Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Theology of Gilligan's Island: Who'd of thought it?

Gilligan's Island was one of favorite shows growing up. The reruns were aired everyday on channel 5. I have probably seen every episode including the TV movies Escape from Gillian's Island and Return to Gilligan's Island.

But little did I know that while I was watching the show I was also learning theology. I didn't not realize that the island was actually hell, Gilligan the devil and that each character was a metaphorical representation for the Seven Deadly Sins. At least that is what its creator Sherwood Schwartz claimed. Below is a short piece that appeared on NPR in 2008, but was only brought to my attention recently.

Poor castaways. Each week they would devise a way off the island. Each week Gilligan would thwart their escape usually with the best of intentions.

Years after the show ended, its creator, Sherwood Schwartz, admitted that each of the characters represented one of the seven deadly sins Pride (the Professor), Anger (Skipper), Lust, (Ginger), and the rest. Gilligan was supposed to be Sloth.

But a closer viewing indicates that the island may well have been Hell — and the red-clad Gilligan the devil who kept them on his island.

The greatest part of the metaphor, though, is that if the others ever wanted to get off the island, what they needed to do was kill Gilligan — and that each of us has our own inner Gilligan, that sweet-natured, well-meaning part of us that always sabotages us from getting what we really want.

Maybe if we truly want to succeed in life, we need to kill our own inner Gilligan.

I suppose watching Gilligan's Island may have had a profound influence on my becoming a biblical scholar. Of course, at one time I probably knew Gilligan's Island better than the Bible.
I wonder, however, if any of this is true or if it is just a way to get people to keep watching a silly show. No matter, if I would see it on today I would still sit down and watch it.


  1. Another happy childhood memory dashed on the rocks!!!

  2. Actually, other than the creator and producers wanted to make a wad of money off a weekly series portraying seven castaways, there are several alternative interpretations of the show.

    1) Gilligan's Island was all Gilligan's dreamscape. The ship with its two crew members and five passengers set sail that day but came back to port. The subsequent episodes are Gilligan's dreams regarding his own desire to address his inadequacies. He wished he was smart as the professor. He wished he had wealth like the Howells. He desired to be a competent, blue collar businessman like ... his Skipper. He wished he had the perpetual company of the girl-next-door or a successful actress.

    2) Gilligan's Island was Hades/Purgatory. In the show the actual dispensation of all seven souls was they perished during that storm. They all awake in a nether world where despite their different personalities and stations in life they actually live a successful existence in their new afterlife together. They always seem to have plenty of food, they have adequate shelter, they are amused by one another and the ever creative inventions of the professor, they are never bored with one another and they are rarely ill despite being bereft of modern medical technology. Money means absolutely nothing in their quasi-utopia and thus they do achieve a very real measure of social comity and satisfying unity despite their differences.

    My two cents.