Ginger or Mary Ann? Solving Television’s Eternal Question of “Naughty or Nice”


Ever notice that when there are two female characters in a movie or TV show, they, almost without exception, fall into the “naughty and nice” formula? You’ll have the beauty queen countered by the plain Jane, the vixen balanced by the girl-next-door. The trope has been repeated countless times, but the question remains – who do men prefer? To answer this profound dilemma, let’s explore a few examples.


Jennifer vs. Bailey (WKRP in Cincinnati)

Jennifer Marlow was WKRP’s tan, buxom blonde receptionist who every guy at the station either flirted with or got awkwardly nervous around. But she wasn’t your stereotypical bombshell dimwit – the twist was that she was also the most intelligent and level-headed person at the company. Not only was Jennifer the envy of all, but the actress who played her (Loni Anderson) was, at the time, an item with the biggest stud of the Seventies, Burt Reynolds. Add to this, an insanely popular pin-up poster (any male who lived in the Seventies will remember that pink bikini well), and you’ve got a recipe for a Seventies Goddess on your hands.

loni wkrp

Completely overshadowed was Bailey Quarters. In the earliest episodes, station manager Arthur Carlson could not even remember who she was or whether “Bailey” was a man or a woman. Yet, she had her own appeal to male viewers. She was much more accessible, and was no slouch in the looks department. Jan Smithers, after all, had been a teen model and was that cute girl on the back of the bike in that iconic Newsweek cover.

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In the end, I think Jennifer is just a little too intimidating for most guys: ultra-smart, ultra-manicured, and just so well put together. On the show, she only days older wealthy men, which is a bit of a turn-off. Plus, her hair is so drenched in product, a category 5 hurricane couldn’t stir a single hair. Bailey, on the other hand, is a beautiful girl-next-door trying to make her way in a “man’s world”.

Bailey wins.


Ginger vs. Mary Ann (Gilligan’s Island)

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Tina Louise played Ginger Grant (an amalgam of Ginger Rogers and Cary Grant), the glamorous movie star, while Dawn Wells played Mary Ann, a simple, innocent farm girl from Kansas. The time honored question rests on the shoulders of these two girls.

Ginger was a stone cold fox, there can be no mistaking. She also gave every indication of being experienced – very likely to rock your little world. There’s something to be said for a gal who knows how to accentuate her sexuality, unafraid and with total confidence.



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The Downside to Ginger: She’s obviously high maintenance. This is a chick who play her role as smoking hot girlfriend better than anyone, but you’d better have plenty to give in return (i.e. lots of money and lots of patience). I’m sure that’s the number one strike against any of these “naughty” ladies is they’re too much to handle long term. I suppose if The Professor had as much money as Thurston Howell, he’d have a shot… but, in the end, she’d probably just move on to someone more rich and famous.

An argument can be made that Mary Ann is every bit as hot as Ginger – yet there’s none of that baggage. Sure, she’s less experienced in the ways of men and more modest…. But was she?

We all know the cliché about farmer’s daughters. They seem like wholesome maidens, but get them in the barn for a roll in the hay, and it’s whole different ballgame. As to the modesty issue, Mary Ann actually wore much more revealing clothes than Ginger….

mary ann

Mary Ann was wearing Daisy Dukes before there was a Daisy Duke. If the Skipper and Gilligan were “relieving their sexual tensions” (to put it delicately), I’ll wager it was with Mary Ann’s short shorts in mind, rather than Ginger in her long sequined dresses.

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Plus, who can forget Mary Ann’s getup in the “V for Vitamins” episode fantasy sequence (modeled after ‘Jack and the Beanstalk”). Yep, I’ll bet there were lots of fantasies around Mary Ann among the boys on the island.

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Of course, Mary Ann wasn’t perfect. She was ALWAYS upbeat. I mean, a sunny disposition is one thing, but this was borderline mental. On occasion, Mary Ann would cry, but it was basically all rainbows and unicorns in her world. I have a feeling, a relationship with Ginger would get dark – at times, even hostile. But peaks and valleys are what it’s all about – a flat line of constant pep might become a problem.

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That being said, unabated peppiness is a small price to pay for this farm girl. I think Mary Ann wins this contest. When asked why she often is chosen over Ginger, Dawn Wells had this to say:

“I’ve always said — and I don’t mean this to be offensive — is that Ginger is a one-night stand while Mary Ann is for a lifetime. Mary Ann is the one you would marry or be your best friend or go to the prom with you, while Ginger would be exciting but you’d have to take her to expensive places and buy her a martini…Mary Ann’s for the long haul.”


Chrissy vs. Janet (Three’s Company)

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Joyce DeWitt played the down-to-earth florist, Janet Wood, on the TV sitcom “Three’s Company”. Suzanne Somers played her roommate, the ditzy blonde Chrissy. Janet always gets the shaft.

A good comparison would be the two female members of Mystery, Inc: fashion plate Daphne Blake and the short, bespectacled Velma Dinkley. Both Velma and Daphne wore miniskirts, but Velma opted for an almost asexual demeanor, and never played up her womanly assets (thank god – that might’ve been scary). While Janet isn’t quite as extreme as Velma (although they do share the same haircut), she never-ever-never went for the Va-Va-Voom.

Suzanne Somers2-05 - 24

Was it a lack of confidence? Jack was constantly hitting on Janet; there’s no reason for her to think low of herself. I think it was simply being in the shadow of the bouncy blonde, Christmas Snow, that made her recede into the wallpaper.

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But today, we’re taking a deep dive into this topic – getting answers once and for all. That means we take a good long look at the situation…. And I think when you look at it with a fresh perspective, you’ll see that…. Wait for it (insert drum roll)…… Janet is actually more attractive. Yes, I said it.

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To make another comparison – it’s like the girls on “The Fall Guy” (1981 -86). Every week, Colt was assigned to apprehend a fugitive from justice with his sexy young protégé Jody Banks (played by Heather Thomas) and his boss, Terri Shannon (played by Markie Post). Jody was sexed up to nth degree; constantly shedding clothes with boobs squarely in focus on camera. Whereas, Terri was the smart low-key sort (like Bailey Quarters) but actually much more attractive.

One of the precious few moments Janet acts frisky... and it's all a ruse (of course)

One of the precious few moments Janet acts frisky… and it’s all a ruse (of course)

So, Janet is more attractive than Chrissy – that still doesn’t deliver a win. In fact, Janet has a few downsides. The “Miss Goody Two Shoes” personality trait would get a bit old. Couldn’t she just once have either (A) taken a cue from Mrs. Roper and acted a tiny bit randy or (B) taken a cue from Chrissy and one- just once- made a mistake? Unlike Bailey Quarter and Mary Ann, Janet was “Miss Perfect”; while Jack and Chrissy were her loveable f**k-ups.

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Ultimately, Chrissy would be a lot more fun to hang around. Despite the fact that she, at times, seems to be mentally handicapped (or “full retard”, if you will), the ditzy blonde shtick would be a lot more tolerable than the “Miss Perfect” shtick. Also, Janet may be more beautiful, Chrissy was no slouch. She put the “jiggle” in Jiggle TV, and had boys across this great land salivating uncontrollably (and God only knows how many loins were stirred in family living rooms – not a pleasant thought).

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In the end, I’m going to have to go with Chrissy for the win.


Serena vs. Samantha (Betwitched)


On the television show “Bewitched” (1964-1972) good natured and loyal Samantha Stevens was often visited by her mischievous, flirtatious and egocentric cousin Serina…. and males got all hot and bothered.

Samantha was the dutiful wife, always bailing out her neurotic and foolish husband, Darrin. I’ve expressed my rage before on my frustration with idiot Darrin’s unwillingness to allow Samantha to so much as wash dishes using magic. Was he opposed to it on religious grounds? Whatever the case, because Darrin was such a dumbass, that meant Samantha had to play the role of “mother” more than sexy wife.


Samantha busy bailing out Dumb Darrin as usual

Yes, it’s all Darrin’s fault that Samantha couldn’t be as overtly sexy as Jeannie. She had to constantly bail Darrin out of trouble, or make things right which her meddling mother screwed up. Poor Samantha was too busy putting out fires to get make some fires of her own – hence the necessity of Serena, her devilish alter-ego


We all know that Elizabeth Montgomery is a fox, and would win any contest (Yes, even against Jeannie, Barbara Eden.. but that is a topic for another day). However, this dilemma is particularly difficult, because Elizabeth Montgomery is competing against herself (Serina was also played by Montgomery). To make matters worse, Serina is a sexed-up version of herself.

Serina was Elizabeth Montgomery’s opportunity to step away from the “June Cleaver with super powers” persona and get a little dangerous. Serina was a nympho in a miniskirt; a sexy witch with no moral compass.


So, which is it going to be? I think, if you’re honest with yourself, as appealing as a nympho witch sounds, you’d have to go with Samantha over Serena. I have a feeling that after a few days with Serena (probably involving non-stop S&M and all kinds of weird stuff), you’d be clamoring back to Samantha for some normalcy.

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The kinky witch sounds nice in theory, but not something long term – especially if you plan to live a long healthy life. Serena will take you to some dark places you may not be able to crawl out of.



naughty or nice

So, with the exception of “Three’s Company”, the “nice” has won out each time. Yes, this is a purely subjective process – you may have chosen differently in each case. But I think it was a fun exercise, and actually a bit revealing. Make your own choices and learn something about yourself.

So which was it? Which gets the most points in your book? The naughty or the nice? The Vixen or the Plain Jain?  Flashbak wants to know.


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