Writing Out Loud: We Need Distractions

By George Stahl

In 1964, on this date, a television show came on that shocked the nation and caused a national debate which was totally unexpected to happen. The country was in the midst of a few conflicts around the globe at that time, including the Vietnam War. Then, on September 26, seven island castaways captured the hearts of most Americans, young teenage boys in particular.

When they left Hawaii, supposedly for a 3-hour tour somewhere off the coast, they had no idea what an uproar they would cause in households, in middle school and high school classrooms, locker rooms, and even at some churches, reportedly. It had to be true; fake news hadn’t been invented yet. If you haven’t guessed by now, the seven castaways causing all of this upset, were, of course the cast of Gilligan’s Island, which debuted on this day 54 years ago. The debate? Well. It was the now famous or some cases, infamous debate of ‘Mary Ann or Ginger?’ Those two castaways were on the minds of millions of boys all over the country. Even when the show went into syndication, meaning rerun after rerun for days, weeks, and years without end, the debate continued. When the show premiered, Mary Ann was 20 years old, and Ginger was 30 years old, ten more than farmgirl Mary Ann. So, the debate was between a barely legal farmgirl from Kansas, and a would-be cradle robbing actress from the glamorous town of Hollywood.

When the show started, America had just lost its 35th President to an assassin’s bullet, and 12,000 plus American soldiers were in Vietnam ‘advising.’ Gilligan, the Skipper, the professor, those millionaires and the two new bombshells were just the distraction the people needed as an alternative to the war, the protests, the call for more troops and the eventual draft. Gilligan and his bunch were not as alone as they made out to be either. Not talking about the visitors, the seven seemed to have gotten over the years on a deserted, uncharted island, who never took them with them when they left the island. No, we’re talking about four other shows that premiered just days before the professor invented his cycle propelled power generator. Eight days before the Minnow hit ground, a family appeared from nowhere, the Addamses moved in, and the neighborhood was not going to be the same, especially if that pile of hair called ‘It’ was let loose. Then, on the 22nd, a guy from a secret government agency called U.N.C.L.E. and his blonde foreign friend who would later find work as a doctor for another government agency, NCIS, stealthily showed up. On the 24th, just two days before Gilligan stumbled into a coconut pie (on an island) another family moved onto Mockingbird Lane. These guys were familiar to Americans, and they were welcomed with open graves. The Munsters were also on hand to distract.

All of this distracting seemed to be working. People, some anyway, were no longer preoccupied with the war that was not a war. It all started though, before Mary Ann and Ginger, Morticia and Gomez, Napoleon and Illya, and Lilly and Marilyn. It started with a nose-twitching, tight-pants-wearing housewitch named Samantha. The debate was actually “Ginger, Mary Ann, or Samantha?”

Soon though, it was back to two, and Sam was out. She was just a distraction from the real debate. Soon then too, Ginger and Mary Ann were out, and the debate that hit home for the next few years was the televising of the war. Every day, news shows had clips of soldiers being shot, villagers being wounded, and troops marching into jungles, some never to come out. America, for the first time, had a war in their living rooms, just before or after dinner.

Some people liked it, others did not. Others thought it was the media sensationalizing war, and other saw it as the media telling the people what the government would not. All, however, were not sure they wanted to see it. The war on TV got to be like driving up to a bad accident on the road. You don’t want to see what happened, but nothing in the world can make you not look.

We have become callous since those days of the Vietnam War. We’ll watch just about anything on TV and even more in a movie. The clips from the news shows back then don’t bother most of us.

We are not so easily distracted nowadays. We pay attention to the real issues, not to be misled by the fluff. Fluff like Stormy Daniels, The Me-too Movement, discrimination of tennis players, bad calls, bad wardrobe change choices and bad tempers, and we are certainly not distracted by anything that comes from President Trump’s mouth, are we?

So, Ginger or Mary Ann? Think hard on this one gentlemen, we are trying to distract you from that humongous, hairy spider in the corner of the room. Let’s call him… Kavanaugh. Not the guy now, but when he was in high school, 30 some years ago. If this is the new norm, no one has a chance to even be appointed chief garbage man over anywhere. I mean, Chief Executive Officer over Sanitation Engineers and their staff. Wow, that was close.

As you were folks, I didn’t mean to distract you:

[ ] Ginger Grant

[ ] Mary Ann Summers