Every baby boomer and nighttime TV fanatic knows the inimitable situation comedy, Gilligan’s Island. Ostensibly set on a deserted island, the main characters, in addition to interacting with each other, meet assorted oddballs throughout their stay on the island and are constantly presented with unusual options for escape.
The main character, Gilligan, through ineptitude would inevitably sabotage any attempts by the castaways to escape. His actions, incongruously, rarely drew any response other than sympathy. The characters, instead, were too wrapped up in their own machinations.
To most fans and critics, the show offered little in the way of intellectual stimulation and was merely an entertaining, if trivial, way to pass thirty minutes. Others found a lot more. To wit:
Some devotees of the show, not satisfied with its obvious and apparent vapidity, looked for a deeper meaning. It was the 1960s, after all, and many people had just discovered the effects of hallucinogens. Several scholarly articles were disseminated and a serious conversation ensued in which proponents argued that each of the original cast members represented one of the Seven Cardinal, or Deadly, sins.
The debate rages to this day even though Sidney Schwartz, the creator of the show, readily admitted that the characters were, indeed, based on the Cardinal sins. In any event, here is the most accepted theory of the show, its characters and how they represent the Seven Deadly Sins.
The Skipper (Anger)
Variously identified as Jonas or Jonah Grumby, the bloated ship’s captain is obviously a man who likes to overindulge in his consumption of food and beverages. Still, the character played by the gregarious and ever charming Alan Hale, has a definite predilection for losing his temper. He is forever yelling uncontrollably at the hapless Gilligan.
The Movie Star (Lust)
While the main characters are completely ensnared by their own particular vice, the voluptuous Ginger, played by actress Tina Louise, inspired a highly disguised lust from every other male that she met. The highly censored 1960s leave much of his particular sin to the imagination. In real life, Ms. Louise was far more reminiscent of pride as every cast member was disgusted by her sense of self importance.
The Millionaire (Greed)
Mr. Magoo, himself, could see through this blatant but ill-founded attack on capitalism. Not happy with a simple diatribe against the cardinal sin of greed, the writers foisted their socialist sympathies on an unwitting audience with an underhanded attack on American values. Regardless, Jim Backus, played the affable and always courteous, blue blooded Yankee with wonderful aplomb. He stated many times that Thurston Howell was among his favorite characters.
His Wife (Gluttony)
The sense of noblesse oblige that permeated every action undertaken by Lovey Howell only served to underscore the true vapidity of her character. The actress who played the part, Natalie Schafer, is the most unrecognized member of the cast. Her fascination with all things material is only surpassed by complete lack of ability. In no episode did she contribute the merest hint of help or advice. The character completely embodied the sin and merely consumed for consumption’s sake. The real Ms. Shafer was decidedly different. Upon her death, she bequeathed her considerable fortune to her Gilligan’s Island costar Dawn Wells.
The Professor (Pride)
Who wouldn’t be justifiably proud about creating a radio transmitter from a piece of wire and two coconuts? In real life, this feat would not be duplicated until the creation of the e-Meter in 1987 by the Church of Scientology. Nevertheless, the professor was too self-satisfied at his own cleverness and thus exhibited undue pride. Thank goodness that early man was not unduly restrained by this obvious Luddite attitude or we’d still be living in caves speaking a rudimentary version of French.
…and Mary Ann (Envy)
The premise is that a poor little farm girl – on a private cruise from a Hawaiian island – was so distraught at the good fortune of her fellow passengers that she was overcome by the inexorable trait of envy. Surely, there was something to desire in each of the other castaways… or not. A far more cynical view would endow her with Hannibal Lector like qualities. She was just a bad dream away from killing the entire crew and cooking them up in some good Midwestern stew.
By far the hardest sin to identify is Gilligan’s. Nevertheless, with a little thought, the case can be made that he purposely sabotaged every escape attempt because of his suppressed anger. He actually embodies every other vice but is too lazy, that is, slothful, to accede to their imperatives. Instead, he plays the bumbling fool who mercilessly thwarts the satisfaction of his fellow castaways..
The most interesting aspect of the Gilligan’s Island / Seven Deadly Sins theory is that Gilligan is actually Satan. He merely pretends to be Sloth in order to torment the other characters. Though the theory has been on the Internet for decades, it has gone severely underappreciated as evidenced by the fact that Hollywood hasn’t made a remake based on the premise. It makes a most interesting side note to the entire story.
Forget the subtleties for a moment. Most obviously, Gilligan always dresses in red, evokes the worst aspects of the other characters’ flaws and maliciously, even wantonly, provokes controversy by setting the characters against each other. The characters are, indeed, in Hell.
As for the torment, Gilligan, or a Deus ex machine minion, regularly offers false hope to the shipwrecked crew. It is always after an extreme amount of time and energy that their hopes are dashed and always at the last minute. Is there any doubt that Satan is at work here?
Intriguing as it is, and despite the best efforts of the writers, Gilligan’s Island remains what it has always been, a well-loved but second rate comedy based on the foibles of human beings. Any attempt by a fan to read more than that is simply a fool’s errand and, in addition, is probably guilty of the Professor’s vice.