We’ve been watching The Good Place with our five-year-old.
Don’t make that face. I see it.
Dena and I are huge fans of The Good Place, just like we were fans of Parks & Recreation, but we were moved to start introducing it to our daughter as a way to prompt discussion with her about being kind, and what it means to think about doing kind things for other people and for herself.
Yes, the show has a lot of fart jokes, but it also has teachable moments about making good choices and being honest.
Some of the stuff flies right over her head, and we’re fine with that. Even when things like this happen:
(Sprout’s grandfather’s iPhone makes the Chimes alarm sound)
Dena: (under her breath, to me) Derek?
Sprout: (enthusiastic, to her grandma) There’s this show called The Good Place and there’s a character named Derek. Derek doesn’t have a penis. He has wind chimes!
Look… I regret nothing.
Yes, watching this show with her means that we have embarassing moments like that, and it also means we have to watch her imitate Bad Janet farts so, so many times.
But it means that we get to talk with her about big, important ideas about being a good person.
It means she gets to watch a show that had a strong commitment to purposefully diverse casting, showing her a more accurate depiction of the different people that make up our world and our communities.
And it will give us a chance to talk about doubt, and fear, and despair, and cruelty. Because there’s plenty of reason to discuss those things, and to start giving her the tools to call them out and rise above them.
We would never stick her in front of a TV and hit autoplay on this show. It’s a lot, even for grown-ups. If we watch an episode, we usually spend time afterward talking through what we saw.
But the act of watching with her is important. So she sees us actively engaging with the story and the ideas in the story. So she can ask us questions. And so she can get into the habit of treating the media she consumes more thoughtfully.
When I was a kid, I watched movies as a way to talk with my dad about atomic bombs and the Cold War. These were heavy topics, but the giant monsters and cheesy effects made it palatable.
But the message of the act of watching stuck with me: Never take a story for granted, and always ask why this story is being told.
That’s a question I want my kids to be confident in asking.