Life Lessons from Gilligan's Island

"Gilligan's Island" was a show that ran on CBS from 1964 to 1967. Despite being very popular, it was cancelled after 3 seasons, due partly to the CBS president's wife being a big fan of "Gunsmoke", pressuring the network to reschedule the show to the time slot of "Gilligan's Island", which caused them to cancel the latter.

So, the first life lesson is that even if you are doing everything right, you can still get screwed over if a rich woman likes someone else better.

If you are too young to remember "Gilligan's Island" (and technically I am, but I watched a lot of re-runs as a kid), the show is a comedy about seven people who become stranded on a deserted island after their 3-hour boat tour went horribly wrong due to a storm. Amazingly, their clothes stay in pristine condition throughout the series (and Mrs. Howell seemed to pack a lot of different outfits for a 3-hour tour).

The seven castaways are:

Gilligan (Bob Denver): The somewhat dim-witted and clumsy first-mate of the boat. Always willing to help the group, but never really able to do so without screwing something up.

The Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.): The "big boned" captain of the boat and the unofficial leader of the castaways. His common sense and leadership abilities prove him to be a valuable asset to the group.

Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus): "The millionaire" who, despite being stranded on a deserted island, frequently tries (often successfully) to use his richness and influence in order to get the other castaways to do his bidding.

Eunice Lovelle Wentworth Howell (Natalie Schafer): The wife of Thurston Howell. Generally nice to the other castaways, but also frequently uses her status to avoid doing any sort of labor. A fun little fact is that Natalie Schafer didn't think the show would take off, but took the role anyway since it meant a free Hawaiian vacation.

Ginger Grant (Tina Louise): "The movie star", a young and attractive woman who frequently uses her sensuality to influence the male castaways (most notably Gilligan).

Professor Roy Hinkely, Ph.D. (Russell Johnson): Always simply referred to as "The Professor", he is a very intelligent, innovative, and surprisingly handsome man whose many inventions help the castaways to live in relative comfort. He is by far the most useful member of the group.

Mary Ann Summers (Dawn Wells): A cute young farm girl whose peppy and optimistic attitude generally bring cheer to the rest of the group. Probably the only of the three women on the island that ever helps their survival situation.


Probably the most important philosophical question to come from the show was "who is hotter: Ginger or Mary Ann?"

Both women were quite attractive (and Dawn Wells still is, at least in the recent picture on her Wikipedia page), so naturally many arguments ensued about which one was more attractive. The general conundrum was that Ginger was more sensual, with her brooding glances and sexy voice, but Mary Ann was the more down-to-earth "girl next door" type. Ultimately, most guys chose Mary Ann (it didn't hurt that she frequently wore bare-midriff tops on the show).

There is another theory that each of the seven castaways represents one of the seven deadly sins. It's been well documented so I won't go into it.

To that effect, though, there is one takeaway from the show that I think is worth noting, and it has to do with the four male characters.

Each of the four male characters fit into a neat little spectrum of "usefulness".

On one side, you have the Professor and the Skipper. The two of them form an excellent team of brains and brawn. The professor has innovative ideas and the Skipper is an excellent leader and man of action. The two of them working together could have certainly made it off the island had it not been for the rest of the crew.

In the middle, you have Mr. Howell. One may think that Mr. Howell would be on the opposite side of the spectrum as the Professor and Skipper, as he spent the series doing next to nothing to help anyone, but it is exactly that reason that he lies in the middle. By doing nothing, he was neutral, neither helping nor hurting.

And then, on the other side of the spectrum, you have Gilligan. While he always got an "A for effort", Gilligan was, for the most part, the sole reason why the castaways couldn't get off the island. His clumsiness and stupidity frequently sabotaged their plans for rescue (not to mention he missed out on so many opportunities with Ginger and Mary Ann).

Far too often, society paints people like Mr. Howell in a negative light. They say it's better to try and fail than to not try at all. I call bullshit, it's definitely better to not do anything than to try and fail so miserably that it actively worsens the situation.

So, in any situation, ask yourself the question "am I helping, or would everyone be better off if I just sat back and watched?"

It's better to be useless than counter-productive.

And that's my motivational speech for the week. You're welcome.

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