The Year In Bananas
It’s been a lifetime since Gwen Stefani was chanting “B-A-N-A-N-A-S,” even longer still since the Velvet Underground and Nico drew on Warhol’s interpretation of the tropical fruit as a muse. But this year it felt as though there was a resurgence in banana culture, a rekindled appreciation for our innocent, fair-weather, potassium-rich yellow friends. Maybe it was all of the Minions in the air, or perhaps it was the looming threat of the 2016 Year Of The Monkey, but bananas were everywhere in 2015, and we were all the better for it. But that banana prominence was bookended by two heinous acts of slander from some of our biggest stars, punctuating just how vital and significant a time it was for our beloved Golden Staff.
It all began in February when, buried in the middle of a complicated guacamole recipe amongst an even more complicated tour rider, Jack White took a stand: “This is a NO BANANA TOUR,” he declared. “(Seriously.) We don’t want to see bananas anywhere in the building.” Perhaps he was sensing the ensuing banana madness, trying to put a stop to it before it began! But when he was called out on his biased and uncouth behavior, White went on the defensive:
bananas: did it occur to anyone someone on the tour might have an allergy to them? no?
No, Jack White! No, it did not. After some quick research, I couldn’t even find any definitive studies on a banana allergy because they are so fucking uncommon. If anything, any allergy probably stems from cross-pollination with other fruits, or because of pesticides used in preservation methods. (I get it! I’m allergic to kiwis because of that reason, but you don’t see using my significant social media presence to yell at everyone about the danger of kiwis.) And even if someone with a banana allergy were to come into contact with the fruit, they’d only be at risk if they ingested it! The banana in and of itself is a relatively harmless fruit, save for its single pointy end, which admittedly could be used as a weapon if you were particularly determined.
White’s inflammatory banana comments ended up being overshadowed by his love for guacamole, a topic that would crop up again in the great St. Vincent-spurred taco vs. burrito showdown, a complicated debate that deserves its own article some day. But one noted banana hater could not, would not be let herself be silenced…
In the fall, amidst a grueling Divers press cycle, Joanna “Banana” Newsom herself unequivocally stated: “[Spotify is] the banana of the music industry. It just gives off a fume. You can smell that something’s wrong with it.” In the middle of some particularly lucid and insightful comments about the questionable ethics of streaming music, she goes and drops this insipid comment that completely calls into question her good judgement. The gall!
But if that wasn’t enough, she went on. In a separate interview for Rookie, Newsom started off the conversation by bringing up her banana hatred. Tavi Gevinson, who conducted the interview, began by noting, “Our conversation somehow started on the topic of bananas.” I’ll tell you how, Tavi: It’s because Newsom has a heated, passionate, unstoppable vendetta against the fruit. I’m sure she talks about it all the time! To her friends, to her family, in between takes of the “Sapokanikan” video, slandering the banana’s good name to Paul Thomas Anderson, one of our most celebrated directors. I just can’t believe it.
“I don’t eat weird shit like bananas,” she sneers. “I can’t even be in a room where there’s a banana peel in the trash. I have to clear out.” Then, I imagine, like some animated movie villain, she rubs her hands together and smiles menacingly: “It makes me straight-up sick. Like, gasoline-fuel style.”
Gevinson attempts to turn the conversation to mayonnaise, a justifiably maligned food item, but Newsom steers it right back: “I’m not a huge fan of mayonnaise,” she brushes off. “But there’s nothing that fills me with horror and rage the way that bananas do.”
OK, fine, take a deep breath. But get this: That wouldn’t even satiate her banana bloodlust. When Gevinson was taken aback by hearing “such a strong opinion about a banana,” she then inquires about the virtuous banana bread, one of the best of all the breads:
A very negative feeling. For me a banana is like, it’s a non-food. Like it’s like dog crap. Like if someone was like, “You don’t eat dog crap bread? You don’t even eat hard candy that’s flavored like dog crap?” It’s still a hard no.
Fuck. Just absolutely, savagely brutal. And she wasn’t even done! In an effort to drag the banana’s respectability through the mud even more, when Gevinson tries to appease her by agreeing with her dislike of banana candy, Newsom throws some serious shade to anyone who could possibly enjoy the fruit in sweets form: “Some people like it, some people have a thing about banana Laffy Taffy.” (Laffy Taffy are dope, and banana is the second best flavor after green apple.)
Thankfully, not everyone was as banana-ignorant as White and Newsom. We had some significant strides in representation this year, thanks to some of the most welcome (and unlikeliest!) of celebrities. Perhaps the most notable of all pro-banana lobbyists was none other than Pope Francis: The New York Times reported that, while on his trip to the United States, he requested a meal of only “still water and bananas,” a modest but healthy and enjoyable snack for the Holy Father.
Other religious figures also weighed in: Madonna attacked Katy Perry with a banana during a stop on her Rebel Heart tour, a remarkable demonstration of the fruit’s capacity for both playfulness and danger. Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, who seems like he would enjoy being compared to God herself, also got in on the banana game, first as an actual game, and later as a gorilla — noted banana proponents — in the sad video for his band’s “Adventure Of A Lifetime” single. Ryan Gosling, who looks like what I imagine God would look like, posed with a banana for Saturday Night Live. Even Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman, aka Stereogum commenter) voiced his opinion on our very own website, signifying his thumbs up for bananas: “Bananas are fine. I think maybe there is an unfair prejudice leveled against them due to the peels/falling/etc.” Very wise observations, FJM.
Less righteous ones also demonstrated a recognition for our yellow, often freckled pal. Demi Lovato leaned suggestively against a banana on the cover of Complex. Brooklyn noise-punk quartet Pill made us reconsider the fruit in a new, gross light in their “Hot Glue” video. Do you think the banana could … symbolize something else besides a filling, nutritious snack? Gulp! Tame Impala certainly seem to think so, judging by the way they incorporated many bananas into their lustful tale of a cheerleader hooking up with a gorilla in their video for “The Less I Know The Better.”
Possible less-than-pure connotations aside (PG only, please!), we should be thankful that such a wonderful fruit has been given the spotlight this year. Unlike tempestuous apples or those sinful cherries, the banana feels like the fruit most apt to stand in for the human condition: Unfairly misunderstood, but perseverant. Even as it had to fight back against the tides of hate, there were still those out there who appreciated the banana for its goofy, lovable temperament. Time will only tell whether this is a permanent sea change — if we’ll be back here this time next year celebrating the glory of bananas, or whether they won’t exist at all — but I like to think that our sunny compatriots will live to see another day. In bananas we trust.