As The Good Place comes to an end, Judge Gen is on the verge of “canceling Earth” — that is, erasing the history of humankind and rebooting it for a complete do-over. Humanity, she has determined, is a broken system and the whole thing needs to be started over from scratch.
This leaves The Good Place heroes very limited time – only until Judge Gen finds the “humanity eraser button garage door opener thing-y” – to figure out a solution to a better Earth and a more reformative afterlife before their very existence is expunged.
Yet amidst the growing panic around her, Tahani can’t help but launch into a long-winded, unrelated story filled with relentless name-dropping about her time in Portofino with Bruno Mars, LeBron James, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. (Long story short, LeBron performed a successful tracheotomy, the song won multiple Grammys, and everyone was really happy.)
This stark juxtaposition of name-dropping during a literal world-ending crisis is, of course, The Good Place’s take on adding humor and levity to the situation. But it also feels like a dead-on commentary of celebrity worship culture going on in our very own real-life Bad Place. (After all, the world is literally on fire, but let’s talk more about Meghan Markle, am I right?)
Since the inception of the show, Tahani has always been a perfectly personified caricature of what celebrity worship culture looks like. Tahani is notorious for name-dropping, always convinced that her success is measured by the level of fame of the people she surrounds herself with.
Though Tahani spent her life pretending to be a good person, often hosting galas and raising money for non-profit organizations, it was merely to gain fame and notoriety. Her biggest problems were always resolved, as she put it, when she simply asked to speak with the manager. The most difficult charity work she ever did involved giving her jewels to Goodwill — that’s what she calls Prince William. (Since he’d married a commoner, she assumed he’d know some needy people they could go to.) She uses Heirbnb instead of Airbnb. Her only real goal in life was to “snog Ryan Gosling at the Met Ball, which she did. A couple of times, actually.
Tahani is, as Eleanor Shellstrop calls her, “a hot, rich fraud with legs for days.”
This description is perfectly reflective of so many real-life celebrities and their own obsession with public perception. In the current social media-plagued era where activism — and the perfect Instagram photo to accompany it — is the current trend du jour, so many celebrities have gotten caught up in maintaining the illusion that they care about current events rather than actually doing anything to contribute to them.
During the ongoing Australian bush fire crisis, for example, many celebrities (or, rather, their publicists) have typed up half-baked public outcries about the crisis rather than actually doing anything tangible to help combat it. (This, of course, does not apply to our girl Lizzo, who actually took the time to show up and volunteer at a food bank).
Kylie Jenner, for one, came under fire when she posted a perfectly Tahani-esque Instagram story about how the animal devastation in Australia was “breaking her heart,” followed later by a shot of her feet clad in slippers made from real mink fur. Kim Kardashian, too, faced scrutiny from the public after she tweeted, “Climate change is real,” but didn’t make any mention of actually donating money to the cause.
For her part, Kim was quick to clap back at commenters pointing out her insane privilege and potential hypocrisy, saying that “nothing gets me more heated than to see people think they know what we donated to and to think we have to publicize everything.”
But, for someone whose entire career is based on publicizing everything and getting the public to feed off of her every move, it’s difficult to imagine that her tweet about climate change was about anything except maintaining the public’s favor.
But it’s also not entirely fair to Kim to write the tweet off as her own self-aggrandizing vanity. After all, given Kim’s privilege and extensive notoriety, we have elevated her to a standard that requires expectations far beyond what we set for ourselves. The media, and the public’s consumption of it, capitalizes on those expectations and often seizes the opportunity to make celebrities damned if they do and damned if they don’t. News sources are always publishing running lists about celebrities’ social media reactions to disasters or what celebrities have to say about the latest major headlines, even if the celebrities in question have nothing to do with the story at hand.
If Kim hadn’t posted anything on social media about the Australian bush fires, her silence would have been taken as indifference. So while Kim’s tweet might have seemed inadequate, it also is a result of the endless celebrity expectation cycle we have created for ourselves. And like Tahani, her (minimal) actions were ultimately good, even if the motivation behind those actions was questionable.
To her credit, Tahani has undergone a major character transformation throughout the series. She has slowly learned that her self-worth does not depend on how she is perceived by the public or how famous the people are in her inner circle and is now trying to actually be the good person she always pretended to be during her time on Earth. If only it didn’t take a Good, Bad, or Medium place for real-life celebrities to follow suit.
After all, as Tahani says,
“It’s not about who you know. Enlightenment comes from within. The Dalai Lama texted me that.”
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.