SPOILERS for The Good Place season 4 so be warned!
The Good Place has tackled a number of tough topics – such as refugees and AI – with its trademark zany philosophical zeal over the course of its run. Now it’s decided to take on a big topic that’s loomed large ever since the MeToo movement started: can problematic men doused in oodles of toxic masculinity become better people?
The basic premise for The Good Place‘s fourth (and final) season revolves around proving that humans can genuinely improve themselves morally via a grand experiment involving four unknowing humans.
One of these test subjects is Brent Norwalk, who is essentially problematic men and toxic masculinity personified. To quote Eleanor, he’s the type of dude who was “born on third base, thinks he invented the game of baseball.”
In a show where there are literal demons, Brent somehow still comes off as the literal worst.
In just two episodes (so far), Brent has shown himself to be an entitled, misogynistic white man who coasted on a wave of nepotism and thinks the sun shines out of his own ash. You know, the sort of dude who would be exposed right away by the MeToo movement.
While there are plenty of laughs to be had at Brent and his toxicity, The Good Place isn’t content and is too good to just poke fun at problematic men. Rather, he is the show’s attempt at answering the difficult question of whether a man who embodies toxic masculinity can redeem himself.
There hasn’t been a clean answer (so far) and The Good Place has used Brent as a moral development test dummy, such as attempting (and failing) to instill self-awareness or shatter his obnoxious self-regard.
But because Brent is a forking ashhole, Eleanor and Michael resorted to direct manipulation in order to get him to perform good deeds, which is nice albeit “saddled with a bad motivation.
This isn’t the end of The Good Place‘s examination into MeToo and problematic men as it’s clear that Brent will play a big part in episodes to come so perhaps there’s an answer coming down the road.
Redemption for problematic men is far more complex in the real world than it is on The Good Place and it’s been a question everyone has been wrestling with when it comes for folks who are trying to mount comebacks after being exposed as scum.
But perhaps when Brent’s journey on The Good Place is over, we’ll have some clearer idea on whether it problematic men can indeed be redeemed and whether this will help us out in the real world. If not, well, at least we had a heap of laughs along the way.