What other TV shows can learn from the creators of 'This Is Us' and 'The Good Place.'

On the NBC hit comedy, "The Good Place," Manny Jacinto plays, well, a lovable idiot.

The show follows a group of strangers brought together in the afterlife. Jacinto's character, Jason Mendoza, is always a little behind on the group's quickly shifting plans. But the aspiring DJ and Jacksonville Jaguars fan with a gentle spirit is often the heart of this charming comedy.

But while the hapless goof is a pretty common television trope, there's one thing that sets Jason Mendoza apart from the rest — he's Filipino-American.


GIF via "The Good Place."

It is truly rare to see Asian-American characters on television, let alone one who isn't high-achieving, bookish, or an otherwise model minority.

Mike Schur, the creator of "The Good Place," took this into account when developing the show's cast of characters.

"They were trying to figure out something different and one of the things that popped up was that you don’t really see a lot of dumb Asian guys on mainstream television," Jacinto said in a recent interview with Vulture. "He’s usually intelligent or the model minority. I’m not saying playing Jason is pioneering, but it’s so great for me to do because it’s not a stereotype."

Manny Jacinto after the Golden Globes. Photo by Loreen Sarkis/Getty Images.

Now, full disclosure, Jason was confused for a silent Buddhist monk from Taiwan named Jianyu for the first few episodes of the show, and it looked like we'd be right back into Asian stereotype territory. (It's a delightful reveal, and though I just revealed it, there are plenty more where that came from.)

But on the whole, "The Good Place" works hard to subvert and call out cultural stereotypes through character development and sharp writing. Even in a place as perfect as heaven, Mendoza is offered tofu instead of his favorite meal, buffalo wings.  And he commiserates to main character Eleanor, played by Kristen Bell, “Everyone here thinks I’m Taiwanese. I’m Filipino. That’s racist. Heaven is so racist.”

GIF via "The Good Place."

But even while calling out stereotypes and rethinking representation, Jason Mendoza's ethnicity isn't the crux of his character. And that's kind of awesome.

“His culture doesn’t make up his character,” Jacinto said in an interview with Mochi magazine. When Jason connects with other characters of color, there's no pressure to push on his background. "They’re having a normal conversation as people. It’s not something you see in mainstream media at all — usually, there’s some sort of cultural joke.”

This doesn't mean his background gets erased or ignored — just the opposite. Jason Mendoza gets to be Filipino-American, and a huge Blake Bortles stan who has a fondness for EDM. Like all of us, he's the intersection of a lot of weird and wonderful things. Why shouldn't TV show all of that?

GIF via "The Good Place."

Roles like this remind us that while colorblind casting affords great opportunities to actors of color, sometimes there's beauty in specificity.

Sterling K. Brown, who won a Golden Globe for his role as Randall Pearson in the NBC drama, "This Is Us," made a point to mention this in his acceptance speech, emphasis added.

"Dan Fogelman, you wrote a role for a black man that could only be played by a black man. What I appreciate so much about this is that I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am. And it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me, or dismiss anybody who looks like me.”

Sterling K. Brown poses with the trophy for Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series — Drama. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

What it comes down to is this: representation matters.

Seeing someone like you, with your skin color, spiritual background, age, sexual orientation, or disability is no small thing. It can inspire, change minds, and move people to act. Every role on every show gives Hollywood another chance to get it right. Not just for top talent, but for the children (and Jacksonville Jaguar-loving adults) watching and wondering if anyone sees them too.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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