1960s Sex Symbols: Ginger or Mary Ann?

Ginger or Mary Ann?  It’s a question that’s puzzled baby boomers and Generation Xers that watched Gilligan’s Island, a show that lasted three years on CBS (1964-67) and enjoyed a thriving life in reruns in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ginger Grant was a voluptuous, red-headed movie star played by Tina Louise.  Mary Ann Summers was a farm girl played by Dawn Wells.

Ginger was sexually charged.  Mary Ann was innocent.

Ginger was elegant and gorgeous.  Mary Ann was simple and beautiful.

Ginger was a celebrity.  Mary Ann was the girl next door.

Ginger was seductive, a woman with more curves than Mulholland Drive and a footlocker of evening gowns to prove it.  Mary Ann was under the radar, a woman whose checkered shirts and short shorts made you want to pack up and move to Kansas.  Or Nebraska.  Or wherever they breed women who looked, acted, and dressed like Mary Ann.

Let’s say you chose Ginger.  What would life be like?  Paparazzi, red carpet events, and show business parties.  Sounds glamorous, but the Hollywood lifestyle can be overwhelming even for experienced show business types.

Let’s say you chose Mary Ann.  What would life be like?  A farm with hundreds of acres, hayrides, and clear skies.  Sounds serene, but the farm life requires waking at dawn to tend to the livestock, milk the cows, and bale the hay.

The Mary Ann – Ginger dynamic has occurred in other areas of popular culture.  Betty vs. Veronica comes to mind.  On the 1990s television show Melrose Place, Courtney Thorne-Smith played Alison and Heather Locklear played Amanda.  Alison was sweet.  Amanda was manipulative.  They both fought over Billy, played by Andrew Shue.  In the early seasons of Mad Men, the contrast was depicted through the characters of Peggy and Joan.

The question remains.  Ginger or Mary Ann?  Perhaps the choice is too difficult to make.  Oh well.  Maybe the Howells have a niece.

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