Unusual Philanthropists in Pop Culture

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

It’s National Philanthropy Day and while our bookish brains are automatically programmed to think about our loves First Book, a literary non-profit dedicated to providing books and quality education to young people in need, and Little Free Library, the non-profit behind all those bookish mailboxes in your neighborhood, we’re also thinking about the quirky philanthropists we see in pop culture. Philanthropists like Tahani Al-Jamil, who loves throwing parties for those in need, even in The Good Place. And Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek, who’s always looking to lend her image to a cause – in the hopes that it will encourage a higher turnout at whatever her philanthropic cause du jour happens to be. So, let’s celebrate with our favorite fictional philanthropists. Maybe we can sway them toward some literary causes while we’re at it!


Tahani Al-Jamil from The Good Place

When Tahani Al-Jamil was flourishing on Earth with all of her famous friends, she loved nothing more than to throw a party. And because throwing a party for a good cause is the best way to excuse a lavish lifestyle, Tahani made it her duty to give back to others less fortunate than she – all while wearing a gorgeous dress that perfectly suited the occasion. Now that she’s in The Good Place – or, um, The Medium Place – she’s using her philanthropic skills in a less showy way. After all, there’s no money and there’s no one truly less fortunate than her around. Everyone is pretty medium-fortunate as far as we can tell. But that hasn’t stopped her from trying to raise everyone’s spirits. She is, after all, still the perfect host. 


Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek

Before the Rose family wealth manager lost all of their, um, wealth, Moira Rose knew a thing or two about throwing a philanthropic gala or lending her name to a local non-profit arts center in exchange for a tidy sum of money. Now that she’s living in Schitt’s Creek, Moira’s philanthropic endeavors are on a much smaller scale. But she does have a small garden named after her. (Moira’s Rose’s Garden 4856, which also happens to be named after Johnny Rose’s credit card, unfortunately.) And she did help Jocelyn raise money at the town’s annual Asbestos Fest fundraiser. Our only regret is that we didn’t get to see her perform a one-woman version of One Crazy Summer: The Patty Hearst Story. “It’s a tale of perseverance, much like your quest to bring asbestos back to the town.” 


Rogelio de la Vega from Jane the Virgin

We honestly don’t know if philanthropy was on his mind before Rogelio de la Vega discovered he had a daughter, but after Jane came into his life it was the only thing he wanted to do. Sure, his methods are a little unorthodox and leaning toward nepotistic. But who else is going to help save a dying indie bookstore from closing before the book party for Jane’s debut novel? And who else is going to make a sizable donation to her publisher to ensure that they have enough funding to publish Jane’s novel and then hide that fact for literal years? (Okay, that wasn’t exactly philanthropy.) But the point is, Rogelio is trying to be a better person and he’s using his fame and fortune to help others. We just wish those “others” weren’t all so closely tied to Jane’s novelist career, you know? 


Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation

We know that Leslie Knope identifies as a public servant first and foremost, but she’s got to admit that philanthropy is in her blood. We all love a good waffle, but it was Leslie who led the charge to save JJ’s Diner when it was in danger of closing. And when Jerry had a heart attack and needed help paying for his medical bills, Leslie staged a rummage sale the next day without a second thought. She’s nowhere as wealthy as the other fictional characters we’ve listed here, but she sure knows how to organize the community around a good cause. Which is all a good philanthropist really needs.