Rec Me Friday: Cucumber & Banana
REC ME FRIDAY: GET CUCUMBER & BANANA IN YOUR DIET
CUCUMBER & BANANA
Vincent Franklin, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Fisayo Akinade, Freddie Fox, Cyril Nri, James Murray, Con O'Neill, Letitia Wright
Russell T. Davies
Exploring the passions and pitfalls of 21st century gay life in Manchester, England. It begins with Henry Best on the most disastrous date night in history.
Cucumber, the TV project's main series, centers on the aftermath of Henry Best's decision not to marry his partner of nine years, Lance Sullivan. The refusal leads to disastrous events and encourages Henry to go through a midlife crisis wherein he decides to fixate on one day getting the chance to bed a young gay man. A midlife crisis being spurred on by the allure of a beautiful young sexual partner is nothing new but there's something slightly diffirent about Henry's crisis. Henry reveals that he's never experienced penetrative anal sex and may actually fear it.
Henry is extremely arrogant, annoying, and shallow to the point of him being unlikeable. Yet as unlikeable as Henry is, I think Davies brings n compelling perspective by confronting Henry's issue of penetrative sex in an honest and comical manner. Henry desires sex and proclaims that's he waiting for the one perfect sexual experience but he never acts on it. It's a slightly different and unexpected approach to a stereotypical storyline. The actual writing and development of the series can certainly be argued but at least, Davies attempts to approach modern queer life with a fresh and different perspective. There are no dramatic 'coming out' stories. Instead, queer sexuality is portrayed as the norm and Davies chooses to highlight other aspects of being gay in the 21st century. The series nods to the cheeky JacksGap twins and even makes a storyline out of YouTube culture's fascination with homoerotic teen boys. It's very relevant to our current digital age.
Still, Davies' perspective on the gay experience may be familiar for some considering that he created Queer as Folk in the past. Honestly, I'm more surprised at the number of POC actors that Cucumber and Banana casted. In Davies' previous work, PoCs mostly get regulated to roles as secondary or sidekick characters.In Cucumber, the POCs never fully take centerstage but their presence is very much felt. Beside the notable white actors of Cucumber and Banana, there are less well-known POC actors from all races - black, South Asian, and East Asian.
Lance Sullivan, a black gay man, becomes a pivotal character because he gets his own storyline in Cucumber and even an amazing standalone episode chronicling his life. Cyril Nri's performance as Lance is simply wonderful.
Then, there's Banana. Banana is the companion series to Cucumber in which the background characters in the principal series get to have some of their stories told. The smaller episodic format of Banana allows for a variety of stories in which bisexual, lesbian, and transexual characters are allowed the spotlight.
In episode 2, up and coming actress, Letitia Wright plays Scotty who falls in love with an older woman and confronts the consequences of when she ends up stalking her. The episode is poignant and beautiful.
In episode 4, Bethany Black becomes the first trans actress to portray a trans character on British TV.
In episode 6, an adorable lesbian couple go on their first date. It's extremely sweet and charming.
There are these great episodes and more in which the characters are never strictly defined by their sexuality. Obviously, Cucumber and Banana are not without flaws. The series' gay men are stereotypically driven by sexual lust, to the the point that it leads to dangerous ramifications. Meanwhile, the lesbian characters are shown in more emotional relationships and never given explicit sex scenes the same way the men are.
Overall, I’m impressed and appreciative for Davies’ take on the modern queer experience in the UK.