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Meanwhile on Tumblr

Meanwhile on Tumblr

I gave a more thorough answer to a question on the semiotic link between Carmen Miranda and Chiquita Banana.

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Desi Arnaz

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There is a connection between Miranda and Chiquita Banana, but it’s a bit more complicated. The song, like much of the music Miranda sang in Hollywood musicals, had almost nothing to do with Brazil. Notice it was written as a calypso (from Trinidad and Tobago), not a samba or marcha, and the original jingle lyrics were intended to educate the public about the banana’s nutrition rather than play up its tropical origins. During the campaign’s launch, the United Fruit Company and the BBDO ad agency picked an anthropomorphized banana to do the singing – the lady would come much later. The anthropomorphized outfit looks less Miranda-like and more reminiscent of the stage clothes worn by Cuban musicians. Miranda almost never wore skirts with ruffles, and her blouses, if they were ruffled, were a result of being worn off her shoulders. This is because her stage outfit had its origins in the Afro-Brazilian baiana. Earlier images of the anthropomorphized banana also showed maracas which are common throughout Latin America (and during this period were linked in the U.S. with Cuban musicians). The connection was there (since Miranda was extraordinarily popular during this period, and she sometimes wore fruit on her head), but everyone could claim it was far more reminiscent of a vague South-Of-The-Border essence than it actually was.

Feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe wrote about the semiotic link between Miranda and the Chiquita Banana campaign back in the late ’80s.

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