Being a philosophy professor involves a great deal of time doing sedentary things. There’s hours and hours of reading and grading papers, not to mention countless faculty meetings and various committees. There are long, frustrating blocks of the day spent hunched over a computer screen, trying to wrangle complicated arguments into comprehensible prose. Occasionally, you also give lectures. It’s not a profession overly focused on physical activity, nor does it provide much free time for logging workouts at the gym.
In The Good Place’s latest episode, though, we see an alternate vision of a philosophy professor’s physical well-being. Notorious waffler Chidi Anagonye, played by William Jackson Harper, learns that no matter what he does, he’ll end up in the Bad Place. Understandably, he loses the plot a little and finds himself immobile, standing on a lawn, as all the sprinklers turn on. He gets wet. He removes his shirt, whereupon it becomes clear that Chidi is unconscionably fit. He has achieved a level of swole-ness that, in philosophy circles, you could describe as transcending the “classical problem of fitness” to fully enter “the problem of defining biological individuality as it affects the notion of fitness.”
The Good Place is not a show about realism. It is a morality play; it’s fantasy. Among other things, it has given us an elaborate system of the afterlife; a fiery demon carrying a box that reads “Dunkin’ Spiders;” a restaurant that serves chili blasted into your mouth with a fire extinguisher; and a fourth Hemsworth brother named Larry. The Good Place is a world that resembles our own, but only very, very vaguely. So it’s not fair to judge the sudden reveal that Chidi is totally jacked as being implausible when you base it on the standards of a real-world philosophy professor.
I would claim, however, that it’s not exactly in character for Chidi. He is a man who can’t even sleep at night for worry that he has to make a big decision the next day, and yet we’re supposed to believe that he has what’s clearly an effective, steadfast gym regimen? Something’s fishy.
Am I complaining about that? No. What I am complaining about is how unfair it is that Chidi then puts on what’s supposed to be an unflattering joke T-shirt, and this somehow makes him even more attractive. If swole Chidi is merely implausible, swole Chidi looking downright impolite in a “Who What When Where … Wine!” T-shirt is truly cruel.
Let’s hope this is the last time we have such a startling discovery about someone on The Good Place, because if it turns out Ted Danson is also wildly muscular, my entire relationship with this show is going to shift dramatically. If we must have a yoked Good Place, let it at least be infrequent. Chidi probably should take his shirt off again (what am I, a nun?), but it’s nicer when it remains a once-in-a-while thing. I like The Good Place just as it is: a sweet, thoughtful series about four dummies who try to better themselves. Who occasionally reveal their bodies to be bangin’.