family trauma, generational trauma, The Good Place, unworthy, self-worth, love, neglect, distant parent, parenting, children, forgiveness, love, uninvolved parents, unloved, self-esteem

“A Fractured Inheritance”

The Good Place, a four-season series that aired from 2016 to 2020. It explores existential comedy themes revolving around morality, the afterlife, generational trauma, hope, and more. The main character, Eleanor Shellstrop, starts as a self-centred and morally compromised individual. 

Throughout the series, Eleanor undergoes significant personal growth and transformation. Ultimately resulting in her becoming a compassionate and morally conscious person driven by her determination to improve herself. Her journey serves as a central narrative thread, shedding light on themes such as redemption, personal development, and the intricacies of morality.

Eleanor’s initial selfishness and moral corruption can be traced back to her upbringing. Her mother provided her with nothing more than the bare minimum. Showing little interest in her emotions or life. Eleanor learned self-serving behaviour, excessive independence, emotional stagnation, and distrust from her mother’s example. Such uninvolved parenting often leaves lasting scars, diminishing a child’s self-esteem, emotional capabilities, and ability to form healthy relationships.

In the episode, “A Fractured Inheritance”, Eleanor searches for her mother, Donna Shellstrop. She discovers that her mother now has a new family and a young daughter, whom she appears to care for attentively. Throughout the episode, Eleanor struggles to believe that her mother has genuinely changed and insists that she must be deceitful.

In reality, Donna has indeed transformed herself. She has come clean to her new family about her past and chosen to better herself for their sake. Eleanor’s frustration stems from having never experienced the caring, nurturing mother she longed for during her childhood. When asked why she can’t accept that her mother may have genuinely changed, Eleanor responds, 

“Because I wanted that mom! I wanted the mom who made me afternoon snacks instead of telling me to look for loose fries in the McDonald’s ball pit. Why does [the young daughter] get that mom? If Donna Shellstrop truly changed, then that means she was always capable of change – that I wasn’t worth changing for.”

Eleanor’s experience resonates with many who have had their self-worth diminished by the belief that they didn’t deserve loving parents. However, the episode conveys a heartening truth – Eleanor isn’t like her mother! She’s breaking the cycle of emotional detachment and lack of affection. Her journey doesn’t end with forgiveness for her mother’s past behaviour but rather with the acknowledgment that though people can change, she still deserved a good mother.

The episode sends a powerful message to children who have endured distant and neglectful parenting – you were always worthy. No one deserves inadequate parents, a child should never have to earn their parent’s love and care. But the wounds from such experiences can be healed.

To watch the scene click here.

The full episode and series is available to watch on Netflix.

Image Credits:
Feature Image: Greyerbaby, On Pexels. Creative Commons.