive activity or simply for entertainment purposes. Television can be the site of important identity work and moral reflection. Audiences can learn about themselves, what matters to them, and how to relate to others by thinking about the implicit and explicit moral messages in the shows they watch. Better Living through TV: Contemporary TV and Moral Identity Formation analyzes the possibility of identifying and adopting moral values from television shows that aired during the latest Golden Era of television and Peak TV. The diversity of shows and approaches to moral becoming demonstrate how television during these eras took advantage of new technologies to become more film-like in both production quality and content. The increased depth of characterization and explosion of content across streaming and broadcast channels gave viewers a diversity of worlds and moral values to explore. The possibility of finding a moral in the stories told on popular shows such as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and The Good Place, as well as lesser known shows such as Letterkenny and The Unicorn, are explored in a way that centers television viewing as a site for moral identity formation.
In ,i>The Good Place and Philosophy, twenty-one philosophers analyze different aspects of the ethical and metaphysical issues raised in the show, including:
● Indefinitely long punishment can only be justified as a method of ultimately improving vicious characters, not as retribution.
● Can individuals retain their identity after hundreds of reboots?
● Comparing Hinduism with The Good Place, we can conclude that Hinduism gets things five percent correct.
● Looking at all the events in the show, it follows that humans don’t have free will, and so people are being punished and rewarded unjustly.
● Is it a problem that the show depicts torture as hilarious? This problem can be resolved by considering the limited perspective of humans, compared with the eternal perspective of the demons.
● The Good Place implies that even demons can develop morally.
● The only way to explain how the characters remain the same people after death is to suppose that their actual bodies are transported to the afterlife.
● Since Chidi knows all the moral theories but can never decide what to do, it must follow that there is something missing in all these theories.
● The show depicts an afterlife which is bureaucratic, therefore unchangeable, therefore deeply unjust.
● Eleanor acts on instinct, without thinking, whereas Chidi tries to think everything through and never gets around to acting; together these two characters can truly act morally.
● The Good Place shows us that authenticity means living for others.
● The Good Place is based on Sartre’s play No Exit, with its famous line “Hell is other people,” but in fact both No Exit and The Good Place inform us that human relationships can redeem us.
● In The Good Place, everything the humans do is impermanent since it can be rebooted, so humans cannot accomplish anything good.
● Kant’s moral precepts are supposed to be universal, but The Good Place shows us it can be right to lie to demons.
● The show raises the question whether we can ever be good except by being part of a virtuous community.