Bananas have long been a fascination in pop culture for their bright, distinctive appearance and their ubiquity for Western consumers. They have been utilized in all kinds of lighthearted media as cartoon characters and comedic symbols. They have also often been used in propaganda, advertisements, and arts to represent sexual metaphors and exoticism. The main tropes I saw the banana symbolically represent throughout history were comedic, sexual, and depictions of exoticism.

Banksy, “Pulp Fiction”, 2002, Stencil Graffiti

Banksy’s “Pulp Fiction” first appeared as stencil graffiti on the wall of a rail station in London. It depicts a well-known scene from the film “Pulp Fiction”, where the characters raise their guns, only the guns have been replaced with bananas. Here, the bananas are comedic, replacing what is dangerous and aggressive with something harmless and silly. Bananas have been used as a comedy piece in gags for many years, with instances recorded from at least the beginning of the 20th century. Because of the banana’s status as an ubiquitous prop in comedy, the meaning of Banksy’s piece is immediately obvious, which may not be the case if the bananas were another harmless item without those connotations; like glass jars or gloves.


“Miss Chiquita” has been a mascot for the Chiquita banana company since her debut in 1944 commercials. In the most famous of these advertisements, Miss Chiquita sang about bananas for an audience of Americans who would not have had access to them for years since the war. She reintroduced the fruit, how to tell when it was ripe, and cautions to keep them out of refrigerators. She is widely believed to be a depiction of Carmen Miranda, a Portugese-born film star who was at her most popular at the time. In the branding for Miss Chiquita, the banana is represented as a fun and exotic treat from a distant tropical paradise. It is a use of the exoticism trope. Chiquita has been criticized in recent years for its mascot, as she is said to represent an exoticized and sexualized stereotype of Latin American people. The banana used here as an exotic treat has been connected to problematic ideas about tropical locations as simple, fun destinations to be enjoyed by Westerners.

José Mª Carnicero Hernández, 1937, La Traca Magazine Cover

This cover from La Traca magazine in 1937 depicts then-general Francisco Franco gazing at a bunch of bananas above his head. He is depicted as having red, pouty lips, long eyelashes, and eye makeup. The caption near the bottom translates to “Oh! When I see certain things up close, how I remember Morocco!” Here, the banana is used as a sexual metaphor and phallic symbol. The cartoonist used this depiction of Franco as a means to portray him as homosexual.