Few shows have been as influential content-wise as Gilligan’s Island; pioneering and utilising both the comedic and dramatic potential of having people strandard on a deserted island that no doubt paved the way for other such movies and shows like Lost, Castaway, 7 days 7 nights and countless similar TV episodes on shows like the nanny and family guy; all of which have only this show to tip their white hat to.
But there is more to the show than just a premise, Gilligan’s Island boasts a whole ocean of interesting messages and discrete meaning that transcends it above a show into almost allegorical status or, short of that, mind-blowing status. Full steam ahead.
The foremost theory behind the show that has had conspiracy theorists and bloggers abuzz is the idea that Gilligan’s Island is a direct illustration of hell; a fact that creator Sherwood Schwartz has openly acknowledged1 and went on to admit that each of the 7 castaways represents the deadly sins: Ginger – LUST (clearly), Mary Ann – ENVY (jealous of Ginger), The Professor – PRIDE (due to his intellectual arrogance but bear in mind this is just relaying what the creator has stated – this blogger happens to be a Professor fan), Mr. Howell – GREED and Mrs. Howell – SLOTH (both also clear) and the heavyset hot-headed Skipper – GLUTTONY and ANGER2. People from all walks of life and personalities, united by the underlying fact that they’re sinners and will be jointly punished; who’s to say this isn’t meant to be referring to culture as a whole.
The show is clearly making a novel statement about the nature of evil; it began barely a couple of decades after World War 2 and one year after the JFK Assassination; in the former case we saw an unbalanced artist become one of history’s biggest tyrants and the latter, a dyslexic from Louisiana assassinate one of America’s greatest Presidents; the show may’ve wanted to emulate the notion that evil can come from anywhere and despite who the person is which is also why, brace yourselves, Gilligan represents Satan. Yes, even a dopey sailor can unknowingly be the true beacon of evil on this show, not only is this shown through his constant wearing of red but the fact that it is always him that is the centre of any complication and always him that ends up sabotaging the survivor’s escape plans and keeps them on the hell that they’ll therefore never leave.
This careful allegory acts as a chilling warning to the viewers; that is is sinful indulgence and immorality that can lead you to hell (the castaways were on a pleasure cruise when the boat got marooned on the island), that hell is a terrible place and one you don’t want to be in (the castaways are exposed to nothing but treachery and discomfort on this island throughout the series from dictators to cannibals to even an obnoxious theatre critic one time) and most of all that hell can never be escaped; the castaways never leave the island despite any and every attempt and the series ends with them still there.
The show’s conclusion in the early 70’s saw the beginning of a new time, the wounds of previous evil had relatively healed and a new era of love and moving forward had dawned and would remain undisturbed, for a little while. Rest assured though Gilligan’s Island will always be there, as a meaningful message for all future generations to heed; a group of castaways not unlike you and me forever frozen in time on a hell of their own doing, never able to leave and all they wanted was a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour.
1Inside Gilligan’s Island by Sherwood Schwartz (April 15, 1994) St. Martin’s Griffin ISBN-10: 0312104820 / ISBN-13: 978-0312104825