July 22, 2011


What 'Gilligan's Island' creator Sherwood Schwartz was saying about democracy (Paul A. Cantor, 7/15/11, Washington Post)

Schwartz learned about my book and wrote to me to get a copy. He explained that he had always thought of "Gilligan's Island" as a show about democracy. His favorite episode, he said, was the one about the exiled dictator "because it's the most meaningful" and demonstrates how democracy can go wrong. He was particularly proud of the "dream sequence in which Gilligan realizes he's simply a puppet dictator of the real dictator."

Much to my gratification, Schwartz said all this before reading my book. Academics like me are always accused of just making up our interpretations. But mine was being confirmed by the highest authority -- the writer himself.

Once Schwartz had read the book, he wrote me another long letter explaining that it had always bothered him that people criticized "Gilligan's Island" for being silly; they didn't understand it, he said. "Not a single critic got it, with the basic concept of democracy staring them right in the face." He viewed my book as a vindication of his work: "I never thought I'd see the day when an English Professor of some note would use 'Gilligan's Island' as one of four pillars on which rest the liberal democratic view of the recent past in America." [...]

In my correspondence with him, I was struck by his intelligence, his learning and his seriousness of purpose. Above all, he clearly knew what he was doing in "Gilligan's Island" and could articulate the thinking behind it.

Posted by at July 22, 2011 6:59 PM

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