'Gilligan's Island': Ragtag family mirrors real life

'Gilligan' Island': As Hollywood considers a reboot of the beloved 1960s TV show 'Gilligan's Island,' one mom reflects on the theme song as the soundtrack for her family adventures.

'Gilligan's Island': The theme song for 'Gilligan's Island' served as a soothing totem for this blogger while weathering storms on the open sea.

As Hollywood gears up a film adaptation of “Gilligan's Island” and fans argue over who the stars should be, one thing you can count on is that if they want the movie to succeed the cast must again become a mismatched, instant family.

In both film and family, it’s the ensemble effect that makes the experience happily memorable, or something you wish you could forget.

I remember the original “Gilligan’s Island” TV show from childhood and the many ways it re-entered my adult life and family scenarios.

As a kid, I watched all 98 episodes of “Gilligan's Island,” which followed the zany misadventures of seven people stranded on a desert island. The castaways included dim-witted Gilligan, the always-exasperated Skipper, the girl-next-door Mary Ann, the Professor, the redheaded bombshell Ginger, and a wealthy couple named the Howells.

As an adult, my husband took me and the kids on a sailboat from New Jersey to Florida. Many times I got through a terrifying storm on the sailboat by singing the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song in order to keep from panicking.

Once we began living aboard, I would frequently repeat this theme song verse under my breath:

"No phone, no lights, no motor cars, 
Not a single luxury, 
Like Robinson Crusoe, 
It’s primitive as can be."

Today. I have a friend Wes Cheney who makes bikes almost entirely out of bamboo at VeloBamboo here in Norfolk, Virginia. Every time I see him cruising down the lane on a bamboo bike the song is stuck in my head for hours.

Over the years, since living aboard, when we sailed to islands and ate some variation of fish and coconut at every meal, I have given “Gilligan’s Island” a lot of thought from the family and parenting perspective.

While each character began the adventure as a part of his or her own family, the moment their shipwrecked the adventure began, they became a new family unit.

In the cruising community of boaters, strangers become family in a heartbeat. We once came ashore in the Dry Tortugas, stranded by a storm, and we shared unique methods of cooking, fishing, and surviving with total strangers who were suddenly family.

In the show, the Skipper and Professor seemed to share the parental roles, although who was “Mom” or “Dad” at any given moment is debatable.

Parenting is a sea of adventure we all hope to survive as we are beset with storms and use our collective ingenuity at a moment’s notice.

In the show’s theme song, their boat, the S.S. Minnow, is a family metaphor.

"The weather started getting rough, 
The tiny ship was tossed. 
If not for the courage of the fearless crew 
The Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost."

Perhaps I view Skipper as “Dad” and the Professor as “Mom” because they try to manage an unwieldy bunch through trying times, with often hilarious results.

Gilligan would be the awkward teen son, always wearing the same outfit, trying to make good to the demanding dad.

Mary Ann and Ginger are like sisters who are polar opposites.

The Howells could be seen as the babies of the family, spoiled twins who could be both demanding and lovable.

The precursor to my married life was actually a “Gilligan’s Island” family joke made (constantly) by my late father-in-law.

The first time I met him, he began the conversation not with “Hello” but by saying: “You need to know that my son is brilliant. If I was stranded on a desert island and could choose one person to be there with, who I knew could get us off, it would be Robert.”

Just as I smiled at the glowing praise for the love of my life, Mr. Suhay dropped the other flip-flop, “Of course he’d also be the one who got us stranded in the first place!”

Apparently this had actually happened once during a canoe trip.

The “Gilligan’s Island” song was always whistled by my husband’s father. The song informs us:

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, 
A tale of a fateful trip 
That started from this tropic port 
Aboard this tiny ship. 
The mate was a mighty sailing man, 
The skipper brave and sure. 
Five passengers set sail that day 
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour." 

Whenever he disagreed with my husband’s life choices, my father-in-law whistled the tune for the refrain, “A three hour tour. A three hour tour.”

The man whistled it each and every time I was in a room with him. Apparently I was the “Three hour tour.”

My father-in-law may also have been the only person in America who knew that the actual words to one verse that most people mumble:

"So this is the tale of the castways, 
They're here for a long, long time, 
They'll have to make the best of things, 
It's an uphill climb."

When it comes to parenting and family relationships, it can be an “uphill climb.” However, if you can see the humor and adventure of bamboo bikes and a coconut cream pie in the face it’s worth the trip.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'Gilligan's Island': Ragtag family mirrors real life
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today