When I googled Gilligan’s Island there were over four million hits. I found essays comparing the show to just about everything including Jean-Paul Satre’s, No Exit. Another popular theory persuasively argues that the castaways represent the seven deadly sins. There was more than one piece that reported at length on the “Homosexual Agenda of Gilligan’s Island,” and an essay entitled, “A Scholarly Critique of the Style, Symbolism and the Social Political Relevance of Gilligan’s Island,” by Lewis Napper, a libertarian who ran for a Senate seat in Mississippi. In it he equates Gilligan to every extraneous governmental agency and says that grasping “the revolutionary theme of Mary Ann as most vital yet least compensated, most important yet least revered, most adept yet least trusted, is crucial to understanding the series. It is an attempt to show the common person the folly of their institutionalized reverence of traditional leadership and their legitimate legacy as masters of their own destiny.”
Almost everything I read interpreted Gilligan’s Island as allegory—a device that delivers a message by means of symbolic figures and actions. There is no ~doubt that the seven castaways on Gilligan’s Island are symbols. They personify certain generic personality traits to such an exaggerated extent, it renders them flat. All entertainment engages in a form of exaggeration, and at a very basic level, so does art. The purpose of the play of color on a canvas, the melody of a song, the rhythm of a beautifully written paragraph is to heighten our senses. In art, however, this is not enough. The artist’s job is to extract something more meaningful, something worth the time invested.
The challenge for an artist is not just to see, but to see deeper. It is here beneath the surface that the tough characters become vulnerable and the laughable ones become sad. Beneath the surface, there is conflict and contrast and the spark that arises is the crux of true character. Buddhist philosophy teaches that when you really look at something—a piece of ~paper, for example, you should see not only the tree from which it came, but also the person who planted it. Indeed, if you look long and hard enough at anything, the entire world is there.
After watching every episode of Gilligan’s Island twice, the facades faded, and the individuals deepened. There was soul within these people. I could sense it in their body language, hear it in their tone of voice. Mostly, I could see it in their eyes and the more I looked, the more I sensed the world was looking back at me.