I mean, on the one hand. I don’t disagree with this analysis of either The Good Place or the broader critique of the purpose of prisons.

But, like. On the other hand? How do you write like an entire article about this subject without once mentioning that the modern Western concept of punitive incarceration is pretty much drawn directly from Christian notions of Hell and eternal damnation? I mean, it’s literally the show’s set-up and its central conceit, as well as being very, very specifically Christian. Islam has a similar concept of Hell, and Judaism… sort of does, although its logistics are far more vague.1 Meanwhile, versions of Hell exist in Hinduism and Buddhism—as well as the various traditions influenced by both—but are usually more like a place of tribulation where a soul can “work off” its karmic debt with a little light oil boiling before being reborn into its next life. If you’re thinking, “Hm… that sounds an awful lot like the point of s2 and s3 of The Good Place…” then, yes! Which honestly is one of the reasons I find the show way more interesting than most other things that draw on Christianity’s “eternal damnation” shtick.2

And, y’know. Watching too much Monkey as a child has made me a huge sucker for a reformed-demon story. So… there’s that, too.

  1. One assumes that fact Judaism is a non-proselytizing religion means it doesn’t need the whole “convert or be DAMNED TO HELL!” angle adopted by its descendants.
  2. A show about reforming a Christian-style Hell into one more like those described in Asian literature? Go on. I’m listening…