Saturday, September 5, 2015

Whatever Happened to Gilligan's Castaways?

Mack Hall, HSG

Whatever Happened to Gilligan’s Castaways?

After a busy day we are all tempted to take a well-deserved break from work and family chores in order to flop into a comfortable chair and vegetate in front of jolly post-war Italian cinema, the merry visions of Fritz Lang’s silent German films (silent, and somehow still loudly German), or the fluffy Soviet films of Sergei Bondarchuk, Sergei Eisenstein, and Grigory Chukhray.

Who hasn’t shed tears of joy and laughter as the cackling, sneering, moustache-twirling Czarist cavalry run down innocent, granola-earing, flower-sniffing workers and peasants through the thoughtful character development and in the subtle artistry for which Soviet films are famous?

We have to remind herself that for the sake of intellectual and ethical development we should occasionally challenge ourselves to consider more demanding works of the visual arts: Gilligan’s Island comes to mind.

The exposition is this - in the autumn of 1964 the tour boat Minnow is disabled by a storm and beached on an unknown island. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the Skipper is a pirate, but now he has reformed and doesn’t murder people. Although the Skipper is an experienced seaman, hiring bumbling Gilligan as his ship’s crew does indicate a tendency to self-destruction. Also aboard, and then beached, are a rascally Republican millionaire and his wife, a movie star, a professor, and a farm girl.

For three years of half-hour programs and then a series of television movies and cartoon remakes the castaways enjoyed adventures among themselves and with hundreds of visitors – including Soviet cosmonauts and the Harlem Globetrotters – on that supposedly unknown island.

The irony of Gilligan’s Island is that while the castaways want to leave the beach and the palm trees, the rest of us think that a month or so of sloshing around in the lagoon and drinking refreshing beverages from a coconut shell would be great therapy. And let the people say “existential.”

And what happened to the castaways?

After returning to the USA Gilligan became the lead technology guru for the State Department.

The Skipper, as a middle-aged white male, was declared redundant. He is said to spend his days on the beach in Florida bumming spare change from tourists and singing “Margaritaville” in bars.

Thurston Howell IV is currently the director of the Donald Trump campaign. Mr. Howell’s wife, Lovey, left him for Brad Pitt. The bitter custody battle over her pink poodles and Mr. Howell’s famous suitcase full of cash continues to this day.

Glamorous Ginger, now over thirty, finds work only as erratic mothers in guest spots in unimaginative, heavily laugh-tracked sitcoms.

The Professor was vetted by his university for ideological correctness, sensitivity, and multi-culti, and is permitted to continue teaching and research as long as he understands that physics, chemistry, and the maths are not objective realities, and can be changed often since they are always subject to the collective needs and cultural visions of The People.

Mary Ann developed a television cooker show called The Ruthlessly Chipper Cupcake which was a staple of daytime programming for years until she was convicted for poisoning three husbands, four boyfriends, and an unknown number of unhappy staffers. Her case was not helped when she baked the judge and prosecutor a batch of happy-face cupcakes sodden with a rare poison she discovered while on the island.

Does anyone imagine that Gilligan’s Island, with its innocent plots and gags and physical comedy, would be accepted for prime-time programming now?

The little ship Minnow is said to have been named as a dig at Newton Minnow, the chairman of the FCC who famously dismissed television as “a vast wasteland.” If Gilligan’s Island is a wasteland, well, this poor old world certainly could use a little more waste.


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