NB: This is a version of a paper given at the The Good Place: Welcome, everything is Fine Conference on 14 June.


Comedy-drama The Good Place (NBC, 2016-2020) features a variety of existential and philosophical debates as part of its premise. For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows four people who have died and find themselves in what they initially thought was ‘the good place’ but, as it turns out, it is an experimental iteration of ‘the bad place’ developed by the demon Michael (Ted Danson) which takes Sartre’s line that ‘Hell is other people’ to its literal, logical extreme. The series’ leads include Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a white bisexual woman from a lower socioeconomic background, Tahani al-Jamil (Jamila Jamil) a British South Asian woman from an elite background, Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), a Black Senegalese professor of moral philosophy and, the focus of this blog, Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto), a Filipino-American petty criminal who is very sweet, not terribly intelligent and who is occasionally required to pretend to be a Taiwanese monk called Jianyu. Over the course of the four series the characters grow and change and, in so doing, develop a way to revamp ‘the bad place’ from a place of unremitting eternal punishment to a place of learning and growth. While one can argue that Jason’s most prominent character trait in the series is his undying love for the Jacksonville Jaguars,[1] in this blog I would like to focus upon how Jason leading a street dance crew offers a wider and more nuanced representation of Filipinx-American[2] and Asian-American masculinity than the ‘model minority’ stereotype.

The ‘model minority’ refers to the stereotype that Asian-Americans (with no further nuance than that ethnonym) are very intelligent, good at STEM subjects, hard-working and not aggressive (Ho, 2003; Zhang, 2010). Though Jason does work hard in many instances, he does not conform to that stereotype at all. Particularly regarding masculinity, Shek (2006: 380-381) notes that racist interpretations intended to avoid miscegenation conflate gender and orientation and portray Asian (again, without differentiation) men as simultaneously hypermasculine, deviant, asexual, effeminate and/or aggressive/deceptive. Guttierez (2018: 5), though acknowledging hypermasculinity and hegemonic masculinity as typical for the Filipino students he is studying, argues that ‘The idealization of Filipino masculinity can… be briefly described as the strength of body, mind, and character in the service of community and country grounded in the historical contexts of colonial struggle and contemporary global challenges.’ Because of the wider context of the series – a threat to humanity which is fought by four main characters of different minority identities, a manifestation of all knowledge, Janet (D’Arcy Carden), and their (spoiler, sorry) eventual ally, Michael – Jason is doing exactly what Guttierez describes. In so doing, Jason is providing an alternate representation of Asian/Filipino masculinity along the lines of how Nishime (2017: 9) describes Bruce Lee’s masculinity as: ‘…one situated within a black/white racial binary, but which does not aspire to replicate the stereotypical masculinity of either.’

Jason’s positioning as the leader of a street dance crew relates to this portrayal in a number of ways. For Filipinx culture specifically, Peterson (2016) notes that street dances are a folk tradition in the Philippines. Given how commonly hip-hop is associated with Black and Latinx cultures (Morgan and Bennett, 2011) rather than to Asian-Americans it may at first seem surprising to connect Jason to the cultural form.[3] Villegas (2021), writing specifically of hip-hop and Filipinx-American culture, states that

Jason Mendoza… hyperbolizes the presence of Filipino American hip hop dancers’ in Jacksonville, Florida. In one episode, Jason, who habitually refers to his sixty-person dance crew throughout the series, must return to Jacksonville to assist a rival crew leader, who we find out is Jason’s father. Many Filipino Americans who came of age in the 1980s to today understand the significance of the hip hop dance crew in their local communities. In small cliques and in large armies, Filipino American hip hop dance crews have been ubiquitous sights in many cities with a critical presence of young Filipino Americans (Villegas, 2021: n.p.).

Hip-hop music can be tied to toxic masculinity (Arthur, 2006; Villegas, 2021), which can connect it to the Asian stereotypes Shek (2016) notes. Yet Villegas (2021) also notes that such engagements by Filipinx-American fans (his research sample) involve negotiation with the embedded discourses of toxic masculinity in the music. Thus, viewing Jason as both a point of and representation of negotiation related to masculinity in a wider, global sociocultural context fits both the description of Filipino masculinity of Guttierez (2018) and the alternate masculinity Nishime (2017) describes. He does this through the subversion of the model minority stereotype, which illustrates a path that disrupts the ‘black/white racial binary’ without trying to replicate it (Nishime 2017: 9).

Jason’s growth over the course of the series, from petty criminal to benevolent force, occurs because he is forced to confront his past misdeeds – to face the music – and, as such, has his eyes opened to a wider world and his own empowerment to make the world a better place. We can all take from this, and from his ludicrously large dance crew, the encouragement to follow Berlin (1936): ‘Let’s face the music/And dance.’


Dr Melissa Beattie is a recovering Classicist who was awarded a PhD in Theatre, Film and TV Studies from Aberystwyth University where she studied Torchwood and national identity through fan/audience research as well as textual analysis. She has published and presented several papers relating to transnational television, audience research and/or national identity. She is currently an adjunct with Southern New Hampshire University and, as of August, will join the liberal arts faculty of Al Akhawayn University, Ifrane, Morocco as an assistant professor. She is under contract with Lexington for an academic book on fictitious countries and Palgrave for a book on Canadian crime dramas. She has previously worked at universities in the US, Korea, Pakistan, Armenia, Ethiopia and for a brief time in Cambodia. She can be contacted at tritogeneia@aol.com.



[1]     They are an American football team who were, at the time of the series’ initial production, not very good. Like Jason, they got better (mostly).

[2]     When referring to Jason, who identifies and presents as male, I am using the grammatically masculine term ‘Filipino’. When referring more generally to the culture I am using the more inclusive ‘Filipinx.’

[3]     The Philippines were a Spanish colony, so Villegas (2021: n.p.) argues that ‘The trope of the golden age is thus a meaningful signifier for formerly colonized Spanish subjects, where a spiritual home is rooted to a non-Hispanic past’ when connecting contemporary Latinx recontextualisation of their relationships to the US, Latin America and Spain to similar, contemporaneous Filipinx recontextualisations. He also ties Filipinx-Americans in Jacksonville to US sailors, often Black or Latino, marrying Filipina women.



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Ho P (2003) Performing the ‘Oriental’: Professionals and the Asian model minority myth. Journal of Asian American Studies 6(2): 149-175.

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Villegas, M.R. (2021) Manifest Technique: Hip Hop, Empire and Visionary Filipino Culture. Urbana: U Chicago Press.

Zhang Q (2010) Asian Americans beyond the model minority stereotype: The nerdy and the left out. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication 3(1): 20-37.