It is now often said that the worlds of children’s television and politics don’t mix. The year 2000 can be pointed to as the beginning of this all too familiar mantra, after the careers of canal-boat dwelling duo Rosie & Jim were virtually ended when they revealed that they’d attended a string of Neo-Nazi rallies and marches. Since then, it’s been universally understood that the best policy among children’s TV stars is to keep their political affiliations close to their chest.
However, not even this once sacred political omerta amongst children’s television stars can escape the seismic changes that have reshaped the political landscape in the last 12 months. B1 and B2, the openly gay stars of the hit show Bananas in Pyjamas, have shockingly bucked this trend and taken the controversial decision to reveal that they voted Leave during the contentious referendum on Brexit on June 23rd 2016.
“Look, we’re gay and proud,” says B1. He’s just taken a drag on a cigarette and allows the smoke to lazily drift from between his yellow lips while speaking, absent-mindedly brushing away some ash that had fallen on the arm of his instantly recognisable blue-and-white pyjamas. “And we finally had a chance to take a stand against the EU’s contemptible banana-straightening laws.”
B2, sitting beside B1, has a hand gently resting on his partner’s knee. They look relaxed together, showing none of the undoubted stresses that must come from co-starring in a show for nearly 20 years and simultaneously trying to keep a relationship alive. B2, seems naturally more reserved, not shy, but doesn’t appear to feel the need to speak as much, content to sit and sip on his third pint of gin & tonic. It is 2.34pm.
B1 continues, “Our private lives are our own business; they are not the tabloids’ business and they are certainly not the EU’s. We’re happy together and we’re happy the way we are. The EU’s banana-straightening laws are a disgrace. They have no right to condemn our way of life, our fundamental selves, and to decree that we should be changed, that we should be ‘straightened out’.” B2, chimes in for the first time, “Bunch of pricks.” “Exactly,” agrees B1, as B2 peels himself off the sofa and heads to mix himself a fourth pint of gin & tonic, “And that’s why we voted to Leave the EU.”
It may be hard to believe but there’s always been a political element to the Bananas’ work. Indeed their trade-mark pyjamas can be traced back to a decision taken when they were first filming their show in 1991. “It was during the First Gulf War,” says B1, “and we were sick of seeing what was going on, all the bloodshed-” “Cunts with guns, tons of ’em,” interrupts B2, returning with his freshly filled pint-glass. B1 continues “So we decided to do a sort of John and Yoko stay-in-bed type of protest against it, hence the jim-jams… of course when our show actually aired in 1992 the war had been over for nearly a year so it made no sense to viewers, but people seemed to like the look so we just ran with it.”
Indeed their easily identifiable blue and white stripped pyjamas have been the subject of much discussion through the years, not least when they brought a class-action lawsuit against the makers of the film The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas in 2008. “I don’t necessarily want to go over all that again,” says B1 fidgeting in his seat. It is the first time so far in our exchange where he has appeared uncomfortable, “We’d copyrighted the whole blue-and-white striped look a few years prior, so naturally we were livid when we see trailers for this kid whose clearly stolen our whole aesthetic. But umm, after a word with out lawyer, and a bit of research into the context of what was actually going on, we- well we dropped the case.”
The Brexit Leave campaign was somewhat marked by false statements and promises regarding the EU. When it’s raised with B1 and B2 that the EU’s stance on ‘straightening bananas’ is actually a piece of hyperbolic metonymy supposedly illustrating the kinds of overbearing laws the EU are responsible for rather than being an actual law itself, the Bananas’ become defensive. “Look they have it out for us and who we are. It’s not a myth. They even have conversion camps to straighten bananas.” rages B1. “We know someone who was taken to one, our friend Peter, used to be a lovely guy, lovely, until… well, when he came back he’d changed, he was wearing stone-washed denim, listening to Kasabian and spending a disproportionate amount of time comparing the merits of various cars’ engines.” “He’s a fucking prick,” B2 adds. “Yes, he’s something of a prick now,” assents B1.
“We’re just happy knowing that we can now live out our lives, without fear of being chastised by the EU or made to feel like we should change simply because of who we are. We’re gay and proud.” With that B1 looks at B2; B2 necks what’s left of his pint of gin and tonic, his fifth, and they kiss. Deeply. They begin to remove each other’s pyjamas. I gather my things, half-heartedly try and interrupt to shake their hands by way of a goodbye, think better of it, and quietly let myself out of their home.