I just discovered The Good Place. And yes, I know I’m three seasons behind, but, holy shirt, this show is genius.
For those of you who are also late to the party, here’s the fancy blurb that will bring you up to speed, “when Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself in the afterlife, she’s both relieved and surprised that she’s made it into The Good Place. But it doesn’t take long for Eleanor to realize she’s there by mistake. She hides in plain sight from the Good Place’s architect Michael (Ted Danson) and his all-knowing assistant Janet (D’Arcy Carden). Her seemingly perfect neighbors Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto) and open-hearted soul mate Chidi (William Jackson Harper), help her realize that it’s never too late. With the help of her new friends — and a few enemies — Eleanor becomes determined to shed her old way of life in hopes of discovering a new one in the afterlife.”
I thought my favorite character would be Kristen Bell, I mean, who doesn’t love Kristen Bell? Everyone loves Kristen Bell and her work. And while I do enjoy and appreciate her performance in The Good Place, the character that I absolutely adore, is Janet.
Janet is a virtual personal assistant. Not a human. Not a computer. Something…else. Otherworldly and all-knowing, she’s like a human version of Google, and every single book you’ve ever read, and every single memory you hold – the ones you look back on with affection, and the ones you try desperately to forget. And while such characteristics should make her the least relatable in the show, there’s something about this walking database that is the most endearing of them all.
Her honesty knows no bounds. If your shirt looks terrible, she will say it. If you pretend like your feelings are not hurt, when in actuality they are, she will say it. If you do something wrong, she will let you know. If you lead with love, she’ll say that too. Nothing gets by Janet, and Janet lets nothing slide. There is no “looking the other way” – she stares whatever problem, situation, and/or issue that occurs right in the face. Some might call it rude, but it’s obvious that it’s rooted in a place of goodness (no pun intended). And with that raw honesty comes a sense of humor that is on point. She is the person who says what everyone else is sinking, but nobody has the guts to say. She is the one who offers an opinion when asked, and because she doesn’t know how to be insincere, or tell you what you want to hear, you know it’s real. You know it’s true.
It’s so refreshing.
We all need a friend like Janet – someone who will hold up a mirror to our innermost truths, and call us out on our nonsense. Someone who will delight in our joys, and champion for our wishes. Someone who will see the messy, ugly, dark parts of our hearts, and hold our hands as they drag us back into the light – and scold us on the way back, too.
The healthiest relationships and friendships are rooted in honesty. Janet reminds us of the importance of that honesty, the necessity of being able to say what you mean, what you feel, and what you think to the ones you hold close.
But the likability of Janet goes beyond her humor and honesty – the heart of this character speaks to the human existence as we all know it. Throughout the three seasons thus far, Janet has been “rebooted” upwards of 800 times. And with each reboot, she develops more – more feelings, more capabilities, more understanding of herself and the world around her.
Now I know that we cannot reboot ourselves, but we can take what the reboot means for Janet, and apply it to our own lives. We can constantly keep growing, learning, and updating our own thoughts, habits, and ideas; and when we do that, the best version of ourselves will show up.