What is the “Secret” of Monkey Island? My Video Essay

So with “Return” literally just around the corner…

I decided to make a deep dive video essay into what I think the “Secret” of Monkey Island is now, before Return reveals it all to us…

My video is a last ditch effort at uncovering the Secret before it’s out in the world!

I spent the bones of 70+ hours researching and writing and then editing this video… it’s the first large scale video essay I’ve ever done and I’m happy my first one is on this topic!

I hope you enjoy it, though strap in because it’s a 2 hour swashbuckling adventure :sunglasses:


Interesting video, and it will be a fun point of reference for when the game is out. Thank you for putting it together.

Some comments/thoughts/rebuttals

  1. The theory that Guybrush is a kid, and its all a child’s imagination all along, holds if we consider the first two games.

If we’re willing to consider later games, Tales represents a ten year time skip. We know all the games are going to still be canon, so that’s why we should consider Tales. Tales also suggests in one line that Guybrush doesn’t know his if his parents are dead or alive, although that could just be a throwaway joke that doesn’t mean anything.

Does this defeat the theory? Hmm. It doesn’t have to.

Are people in their late teens still kids? They hate being called kids, sure. Legally, they are adults in most places. But to a middle aged adult, sure teens are still kids.

So Guybrush could:
A: Be a child playing as a character older than himself, to the extent he’s a 20 year old playing 30.
B: NOT be a kid. In MI2, he is nineteen as he says, and people calling him a kid in MI2 just talk to older teens in that way.
C: fuck it, disregard Tales. possible, as the devs said they will be ignoring parts of canon which don’t suit the story of RTMI.
D: Yes, he is a kid. Yes he’s nine. His pirate OC gets older faster than he does, because fictional personas can do that.

  1. There is another explanation for the anachronisms in Monkey Island. The series is set in the real world in the present day, but for whatever reason the tech in the Monkey Island area isn’t the same as the rest of the world. They could, but don’t live in a modern liberal society. Their government just works differently, outsiders don’t bother them and they don’t bother outsiders. Not that they’re a closed off society either, they just follow different rules.

This is probably the least likely of explainations, but its my personal headcanon as of now. I am not attached to it, and waiting for it to be smashed to pieces.

  1. backrooms have been a hit with the kids lately. zoomer pandering if true (joking + also it wouldn’t be a bad thing if it was true)

  2. Did you see this post on Grumpygamer during your research?

    under this blog:
    Grumpy Gamer - Return to Monkey Island Dev Diary

It feels like parts of your video are referencing this post, or getting at what its saying. idk i just wanted to bring it to your attention.

  1. So I did greatly enjoy the video. I just wanted to give my own thoughts on ideas that popped up, but it was a great video. Good work.

I’m Philip Surname on youtube, and I loved your video.

Ultimately? I think Ron Gilbert had a lot of loose ideas in his head when making these games - the seeds of every possible Secret of Monkey Island were there either consciously or subconsciously - and I think some of them will be grown/matured in RMI, while others might have been discarded. They’ve told us several times now that a major theme of RMI will be “unfinished business”, so that theme is probably going to be reverberated back into Guybrush’s memories of SMI and MI2 even if they weren’t there originally.

Your ultimate answer for what the “Secret” is, is probably something inherently in the mindsets of Gilbert, Grossman, and Schafer already, so it could be built into the DNA of those first two games regardless of whether Gilbert consciously chooses to mark it as “THE” Secret.

Now, I want to note a couple of observations to add to your research, which you may or may not have noticed.

  1. In MI2, when you listen to the Men of Fiber’s story, they have clearly met Herman Toothrot. He gave them the Shakespeare quote “all the world’s a stage”, and so they spend MI2 with the idea they’re performance artists. This Thimbleweed theme was mentioned in your video.

  2. In the MI2 ending, remember the swinging ship ride we see above the GIFTS store?
    Pirate ship (ride) - Wikipedia

I am convinced this is Captain Dread’s ship. Imagine a theme park with three different “Lands” on it: Scabb, Booty, and Phatt. Captain Dread’s swinging ship would be at the dead center of the border between these lands. And when Guybrush traveled between them, he could run to Dread’s ship ride and imagine sailing between them.

And Dread’s ship would make that voyage, going back and forth and up and down, not really going anywhere, until Guybrush reaches the destination. Doesn’t it kind of make you imagine the map journey, with the red line that goes back and forth nonsensically? It spends a lot of time covering no actual distance?

Last thing: I already observed the strong themes of death in MI2, and even the theme of Treasure = Death. (See also: The Cave.) I felt like this was seen very early when Guybrush uses a treasure-hunting shovel (taken from a no-treasure hunting sign) to dig for dead remains, in an early scene that I feel closely mirrors the MI1 treasure trial. It also gets mentioned on Booty Island by Augustus DeWaat that they stopped their treasure hunts after the last one ended with corpses being dug up.

I HAD NOT CONSIDERED your angle that death can represent the death of childhood and innocence! With this lens, Guybrush’s quest for Big Whoop can be seen as an urge to grow up and leave all this behind.

(Going back to MI1, with Herman and the Captain, the Captain’s hanging body could be read as an old regular who just grew up and stopped coming to play.)

And at the end of MI2, when Guybrush finds Big Whoop, what is it? The E-ticket, of course. But how does he react to it? He isn’t impressed. He doesn’t like it. It’s a baby’s toy. This ticket to every ride in the amusement park… he has outgrown the park itself now…

…kind of? At the end he’s still ready to ride the Madly Rotating Buccaneer. :crazy_face:

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