It's Recess-time Somewhere

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September 07, 2005

Goodbye Gilligan

My friend Rob Mortellaro, who should totally talk less and write more wrote this today:

Bob Denver created two archetypal TV characters, Maynard G. Krebs, who brought the trappings of "beat" sensibility to the masses, and Gilligan, who showed us that even if you fuck up--a lot--your loved ones will always forgive you (of course, it should be pointed out that Gilligan often ended up inadvertently saving the rest of the castaways through a sort of intuitive bungling).

There are a lot of reasons why Gilligan's Island refused to go away, it's appeal to succeeding generations of kids being the most obvious explanation. But I think it goes a little deeper than that. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding shows how, in the absence of authority, even school kids will quickly revert to fear, superstition, and violence. One need only look at some of the more extreme behavior in New Orleans to understand that Hobbes' view of the state of nature--a "war of all against all"--is probably the correct one.

But not on Gilligan's Island, a place where order and harmony reigned. There were no cops on the Island, unless you want to count the Skipper, who could have easily been overpowered, decapitated and had his head stuck on a spit like the boar's head in Lord of the Flies. Mr. Howell would have been robbed, castrated and tossed into the volcano. Lovey would have been put on a raft and pushed out to open sea. Maryann would be a kitchen slave and a breeder. Ginger would be sex chattel. The Professor would rule the Island due to his invaluable skills and superior intelligence. The Skipper and Gilligan would be his enforcers, sharing in the spoils until they finally got tired of his smug, superior attitude and tossed him in the quicksand pits.

Within six months they would all be dead due to starvation or a hurricane, which they would never know of because with the brains gone, the radio would be kaput in a matter of days. But on TV, it was a Marxian paradise. From each according to his means, to each according to his needs.

Golding's vision was a capitalist hell where everything was reduced to a brutal, dehumanizing battle for resources. Gilligan's Island, however, was a Utopia where competition was replaced by cooperation. Television can do that. It's a place where small Southern towns are run by wise, affable sheriffs and not chaw-spitting rednecks hoping some poor negro pulls into Goober's gas station so's they can all have 'em a little fun. It's a place where, on Star Trek for instance, man doesn't need money any more becuase he's become so spiritually enlightened that everyone only has what he really needs. And all the booze is free to boot.

So let's say goodbye to Bob Denver and Gilligan, who will forever be part of a world that is forever as it should be and not what it is.