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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gilligan's Island is a classic sitcom intended solely for the purpose of goofy entertainment. Some positive themes resonate throughout (cooperation, resourcefulness, optimism), but there's very little here in the way of educational substance. Ginger's occasional use of sex appeal to manipulate her male island-mates may teach unwanted lessons about the power of physical appearance as a bargaining tool. Arguments on the show can be heated, though they're usually ridiculous and comic rather than serious and abusive.
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What's the story?
In GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, five passengers from varying backgrounds embark on an ill-fated "three-hour tour" aboard the SS Minnow with the Skipper (played by Alan Hale) and first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver) at the helm. When a fierce storm comes up, they find themselves marooned on a deserted island and forced to cooperate in order to survive. But they do more than just eke out an existence here; through ingenuity and resourcefulness, they manage to recreate many of the comforts of home, often to hilarious effect. Much of the series' humor derives from the characters' unlikely mixture of backgrounds and worldviews as they find themselves in one ridiculous situation after another. In addition to the blustering-but-well-meaning Skipper and the show's clownish namesake, there's the wise Professor (Russell Johnson), bombshell starlet Ginger (Tina Louise), the amusingly despicable millionaires Thurston and Lovey Howell (Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer), and down-to-earth farm girl Mary Ann (Dawn Wells). The show ran for a total of 98 episodes from 1964 to 1967.
Is it any good?
This classic sitcom is beloved by generations of kids and nostalgic adults. Social and political issues of the time (the late '60s were a volatile age) are largely absent due to the characters' isolation. However, many of the period's common media stereotypes are clearly visible through the dominance of its male characters, the homogeneous casting (only the "natives" aren't white), and the appearance of Russians as sinister spies (this was, after all, the middle of the Cold War.) Still, despite corny jokes and ridiculous situations -- or perhaps because of them -- Gilligan's Island stands the test of time as an oft-quoted favorite alongside The Brady Bunch, The Flintstones, I Dream of Jeannie, and Gomer Pyle.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Gilligan's Island 's messages. Are there any? Is it important for media to make you think, or is it OK to just have fun sometimes?
Discuss the balance of power between men and women: Are men really the ones with all the answers? Does a woman's power exist only as a function of her physical appearance? How do you think Ginger and Mary-Ann might be portrayed differently if the show was airing today?
The ultra-rich Howells are depicted as insatiable schemers. Are all wealthy people greedy and manipulative? If not, is their portrayal a stereotype? Do you see any other stereotypes being portrayed on the show?
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