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.


[rebelmouse-image 19533058 dam="1" original_size="400x225" caption="GIF via "The Good Place."" expand=1]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.”

[rebelmouse-image 19533060 dam="1" original_size="400x225" caption="GIF via "The Good Place."" expand=1]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?

[rebelmouse-image 19533061 dam="1" original_size="400x225" caption="GIF via "The Good Place."" expand=1]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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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