“…With Gilligan, the Skipper too, a millionaire and his wife, a movie star,
the professor and Mary Ann, here on Gilligan’s Isle….”
This list of names is, of course, a portion of the well-known theme song for the 1960’s show Gilligan’s Island. Something of a “sleeper classic,” the show featured a delightfully predictable premise: what should have been a relaxing three hour tour aboard the SS Minnow turned into 99 episodes of castaway hijinks with an eclectic assortment of tourists (how a farm girl from Kansas, a Hollywood movie star, and a millionaire who owns a diamond mine and all of Denver, Colorado ended up on the same tiny boat in Hawaii is never considered worthy of an explanation). Nevertheless, after finding themselves shipwrecked on a small and uninhabited Pacific Island, our cast sets about recreating some semblance of a life and society, while seeking (often hilarious and always fruitless) means of getting rescued.
I may be a few years too young to have firsthand memory of Gilligan’s Island, but growing up with little else but Nick at Nite and TV Land on our cable-free television, Gilligan reruns were a favorite of mine. Despite being a 7-year-old devotee of the show, it took me years to notice that early episodes of the show do NOT have the famous list of names mentioned above. Specifically, early episodes only list SOME of the names:
“…With Gilligan, the Skipper too, a millionaire and his wife,
a movie star and the rest, here on Gilligan’s Isle….”
And the rest? I learned of this not-too-subtle early substitution after watching a cast reunion some years ago. I’m still a little peeved about it, actually. Not only was (is) it inconceivable to me that hunky Professor Roy Hinkley, Ph.D. and sweetly naïve Mary Ann Summers were left out of the theme song, but that they were just lumped together in some indiscernible rest was just insulting. And apparently I’m not the only one who thought so.
Bob Denver, who starred as our mononymous hero Gilligan, also took offense with the billing. When it became clear that the professor and Mary Ann were pulling the same weight as the named characters, he demanded they be listed individually and respectfully in the theme song. Urban legend tells that the reason for “and the rest” was due to a clause in Tina Louise’s (Ginger, the movie star) contract about her own title billing. Regardless of whether that was true, Denver’s request was denied. It would be too complicated and too expensive to reshoot the theme song. So he laid down an ultimatum: either list them in the theme, or take Gilligan’s name out. If they’re “the rest,” so am I.
Obviously this wasn’t going to happen. He was Gilligan, the title character of the show. It was, ostensibly, his island! So the producers worked some Hollywood magic and made the change, giving us the better-known version that lists out everyone’s identities.
This historical television anecdote came to mind for me recently when I was observing a social media debate about the acronym(s) our society uses for the community of people who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. The official acronym Room for All uses is LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer). Sometimes, people understand “Q” to mean “questioning.” Some people add “IA” at the end, usually denoting “intersex and asexual,” although other might translate that “A” to “ally.” (Note: I encourage you not to add “ally” to the acronym for a number of reasons, but that’s for another post). In India, an “H” is sometimes added to represent the Hijra third-gender identity, similar to the “TS” or “2” that is sometimes added in the West to encompass the “two-spirit” identity present in some indigenous North Americans’ traditions.
Yeah, it’s confusing. It’s a lot. The aforementioned social media debate I observed was primarily a group of more conservative queer folks complaining at a post someone had made:
“’LGBT’ is enough!”
“You can’t just keep adding letters; it’s getting confusing!”
“7 letters is too many to remember. UGH!”
For the last several years, one acronym I’ve seen getting a lot of use is “LGBT+.” Once upon a time, that made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t know anyone who identified openly outside those 4 letters, and it included me, so good enough. Looking back, I’m cringing that the “+” was good enough for me. That acronym could very easily and appropriately be read out loud as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and the rest.”
There it is again, “and the rest.” While certainly not the same situation by any means, there are some similarities between the Gilligan theme and our present acronym debate. I have no idea how the professor and Mary Ann felt about being lumped together without names. I can imagine, though, that when the star of the show used his privilege to influence what was seen as an injustice, it felt good to have an ally and to be recognized.
In our acronym debate though, I do know how the “professors and Mary Anns” feel about it. They’ve told me; they’re my friends and loved ones. My asexual or intersex neighbor who has been lumped into a “+.” And the rest. Unnamed. Not-important.
It’s too expensive to reshoot the theme song
7 letters is too many too remember; it’s getting confusing!
I guess I’m Gilligan, then? I’m a white gay man. Within the community of non-hetero/non-cisgender folks, my experience has been that my white maleness privileges me in significant ways. There’s no doubt the acronym includes me. I’m the “G.” Sometimes, my initial is even first in the lineup! That’s privilege. That’s power. I’m never not included.
So I say this: include the other letters and numbers. Lose the “+.” I can’t speak for other gay people, but for me, those characters that you’re trying to call “secondary” are part of the main cast. If you know someone who is intersex or agender or two-spirit or genderqueer, include their initial. It will be confusing and hard, sorta’ like trying to make a functioning radio out of coconuts. You and I will both screw up. But this is a change that we can make, and we need to. If the star of the show won’t do the right thing, who will?
And if you really can’t bring yourself to expand past the letters you’re comfortable with? Well then, please leave the “G” out. If they’re “the rest”, so am I.