Friday, May 07, 2010

Government's Island

Joe Carter fesses up to being part of a widely shared pop culture experience in a post at the First Things Blog:

Almost every American who owned a television from the late 1960s to the early 1980s has watched an episode of Gilligan's Island . And if you were a child during that era--in a time before cable and console video games--you probably watched all 98 episodes more than once.

It shames me to consider it now but I suspect I've seen each episode at least a half dozen times--over 8,000 hours engaged with this single cultural artifact. Even more embarrassing is the that despite spending so many hours watching the show I never considered whether there was a deeper meaning in this "text."

Because Lewis Napper is much smarter than I am (or perhaps because he felt the need to justify the time he wasted watching the show) he has put a lot of thought into the situation of this sitcom and produced a short essay titled, Here On The Island: A Scholarly Critique of the Style, Symbolism and Sociopolitical Relevance of Gilligan's Island.

Just a few weeks ago, I was having a drink with some business colleagues and we were discussing "Gilligan's Island." We are all in roughly in the same age cohort (as I suspect Mr. Carter is) and like him each one of us had probably watched every episode of the program multiple times during our youth. I can recall coming home from school and watching "Gilligan's Island" day after day after day. I don't know if we really even liked it that much. I don't remember finding it particularly funny or enjoyable. It was just there and since we had some few entertainment options at the time, we felt compelled to watch it.

As Joe notes, Napper's essay is well-worth a read. I especially liked his explanation of the what Gilligan symbolizes:

Gilligan, the Skipper's "little buddy", embodies every extraneous governmental agency, policy and program ever foisted on innocent people anywhere. It is "Gilligan's island." Gilligan is well-intentioned. He sincerely wants to help. Gilligan saves no exertion, refuses no absurdity, respects no boundary in his unceasing efforts to solve, or at least soften, any and all of the everyday problems of the castaways. More often than not Gilligan is the problem. At best he makes a bad situation worse. At worst, he makes a great situation completely unbearable.

Something to keep in mind the next time you heard someone talking having the government "help."