Friday, April 27, 2007

How Gilligan's Island Made Me a Nihilist

It's Friday again, time for an old article. Here's the first of a three-parter on how television shaped my psyche.

When I was a kid I used to watch old TV reruns all the time. Only recently have I discovered how deeply and profoundly they have affected my personal philosophy. Perhaps no show had more impact that simple little Gilligan's Island. Namely, it completely destroyed all faith I had in humanity. Granted, the show did this for a lot of people, but for me it wasn't the fact that people allowed it to run for four seasons, rather the messages subtly woven into each episode. So I thought I would share with you why I think this is the darkest show on syndication: Enjoy!

Gilligan alone could drive one to nihilism, or at the very least existentialism. As each fool-proof rescue plot is hatched and subsequently crushed by Gilligan, we learn that all endeavors are inherently doomed by the "Gilligan" within each of us. What kind of lesson is that for the youth of today? We may be young and stupid, but we're trying. And yet, no matter how hard we try, we're always going to stumble into the 10 kilowatt coconut radio tower and blow yet another chance at contacting the damn Coast Guard.

If it were just Gilligan on the island, perhaps it wouldn't be quite so dark. He would die of thirst within 48 hours, and we would be spared having to watch him fail every week for four years. Too inept to be rescued, too well cared for to die. The nameless authority figures Skipper and the Professor discipline and educate Gilligan, respectively, instead of staging an unfortunate "accident" out by the cliffs like they should have early on for the good of all. The three of them form the Freudian model of id, ego and superego. No matter how many times the Professor plans to have Gilligan cleaning algae off rocks in the lagoon when the bamboo rocket is going to be launched with the SOS message recorded on a coconut 8-track, no matter how many times the Skipper savagely beats Gilligan, the "little buddy" will thwart every chance of rescue. That nickname, combined with his unfortunately shaped hat, leads to the obvious conclusion that men are doomed to have every plan eventually negated by their own collective penis.

Women don't fare much better. Look at the duality of Mary Ann and Ginger. One of the timeless debates, the show stacked it in favor of Ginger. Ginger was the feminine ideal, from her countless array of gowns, stock issue mole, and complete and utter lack of anything resembling intelligence. Mary Ann for four years wore the same damn pair of shorts and had maybe two shirts. [But really, hasn't the wardrobe of Gilligan's Island been analyzed to death?] The Ginger preference is one of image over substance, one that showers disdain on those who would pine for a more wholesome life, preferring a skanky ditz to a simple and decent country girl with whom you could hold a conversation for longer than three minutes. Besides, Mary Ann is way hotter.

Which leaves us with Thurston Howell III and his wife "Lovey". They are so rich they even have stupid rich pet names for each other like "Lovey." Not even an upper middle class guy would come home to a wife named "Lovey." With a name like that they can't be anything but the capitalist exploiter class. Sure enough, once on the island, they immediately begin to exploit Gilligan, making him a little servant boy paid in cash that is obviously worthless if they never get back to civilization. Without even a pretense of legal tender, Gilligan is bought and sold like the crack whore that he is. And by that reasoning, the "Gilligan" within us all is a dirty little ho-bag.

Oh sure, you could argue that the abundance of food, water, and semiconducting coconuts and bamboo implies a just and loving god that will take care of us. But that same god, acting as storm, wrecks the boat every opening credits and then finds a way for every one of the three million individual visitors to the island to leave without rescuing the castaways. I find it much more reminiscent of Sartre's No Exit, myself. That, or Waiting for Godot. Or Magnum, P.I.

As for crossover specials like The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, The Detroit Pistons on Gilligan's Island, and The Jetsons on Gilligan's Island, I think we should stick to episodes that stayed true to the initial artistic vision. That vision being one of despair and meaningless exile. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost? The Minnow would be lost? The Minnow would have been better off lost, that's what the show teaches us.

So why am I bothering with this if I'm a nihilist? Well, I'm not actually a nihilist, the title of this piece was just a literary device. Actually I'm an agnostic existentialist, but that doesn't change the fact that this is one messed up television program. Save yourselves and save your children! Watch something like Punky Brewster instead.

Many apologies to Dawn Wells.

Thank you for your time.


Carl Spackler said...

that was a beautiful, thoughtful post.

i like the reference to Freud.

i find your writing to be empowering.

are you getting drunk this weekend?

where is marshawn lynch going in the draft?

slappy said...

Thank you. I try to empower people. And make dick jokes.

I actually don't drink - I need to remain at top physical and mental condition at all times in case the revolution starts.

Marshawn appears to be destined for the 15-20 range. I think that's reasonable, his only downside is that he's so hard to tackle that he is more prone to fumbles. Experience will help that.

If the NFL put a higher value on grills and ghostriding skills, he'd be in the top 3.

Ɯbermilf said...

Isn't "agnostic existentialist" somewhat redundant?

Perhaps Gilligan purposefully foiled each escape attempt, because life on that island was infinitely superior for someone so low on the social scale than what he faced back in the "civilized" world?

miss kendra said...

i feel that i am a lovely combination of maryann and ginger. i need more gowns though.

slappy said...

Ubie: It's a small distinction. You can be an atheistic existentialist, for example.

You may be on to something... Gilligan probably also didn't have as good of chances with the ladies back in civilization.

Kendra: You should make a gown out of a canvas sail that says S.S. Minnow on it.

B.E. Earl said...

Thank God you aren't a nihilist.

That must be exhausting.

Tits McGee said...

All I know is that the Professor was hot.

Lee Ann said...

No, thank you!

slappy said...

B.E.: Yeah, it is. It's really the only thing holding me back, as I do enjoy wearing all black.

Tits + Lee Ann: I'm going to have to rule with Lee Ann on this one.

jamwall said...

The professor would fit the mold of a nihilist, as in, "I don't believe in inventing anything useful."

He can make a radio out of coconut but he can't fix a boat. Thus, he doesn't believe in anything constructive that would transfer his sucky reality to a reality that's more awesome.