The Mary Ann Vs. Ginger Debate: Why Does Dawn Wells Always Win?

By Rebeka Knott
Dawn Wells as Mary Ann on 'Gilligan's Island' (1964-67). Source: IMDB, Wikimedia Commons

Even a half-century after Gilligan’s Island aired its final episode, Dawn Wells remained better known as Mary Ann Summers, one of the seven castaways on the show. Wells, who died on December 30, 2020, was a fan favorite, winning the hearts of viewers with down-home charm in direct contrast to the "sexy" movie star Ginger Grant, played by Tina Louise. Rounding out the cast were Bob Denver (Gilligan), Alan Hale Jr. (Skipper), Russell Johnson (Professor), Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer (the Howells). 

For fans of the beloved show, the question of whether you were drawn to Ginger or Mary Ann was an essential one. And though Ginger was conceived as the breathy sex symbol, the popularity of Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers proved that a lot of Americans prefer the humble charm of the girl next door.

In fact, it's not just a lot of viewers who prefer Mary Ann -- it's most of them. In poll after poll online, you'll find Mary Ann besting Ginger as the more appealing of the two unattached lady castaways, often by a wide margin.

Both actresses were beautiful -- but Mary Ann always wins. Why is that?