gilligan in a tempest: o brave new world

photoshop making the rounds. I guess we can thank John Heartfield and the Berlin Dada for the original altered art collages of the powers to be and that wanna be. But satire, at heart is an acceptance, perhaps transgressive, but an acknowledgment of the system, the current structure of government despite the savagery of the dissent, but poking at this piece of cultural dialog reveals far older roots than Los Angeles pop culture…

---It’s a surprisingly accurate assessment of their public personas too. Governor Sarah Palin = Mary Ann: the All-American girl next door, never afraid to get her hands dirty, who works hard and loves the outdoors. She’s my favorite character on the show and my favorite person in conservative politics. Always leading with a servant’s heart while loving her country more than anything. Speaker Newt Gingrich = The Skipper: Larger than life, he’s the leader of the group, the captain of the ship, with a sometimes stormy temper, and he’s always willing to beat on dummies and chase people around coconut trees when they’ve done something stupid (like how he’s promised to follow Barack Obama around relentlessly until he agrees to nine hours’ of Lincoln-Douglas debates). Governor Rick Perry = Gilligan: The stumbling bumbler and epic disappointment. Read more

But, aside from the obvious poke at political satire, there is something more meaningful at work here in tying ambitious political candidates to the mast- of perhaps a ship of fools- of a marooned ship. Briefly, Gilligan’s Island was an allegory of Shakespeare’s Tempest with the Island being symbolic of America. Briefly, Prospero, a Milanese duke was forced into exile on a remote island with daughter Miranda through the machinations of his brother. They live off the fat of the land in the Brave New World of liberty and freedom where the manna is low lying and available to all regardless of station in life or the entitlement of birthright.


We are merely cheated of our lives by drunkards:
This wide-chapp’d rascal–would thou mightst lie drowning
The washing of ten tides!


He’ll be hang’d yet,
Though every drop of water swear against it
And gape at widest to glut him….

---"The Tempest" makes Benjamin Wiker's list of the "10 Books Every Conservative Must Read." Andrew Carnegie was so devoted to the play that he chose his wife based on some of its lines. Steve Jobs, according to Maureen Dowd, was the "Prospero of Palo Alto." Americans recognize ourselves in "The Tempest" immediately. But in truth, neither our story nor Shakespeare's is so simple. Our relationship with family dynasties is more like love-hate. We say we value individualism, merit and up-from-the-bootstraps pluck (how different are Shakespeare and Barack Obama in this respect?), but we also lavish affection on anyone with the last name of Roosevelt, Kennedy or Bush. Consider presidential candidate and former governor Mitt Romney, son of former presidential candidate and former governor George Romney. Dynasties repel us, but they enchant us, too. For every Shakespeare, an Earl of Oxford. For every Obama, a Bush or Romney. Read more:

A confused noise within: ‘Mercy on us!’– ‘We split, we split!’–‘Farewell, my wife and children!’– ‘Farewell, brother!’–‘We

it, we split, we split!’


Let’s all sink with the king.

What the Tempest also reveals is that man’s elitist structure and desire to colonize and subjugate the natives runs counter to the ideology of emancipation for all. In fact, it may be a pretext to further patriarchy- Miranda is totally integrated into the patriarchal order as an object of barter-much the same as America today struggles between an emancipatory vision and old world stratification where European conflicts receding back in time played out as “new” struggles in the new frontier.

…Shakespeare’s Prospero, far from renouncing dynasties, grasps unswervingly to regain his stolen Dukedom. Utopian New World possibilities notwithstanding, Miranda ultimately marries still another gorgeous, European heir. Today, such fantasies are not dead.

Nor can it be forgotten that Prospero and Miranda also have company in their idyll. Their bliss comes at the expense of the dark-skinned native Caliban, for whom the chance to learn English is cold comfort when compared to the dispossession and forced labor to which he’s subjected by the European newcomers.

“This island’s mine” he poignantly insists — as if to suggest Shakespeare himself foresaw the cruel exclusions America would exact on Native Americans, African-Americans, Latinos and others, as well as the violent struggles that would result. Read more:

---Scene From the American “Tempest.”Punch, Volume 44, January 24, 1863, p. 35 In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, the misshapen slave Caliban is promised his freedom by a pair of drunken rogues, Stephano and Trinculo. Although they desire only to use the gullible Caliban to accomplish their own selfish ends, they gain his trust by feigning friendship and equality. In Act III, Scene 2, they gleefully plot with him to take vengeance on his master, Prospero, by destroying his property, murdering him, and ravishing his daughter. Many in the South feared that newly emancipated slaves would violently turn upon their erstwhile masters. Apparently these fears were also shared by some in England. Here, Lincoln stands in for Stephano and Trinculo, handing a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation to a slave and giving tacit approval to the black man’s desire to take revenge upon his former oppressor.--- Read More:


We all remember the episode of Gilligan’s Island in which the cast performs a musical version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Yet it’s impossible to understand the show without grasping that the entire series finds its origins in a different play, The Tempest, and each castaway represents a character from Prospero’s Island. (Both Thurston Howell III and the Professor claim different aspects of Prospero’s personality, for example. Moreover, Ginger = Ariel, Mary Ann = Miranda, Gilligan = Trinculo, Skipper = Stephano, Lovey = Caliban.) Other classic sitcoms borrowed from the Bard, too, albeit somewhat less blatantly, and in episodes that aren’t often re-run.Read More:

--- An image of Prospero, Miranda, Caliban and Ariel Jean-Pierre Simon (France 1750?–1810?) after Henry Fuseli (England 1741–1825) Title Prospero, Miranda, Caliban and Ariel, Vol. I, Plate IV, Boydell Shakespeare Year 1797---Read More:


Shake it off. Come on;
We’ll visit Caliban my slave, who never
Yields us kind answer.


‘Tis a villain, sir,
I do not love to look on.


But, as ’tis,
We cannot miss him: he does make our fire,
Fetch in our wood and serves in offices
That profit us. What, ho! slave! Caliban!
Thou earth, thou! speak.


[Within] There’s wood enough within.


Come forth, I say! there’s other business for thee:
Come, thou tortoise! when?

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