Portlanders Get Brutally Honest on What They Really Think of 'Portlandia'
Weird things happen when life begins to imitate art. Just walk in on a bunch of dogs smoking and playing poker and you’ll see what I mean. As principal as weirdness is to everyday life in Portland, Oregon, not everyone in this once-sleepy Pacific Northwestern enclave believes Portlandia is art in any way, shape, or form. For a number of residents, the popular IFC sketch comedy show is a grating nuisance at worst and a catalyst for the current gentrification crisis at best. Portland just happens to be rife with the kind of hippie-meets-hipster subculture that’s low-hanging fruit for sardonic one-liners about endless brunch lines and overzealous food co-op employees. Can the blame for Portland being on the fast track to becoming a twee, overpriced, NIMBY-ist hellscape akin to San Francisco possibly rest entirely on the shoulders of creators Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, can it? I had to find out. My methodology? I spoke to a random smattering of locals -- both transplants and natives -- to give us their take on what gives behind the backlash. Let’s take a look.
Paul Wolfe -- social worker; engagement photographer
“The difference between Portland and Portlandia is that Portland was actually funny. It’s a city stranger than fiction, but Fred and Carrie just ran with formulaic lifestyle-weirdness jokes -- ‘Quirky character isn’t quite what they seem!’ and all that. Maybe Portlandia should be viewed as a documentary about a peculiar vapidity that existed in Obama’s America, or better yet, an advertisement for it. Now here we are, living in a facsimile of the laziest show on IFC, but that's our fault; we traded our stories for theirs and got ripped off. I just wish Portlandia had dug up some wit while they were selling us out.”
"The difference between Portland and Portlandia is that Portland was actually funny."
James Helmsworth -- IT technician; native Beavertonian; singer/guitarist of Husky Boys
“The things that defined living here in my childhood were the [University of Oregon] Ducks-[Oregon State] Beavers rivalry, underfunded public schools, and evangelical Christianity. In other words, three pinnacle things that define living in most places in America. The thing that's so frustrating to me about Portlandia is that it latched onto one minute aspect of a place and represented it as the whole. There are 2 million people in the metro area. Some of them are refugees. Some of them are Nazis. A handful shop at New Seasons, go to DIY shows, and are brewing their own kombucha. But most of them are doing what people all over do: trying to pay the rent and prepare a little for tomorrow.”
Jessica Brackett -- Voodoo Doughnuts employee; artist whose work has appeared in Portlandia
“I think Portlandia has some comedic moments. It's pretty hit-or-miss. I think people hate on it more than they should, but that's Portland hipsters for you."
“At its best, I feel like it's actually making fun of a common enemy: yuppies. But then there are other times, like with the bookstore thing, where it just seems like the SNL fraternity punching down. As for it being a misrepresentation of the ‘real Portland’ -- have the people saying that ever actually watched TV?”
"Everyone wants to have the Portlandia experience, but it's not a reality. We've turned our home into a theme park."
Chris Stamm -- writer; punk rock dad
“I sort of hate Portlandia for mythologizing a weirdness that never really existed. Portland was, and is, a pretty square city in so many ways. But I also loved Portlandia's first couple seasons. They were funny. And when I really think about it, the show does seem to understand how Portland's bogus weirdness is actually a disguise for a smug lack of imagination. Maybe I just fully love Portlandia and hate Portland. It's hard to say!”
Justin Tutor -- native Oregonian; owner of Crank Bicycles
“Hipsters have always been around, but now their highly curated way of life has been given a platform for everyone to see. It’s the absolute worst.”
Billy Moore -- native Oregonian; owner of Moore Coffee
“Don't get me wrong, I think Fred and Carrie are a funny duo, but the thing I hate about Portlandia is, well, everyone wants to have the Portlandia experience, but it’s not a reality. We've turned our home into a theme park. Tearing down the old to make room for the new. In doing so, it seems as though we're tearing down the very reasons so many flee to escape their 'real' world. How much can you change a thing before it no longer is what it was?”
Scott Wagner -- retired heavy metal frontman; owner of Wagsworks Marketing & PR; grandson of pro wrestling champion Ivan Rasputin
“I personally can’t watch it. For me, it hits a little too close to home. It’s funny, and I can see the appeal, but it’s full of too many cringeworthy moments that reinforce my own love-hate relationship with this city.”
Andy Kryza -- Thrillist senior editor; proud home owner in the newly gentrified Eliot neighborhood
“The most annoying thing about Portlandia isn’t the show itself. It’s that it gave dingbats who moved here from the Midwest 10 years ago something to blame other than themselves for the changing face of the city. 'Fred and Carrie ruined Old Portland,' they’ll lament, without a hint of self-awareness as they sit in an upscale coffee shop that used to host a small African-American business that got priced out when they all decided to move to the area and declare the moment in time that they arrived the birth of 'Old Portland.' Sure, the folks who have long lived near Mississippi or St. Johns are distraught with the development going on. But they sure as hell aren’t blaming a TV show that shines a light on the inherent ridiculousness of Portland. They’re blaming the self-entitled early adopters of gentrification who just wanted a cheap place to do art and drink coffee... You know, the folks the show’s been making fun of since Day 1.”
"The most annoying thing about Portlandia isn't the show itself. It's that it gave dingbats who moved here 10 years ago something to blame other than themselves for the city's changing face."
James Emmons -- unemployed; barfly at Tony's Tavern
“Fuck that show with a screwdriver, man. It’s like this 'fucked up snake eating its own tail' scenario where you don’t know where the offensive bullshit ends and begins. People moved here because that show represented this nebulous thing -- gluten-free lap-dances and artisanal Subaru dealerships or what-the-fuck-ever. And now that shit is attainable to no one because everyone thought it was the thing you moved here to have and be a part of! Same shit’s happenin’ in Austin -- everyone moves there for this intangible 'thing' and in the process ruins it for everyone... I just wanna smoke, play metal and get along alright. Wish me luck with that.”
Lisa Ciccarello -- poet; barista
“The real problem with Portlandia is that it succeeded. It wanted to make a caricature of Portland and it did -- so much so that now people are flocking here to live, or for spring break, whatever, for that caricature and not for what made the city lovable or precious or unique.”
Staff of In Other Words, the North Killingsworth Street bookstore known to viewers as feminist bookstore “Women and Women First,” in an online statement from Sept. 30, 2016
“Fuck Portlandia... [it] is fueling mass displacement in Portland. Fred and Carrie are on billboards and realtors have gleefully begun using Portlandia’s popularity and insipid humor ('put a bird on it!') to make displacing the communities that made Portland a great place in the first place something twee and whimsical for the incoming technocrat hordes.”
Brooke Geery -- founder of snowboarding site Yobeat.com; urban chicken owner
“Apparently Portlandia is supposed to be a comedy but I find it to be more of a sad, sad documentary about my life.”
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