Fantasy Island (1978)

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Fantasy Island (1978) TV Poster Image
Dream-fulfilling show has sexy stuff, stereotypes, drinking.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

All sorts of fantasies are granted, but they usually go awry. Life lessons learned from the experiences often include being satisfied with what you have. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Roarke is mysterious, a little arrogant, and wise. Tattoo is a quirky sidekick. The guests are mostly middle- to upper-class White people willing to spend a lot of money because they are dissatisfied with their lives in some way. 

Violence

Violent events range from throwing drinks in people's faces to punches and brawls. Threats of physical punishments occur (but are not shown). On occasion, guns are drawn; sometimes shots are fired. 

Sex

Lots of bikini-clad women and shirtless men. Sexual innuendo and jokes abound, but folks are only shown hugging and kissing. Romantic entanglements, illicit trysts, and related themes are frequent. One episode features unwitting sex slaves. 

Language
Consumerism

Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, and other cars are sometimes visible. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of tropical cocktails, wine, and champagne consumed. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the iconic series Fantasy Island (1978-1984) is about an exclusive Pacific island and the people who arrive there to fulfill their secret desires. While its content is pretty mild by today's standards, it still has a significant amount of sexual innuendo, drinking, and stereotypical characters. It also has a lot of mature themes, ranging from relationship problems to sex work, and people frequently appear in skimpy, skin-revealing bathing suits and sexy dresses. The depictions of little people and Pacific Islanders reflect common stereotypes that are considered highly insensitive or offensive today -- families who watch definitely have an opportunity to discuss what's changed socially and why. Fans of the 2020 horror film may also be tempted to give this retro hit a try. 

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What's the story?

The classic series FANTASY ISLAND (1978-1984) is about people who want their secret desires to come true on an exclusive Pacific island. Ricardo Montalbán stars as the mysterious Mr. Roarke, the island's owner and resort host, who's responsible for arranging each guest's pricey two-day experience. Assisting him is Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize). Each fantasy is designed to be an unforgettable experience, but the unexpected consequences of living their fantasies have the potential to turn visitors' dreams into nightmares. 

Is it any good?

This fun, classic series features an eclectic cast of characters trying to fulfill their desires by participating in fantastical, but contrived, adventures. From a roller derby skater wanting to become a refined lady to a date with the one that got away, each guest experience feels like a social experiment ultimately designed by Mr. Roarke to serve as a life lesson. These stories are often far-fetched and ridiculous, but they also touch on universal themes that remain relevant today, including the human desire for intimacy, acceptance, wealth, and vengeance. 

It's hard not to feel like you're in a time warp when watching Fantasy Island, thanks to the fashions, outmoded production values, and continual guest appearances of popular (and much younger looking) celebrities of the time. Meanwhile, some of the content, including the caricature-like representations of Pacific Islanders and little people (including Tattoo’s shouts about seeing "de plane") can be interpreted as stereotypical and insensitive according to contemporary social and cultural standards. But the series still remains a fixture in American popular culture, and continues to entertain audiences who loved it back in the day. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the kinds of fantasies guests want fulfilled on Fantasy Island. Why do they always seem to go wrong? Are these mishaps preplanned? Or do the guests create them thanks to their behavior while there?

  • Classic shows and movies often contain stereotypes that reflect the social conventions of the time when they were made. Should we still watch them? Can we learn anything from them?

  • If you had a chance to live your fantasy for two days, would you take it? What would be the consequences of doing so? 

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