In an increasingly progressive society, there’s a growing charge to be mindful of our privileges, and minimise our carbon footprint, all while trying to lead a comfortable life just full of tempting shortcuts. In 2009, after the breakout success of King of the Hill, Mike Judge pivoted to another satirical examination of societal guilt in comfortable suburbia, in The Goode Family.
The Goodes try the darnedest to lead a progressive life, yet the social peer pressure that comes from keeping up with the Jones leads them astray in their quest for societal purity. Often exacerbating the issues they’re trying their best to remedy. Professor Gerald Goode teaches at the local community college, while Helen manages her activism, shopping at Whole Foods (stand-in), with raising their two children. Their adopted son Ubuntu (produced Unbuntu) seems unaware of the world, while Bliss Goode yearns for a typical teenage existence. The short-lived season deals with such topics as vegan living, Football zealotry, and civil-mindedness, all while under the judgemental gaze of their peers.
The heart of this satire is the earnest ways the Goodes try to be better, but end up inadvertently engaging in the behaviours they’re trying to remedy. Like Helen graffitiing city property to get Bliss engaged in her work for the community, only ends up developing a taste for vandalism, as her work develops Bansky-like acclaim. This irony runs deep into the premise, with the Goodes adopting an African child, only inadvertently, from a white South African family. Starving their dog, while trying to raise him vegan, etc. Most of these crusades are lost on Helen’s father, played by Brian Doyle-Murray, who is more than at home with his vices.
The Goode Family marks a gear shift from reflecting the moderate-C conservative conformity of King of the Hill to the ultra-liberal consciousness during the height of Obamamania, just preceding the massive increase of social-media-driven action a few years later. The Goode Family is unafraid to explore the paradoxes and even the hidden motivations behind seemingly altruistic actions. For example, public radio is depicted as more focused on the hard sell of their fundraising, along with the wastefulness of certain societal projects (a returning topic from King of the Hill). While Heinrich’s philosophy of Free-cycling is noble, his attitudes do drive the Goode family’s patience. Whether you agree will depend on how you take your politics. On the technical side, the animation is pleasant and distinct enough not to evoke a major comparison to other Mike Judge animated projects. Judge himself and a host of well-known voice artists do lend their talents once again, with top names like David Herman, Cree Summer, and even Elvis Costello.
Only lasting a single season, the Goode Family shows off an interesting idea, that might have been a little early in its execution. It feels like it would play more in the 2020s, than in the 2010s, where the pressure to expand our social consciousness is more apparent and potentially paradoxical. The controversy around these topics feels ever more combustible due to the influx of Social Media. There are some good gags, and it does feel like the Goode’s have a lot of room to expand its platform, if more episodes were made. If you’re looking for some more animated satire, The Goode Family lives up to its name.
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