Gilligan’s Island remains one of the most successful sitcoms in syndication history, setting a standard that may be hard to beat in these days when reruns of older shows are nudged out of their time slots by reruns of newer shows every fall. With such a plethora of programming choices—most of them bad—local stations no longer have to rely on the syndicated rerun to fill holes in their lineup. Most people my age and older and slightly younger can rattle off the lyrics of the Gilligan’s Island theme song without even having to think. Of course, there are two different endings to that song and the first one is very telling about the ideological beliefs of the time.
“The ship’s a-ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
The Skipper too,
The millionaire and his wife,
The movie star
And the rest.”
Although castigated and demonized at the time as an example of what was wrong with television, Gilligan’s Island has also been recognized for what it really was: a microcosm of American society and cultural beliefs, while also a critique of those very same things. (The show is ripe for being read as a socialist-democratic critique of American-style republicanism that masquerades as democracy.) The island was populated by the rich, the middle class and the working class. That they were all white was, of course, a necessity of the times. It also was an accurate reflection of the truth that American society may have been a melting pot in terms of population, but in terms of who ran things it was a pot filled with milk. The original theme song is also an indication of the ideological norms. Look at who gets included with a specific reference: a working stiff, a military man, the rich and the famous. Now look at who is considered merely “the rest.” A middle-America farm girl and an academic egghead.
The fact that both Mary Anne and the Professor were relegated to being just “the rest” says much about the state of America not just then, but even now. A greater respect is regularly awarded the real Gingers of today—talentless beautiful women—than is awarded to scholars and academics, much less to powerless young women. The theme song of Gilligan’s Island can be applied to how America still places value on citizens. Millions of dollars are awarded to average people who happen to know such vital information as the capital of Iceland or what actor was originally cast in Beverly Hills Cop. Meanwhile, scientists trying to cure disease or invent products that people actually need are seeing budget cuts. We are daily reminded to support our troops because of some misplaced belief that every American who wears a uniform is somehow a really great guy. Well, not all of them are. In fact, a great many are not deserving of support, but to suggest such a thing is to bring on accusations of being unpatriotic or un-American. Just because someone is wearing a uniform, that doesn’t make them a hero. And as for the rich and wealthy; can someone please tell me why Donald Trump is ever asked for his opinion on anything? He’s an idiot. Most fabulously wealthy people have proven to be less than intellectually gifted, but they are reserved a special place in America regardless. There are not only people who actually hold a microphone to Paris Hilton’s mouth and ask for her opinion on social issues, but there are people who actually care what she says!
It is insane. And that is why I am proud to call myself a member of “the rest.”