Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learning from the Professor and Mary Ann… here on Gilligan’s Island

mary-ann-prof-1 Back to school… for many of us, the first professor we ever knew was the Professor on Gilligan’s Island! He was incredibly intelligent and it seemed like he could invent almost anything from two coconuts and a bit of wire salvaged from the Minnow! I was always impressed that the Professor spoke with such an academic vocabulary that the Skipper and Gilligan could never understand what he was saying. Now I realize that was rather arrogant of the Professor to always speak over their heads, to always sound impressive and to always impose his great rescue plans on the others. Almost every time those rescue plans would come to nothing because Gilligan would do something clumsy or unintentionally make some big mistake that would ruin everything. And on a few occasions, it turned out that if Gilligan had not foiled the plan, all the castaways might have died instead of being rescued. You see, the Professor for all his intelligence struggled with pride, one of the seven deadly sins. He was so proud of his intelligence that he would always come up with these rescue plans by himself and assume he was correct in all his assumptions. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Sometimes the Professor’s plans weren’t really all that good, but pride kept the Professor from seeing this reality.

gilligans-island-show In medieval times, the Church made a list of seven deadly sins which are the starting points for all other sins. When Sherwood Schwartz created the TV show Gilligan’s Island, he marooned seven castaways on an uncharted desert isle. Schwartz said he wanted these vastly different characters to be a microcosm of the social diversity in the U.S. so that survival could teach them how to live together. Another theory has been widely circulated, one which I’m prepared to defend. The seven castaways each represent one of the seven deadly sins. This is actually the reason why none of their attempts to get off the island ever worked, they were too caught up in their personal sins to be able to truly work together and find a way of escape.

Mary Ann was very helpful on the island, always peeling vegetables, it seemed, and preparing meals for all the castaways. Mary Ann was a good sport, always willing to pitch and always aiming to please the others. It didn’t come out often, but when it showed itself, it became clearly that Mary Ann didn’t think much of herself, just a lowly farm girl from Kansas with big dreams. She was envious of Ginger’s beauty and glamour, envious of the Professor’s intelligence and envious of the Howell’s enormous wealth. Envy is, of course, another of the seven deadly sins. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). Poor Mary Ann had a hard time accepting herself and just being herself because she felt so insignificant compared to those she envied. She didn’t even make it to the theme song in the first season, “with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and his wife, the movie star, and the rest are here on Gilligan’s Isle.”

reunion-Russell-Johnson-Dawn-Wells-Bob-DenverI’ve made a case for all seven of the castaways each representing one of the seven deadly sins and published it at Squidoo: Gilligan’s Island and the Seven Deadly Sins. There are numerous lists and ideas about this on the Internet and some of them really disturbed me so I thought it was time to set the record straight. One published “Bible study” on this theme of the seven deadly sins argues that Gilligan is guilty of sloth which is totally ridiculous. If you’ve ever watched the show, I’m sure you’ll recall that Gilligan in fact does most of the work on the island, from gathering wood to picking fruit to fishing to doing the laundry and to the biggest task of all, serving the Howells. Another crazy theory argues that the Skipper is a big guy and thus guilty of two of the sins, leaving Gilligan without a deadly sin. So why is that crazy? Well, they go on to suggest that since Gilligan always wears that red shirt, he is, therefore, the devil and this is why he always ruins their plans to escape from the island! Again, this violates the very premise of the show which presents Gilligan as a lovable klutz, somewhat naive but well intentioned and yet very unlucky, not exactly Satan! These arguments parading as sophisticated socio-cultural analysis show little understanding about the nature of the seven deadly sins and even less understanding of the actual TV show. I’ve tried to return to an earlier, more accurate identification of the seven castaways and seven sins and you’re not going to believe which sin Gilligan most exemplifies!

Ken Symes’ Squidoo lens: Gilligan’s Island & the Seven Deadly Sins


  1. Whell for starters,i grew up on the show,do not remember any begining that did not mentionany one after the movie star.Maybe it was the piolet.Any way off my rant,This bible group you talk of,they are crazy.It was only supposedf to be a 3 hour tour.They only had the clothes on their backs.Thats why Gilligan had a red shirt on.Not because he represented the Devil.These people need a hobbie.Stop trying to annolize every movie or TV show and turn them into there own Bible.Thats all i have to say about that.God Bless.A fellow Christion.

  2. I thought the red shirt for Gilligan was because he supports the troops. Maybe this show was a little before my time. Just kidding. Maybe there is a 8th deadly sin for Gilligan, stupidness.

  3. Ken only controversy sells, don't go prissy on us.

    I think the idea of the 7 deadly sins is interesting and may have some merit. The characters are exaggerated stereotypes and cartoon like, so at times it would appear that the presented human failings, might reflect the 7 sins, but the characters would be too one dimensional if they were attached to just one vise. The episodes suggest a tragedy, but they all end where they start, and follow the pattern of a comedy,which is why we kept coming back for more. Chad

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