Why Didn't They Just Fix The Stupid Boat?
Is Gilligan's Island a metaphor of America
“If he fixed the boat, he’d never get a shot at Ginger.” Reddit TXJKU
Since I’m sitting here, all pandemic-ed out, eating Twizzlers, I have a question of international importance. Okay, maybe not international, but I’d still like an answer. Seriously, I’m not drunk.
If the Professor on Gilligan’s Island could build a bamboo lie detector, why couldn’t he fix the boat? It’s a hole. You fill it, you sail off and have dinner at Arby’s. There’s one on Catalina Island…at least, I think there is.
So why didn’t they fix the stupid boat? Well, I have it on good authority the whole series — get ready for this — was a political commentary.
According to the producers—and Gilligan (Bob Denver)—there was a lot to complain about back in 1964. Kennedy was dead, there was a war in Vietnam, and Nixon, whose parents named four out of five of their siblings after kings, was contemplating a run at the next presidency.
Did you know the pilot for Gilligan’s Island was shot the day after Kennedy’s assassination?
But back to Kennedy for a second. Did you know the pilot for Gilligan’s Island was shot the day after Kennedy’s assassination? Check out the beginning credits. As the S.S. Minnow is leaving Newport Harbour, flags in the background are flying at half mast.
The country was still in mourning, people were depressed, some were barely able to eat their Sloppy Joe’s. What better way to get the country out of its doldrums than to put seven goofs on a deserted island?
Makes sense…sort of, I guess.
It still doesn’t explain why they couldn’t fix the boat. They had bamboo. It’s 2–3 times stronger than most hardwoods. Instead, they build four huts and a lie detector. What am I missing here? No cable? What?
I mean, okay, I get that the show’s a metaphor of America itself, something I would have noticed back then if I wasn’t busy looking at Ginger’s body. In my defence, I was young and, to be honest, super horny.
Metaphors—especially political ones—need to say something, to draw parallel lines with life. If you analyze the show—which I have in great detail, it’s obvious how screwed up the crew—and America—was in every sense of the word. They’re a bunch of bozos who can’t even patch a hull.
Vietnam was a disaster, the Civil Rights Bill barely passed, and draft dodgers were crossing the Canadian border like we’d cornered the market on draft exemptions.
Let’s examine the underlying metaphoric plot itself. Despite every effort to get off the island, Gilligan bungles it. Wasn’t America doing the same thing? Vietnam was a disaster, the Civil Rights Bill barely passed, and draft dodgers were crossing the Canadian border like we had all the draft exemptions.
I’m a Canadian, and I knew some draft dodgers. I worked on assembly lines with them. They were just as confused by Gilligan’s Island as I was. Why didn’t the cast have more bonfires? Why didn’t Ginger walk around the beach naked (honestly, the whole U.S. navy would have shown up)?
That’s obviously not how political comedies work, which I would have understood back then if I wasn’t such a randy teenager with a Twizzler addition. I was too busy waiting for Gilligan, the Professor,—or even the Skipper— to bang Ginger or Mary Ann.
Since they didn’t, was that a metaphor, too? Did it represent America’s impotence across the world stage? Or were young Americans so busy worrying about the draft, sex seemed arbitrary?
I discussed all this with my draft dodger friends. They were good men, and not without education. They came from college towns like Syracuse and Ithaca. One had done a tour of duty. He’d been stationed in Da Nang. On his first leave, he bolted. Wouldn’t you?
“Nobody did anything about it. Anyone grabbing Ann-Margret would’ve been dead in a ditch.”
Any mention of Gilligan’s Island made his eyes go out like a grouper. As far as he was concerned, Gilligan’s Island wasVietnam. “Every time they brought over Ann-Margret or Charo,” he said, “you had more men flapping their jacks behind the tents than Hueys takes off. Same sound, actually.”
“The bonce was there, man,” he went on. “Nobody did anything about it. Anyone grabbing Ann-Margret would’ve been dead in a ditch.”
In other words, if you couldn’t keep your cool with Ann Margaret wiggling her ass, what good were you against the Cong? Nothing gave snipers a better target than guys flapping their jacks behind a tent.
There’s one flapping now! Ping! Pow!
And how’s this for a metaphor? The cast were going out on a three-hour tour. Why so much luggage? Ginger had all her gowns, the Professor had his books and scientific equipment. Who takes all that on a day cruise?
Again, my draft dodger friends had the answer. If Vietnam was anything, it was the most over-supplied war going. “If you were pinned down by the enemy, and no choppers were available,” one draft dodger said, “you ordered pizza. Twenty minutes later, you had your chopper.”
One morning, he watched in horror as helicopters and trucks were pushed over the side. He asked if he could buy the trucks.
Another told the story of a soldier returning home on an aircraft carrier. One morning, he watched in horror as practically new helicopters and trucks were pushed over the side. He asked if he could buy the trucks. Five days later, he had a fleet on the docks in San Francisco, along with the mechanics.
“You want a real analogy?” another draft dodger said, “Look at Mr. and Mrs. Howell. He’s a millionaire, right? Never lifts a finger. Pure capitalism. You see the one where Howell talks the Skipper into a turtle race? If he wins, Gillian becomes his servant. The guy also owns a movie studio. Ever hear him offering to help Ginger out when they got rescued?”
We all agreed that was pretty low, especially since she’d done so much for “flapping jack” schoolboys like me. Not that Mary Ann was a slouch. Her cut-off shorts alone kept us busy — when we weren’t flapping over Ginger.
And who could forget The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island? Here’s the plot. Years have come and gone. The cast are back operating a vacation resort on the island. The Harlem Globetrotters have engine trouble over the Pacific. They end up at the resort with their basketballs. This leads to a game between The Castaways (as they’re called) and the Globetrotters.
The Castaways suck at basketball, so somehow — in true American tradition — they bring in robots.
The Castaways suck at basketball, so somehow — in true American television tradition — they bring in robots. After numerous injuries, the Globetrotters are practically sidelined. They call in the Skipper and Gilligan as replacements. Who scores the winning goal? Gilligan, of course.
Was this a commentary about factories incorporating robots at the expense of the workers? It bears scrutiny. I mean, I’m all for workers over robots. Eventually the workers will win because, like Gilligan, they’re lucky. Robots aren’t lucky. Either they do the job or they break down.
Workers are also pretty consistent. They’re fallible, sure, but they make comparatively small mistakes. A malfunctioning robot can screw up a thousand cars. They aren’t contrite, either. If we humans screw up, we apologize like crazy, hoping we don’t get fired.
A robot just sits there waiting for a new part or lubrication.
There’s more, obviously, like why Ginger—probably no stranger to the producer’s couch—didn’t jump the Professor. Hates Dockers? What?
Or how Monica and Rachel, both with piss-poor jobs, can afford a West Village apartment.
Maybe I should move on to other comedies. Like how a 2nd-string, has-been pitcher can afford a bar in downtown Boston. Or how Monica and Rachel, both with piss-poor jobs, can afford a West Village apartment (I know, I know, she inherited it from her grandmother and it’s under rent control—but $200?)
That’s the thing about pandemics. You load up on Twizzlers, turn on the television, and the next thing you know, you’re questioning everything.
Bit of a time-waster, really…I’m still not drunk.
Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist, and former advertising copywriter. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon and Schuster for more details.
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