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The Good Place gives fans the softer side of shipping

Contributed by
Oct 9, 2018

Because people are above all horny, shipping has long been a cornerstone of fandom. Who doesn’t love to imagine their OTP finally finding happiness that you can too enjoy by extension? The slow burn, the eventual kiss, the obstacles that they are sure to overcome… yeah. That’s the good sh*t. Thanks to the Internet, you can find a seemingly endless amount of content dedicated to your particular ship of choice, but that prevalence also leads to a nastier side of fandom: the dreaded ship war.

Stucky vs. Stony. Spuffy vs. Bangel. Reylo vs. literally anything else, please, I beg you. It’s an understatement to say that things can get a little heated where true love is concerned, with fandoms tearing themselves apart in order to prove that their particularly beloved pairing comes out on top. It can be a real shame to witness such a lovely thing turn toxic, and it seems to enter into many, many beloved fandoms.

However, one show seems to have avoided this particular pitfall: The Good Place. Showrunner Mike Schur’s latest brilliant sitcom is as close to a hug as there is on television, with a core group of characters that play off each other flawlessly. When asking a fan of The Good Place who their favorite character is, it is not uncommon to hear “They are all my favorite” in return. Charmingly stupid Jason? My favorite. Chidi at peak ethical meltdown? My favorite. “Human trashbag” Eleanor? My favorite. Team Cockroach is above all a team, so to single one out as The Best just feels wrong.

When that many beautiful people get thrown together, the fans are absolutely going to start shipping, but something unique has emerged with The Good Place: all of the ships are good, and the fans seem to have adopted this egalitarian view. Schur has long been the reigning King of Healthy Relationships in sitcoms, with Ben and Leslie from Parks and Rec and Jake and Amy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine epitomizing #Goals for years. While he may be venturing into new realms of science fiction with The Good Place, the character foundations of mutual respect, support, and being really, really cute remain.

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The idea of soulmates is a bedrock in this particular universe, and the characters have been shaken up into a number of pairings due to the constant resets. Characters — in particular, Eleanor and Chidi — have gone from being at odds to being genuine friends to lovers to back to friends again with a smoothness that feels organic at the same time. Because of their strong foundation of friendship, it feels right that these two would always be close, no matter the timeline that they’re in. Michael explains in season two that soulmates are not always romantic in this universe, and while Eleanor and Chidi ended up in bed together in some of the timelines, others remained entirely platonic. However, no matter the status of their relationship, Chidi always agreed to help Eleanor. Every time.

Season three has really leaned into this aspect of their relationship with everyone back on earth and seemingly alive (it’s hard to make definitive statements about The Good Place because you just never know). As they are conducting their ethical study, Eleanor is actively helping Chidi pursue Simone — an utterly delightful addition to their group — as their relationship turns back to platonic despite their kiss at the end of season two (damn resets!). However, their relationship remains as strong as ever. The other characters are easily shuffled around as well. Tahani and Eleanor are a very popular pairing, and The Good Place has managed to walk the line between fan service and queerbaiting up relatively well, and it would be interesting to see the writers explore these two while Chidi pursues Simone. Tahani and Jason have also found kinship, sexual and otherwise, despite being polar opposites to hilarious effect. Still, one cannot help but hope that Janet and Jason find their way back to each other. She may not be a human girl but her feelings for the world’s best doofus never cease to delight.

The core tenet of The Good Place is “what do we owe each other?” with the show always returning to the idea of what makes us “good” and how we should treat one another. Schur understands that people can mean a great deal to one another whether or not they will actually bone, and that undercurrent of importance has permeated The Good Place’s fandom in a beautiful way. Sure, everyone has their opinion about the outcomes that they want, but there is an understanding that these characters are all soulmates, whether or not things take a turn back to the romantic.

Whether or not Simone turns out to be a demon in disguise — she’s almost TOO wonderful, right? — and Chidi and Eleanor remember the timelines where they were in love, there is no doubt that these two will continue to be important to each other. Tahani and Eleanor will have a very unique relationship that somehow makes them both less insufferable, and there was even that weird moment when Chidi and Tahani were almost soulmates. It all just works.

But please, for Janet’s sake, let her and Jason get married again.

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