Hypatia of Alexandria: Who was Lisa Kudrow’s character in The Good Place based on?

A scene with the main characters on The Good Place
The Good Place is nearing the end of its fourth season. Pic credit: The Good Place/YouTube

In last night’s penultimate episode of season 4 of The Good Place, we were treated to a delightful cameo in the form of Lisa Kudrow. The former Friend was playing the role of Hypatia of Alexandria.

Danger: Spoilers

Who wouldn’t want to meet their heroes once they land in The Good Place? Apparently, Chidi Anagoyne, played by William Jackson Harper, is no different from the rest of us as this episode showed him arriving at the Pearly gates hoping to meet his philosopher heroes.

There’s a big problem, though, as the big names of philosophy — Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato — aren’t cut out for The Good Place, and all wound up in Hell.

The moral in this episode is that we shouldn’t always automatically celebrate individuals who can sometimes be undeserving of their honors.

Phoebe, the Greek philosopher

It turns out the only philosopher who cut muster for The Good Place was Hypatia of Alexandria, played by the wonderfully kookie Lisa Kudrow.

To add insult to injury, and like so many things in this imperfect paradise, it appears that one of the greatest minds in history has been considerably dulled.

The show has made several references to Friends in the past, so it was only fitting that a member of that show’s cast should turn up in The Good Place. Particularly apt that it was Kudrow as Michael (Ted Danson) had previously remarked that only Phoebe would have made it to paradise.

Who is Hypatia of Alexandria anyway?

As well as being a philosopher, Hypatia was an astronomer and a mathematician who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. Depending on which academic scholar you speak with, she was born somewhere between 350 and 375 CE, whereas her death is generally accepted as having occurred in March 415 CE.

So, she lived hundreds of years after the big philosopher guns mentioned above. Still, she is considered to be one of the earliest female mathematicians and one of the first female academics at Alexandria’s prestigious university.

She became the leader of the Neoplatonist school of philosophy at Alexandria. She also overcame massive hurdles placed in front of her in what today would be described as a deeply sexist society.

She was murdered by a Christian mob in the streets of her city with a savagery that might be expected from that exceptionally turbulent era. Even the Christian writers who were mostly hostile to her and referred to her as a witch expressed sympathy when she was murdered.

The primary source accounts generally portray a woman who was known for her generosity, her love of learning, and her expertise in teaching.

According to one Twitter account, she currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio; however, we doubt the veracity of this claim.

The hit show has seen many of the cast hit the dizzying heights of fame; Kirsten Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto have become household names because of the show.

Ted Danson, however, has always been a hero.

Catch the final episode of this season’s The Good Place on January 29 on NBC.

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