When they first announced that Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein were going to be shooting a half hour sketch comedy show in and about Portland, I really didn’t think many people would pay attention. I mean, who actually watches IFC? Apparently the answer is a lot of people. Here we are a year later and the show, in its second season, is extremely popular.
When I travel, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “Is Portland really like Portlandia?” Yes, yes it is. Portland is an odd little city; in fact, I don’t see it as much a city as I do the biggest town in America. Portland is intimately connected with other parts of the country (we seem to have something of an affair going on with Brooklyn), and yet at the same time we’re fairly isolated. People think we’re close to Seattle, but those same people have never made the schlep up the I-5 – it isn’t close.
The Portland depicted in Portlandia really draws from the heart and the soul of the city and amplifies it cartoon style. You’d think by watching Portlandia that the city is filled with tattooed hipsters who care more about where their food comes from than what they are wearing, who spend their days in coffee shops comparing who is more well read, who obsess over TV shows like Battle Star Galactica, who are allergic to everything, and who frequent bars with drinks so complex and absurd that they need hyphens in their names.
Well, you’d be right. Only, of course, that’s just a slice of the city. Portland is simultaneously weird and wired. We’re home to Intel, Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Jive Software, Powell’s Books, and Stumptown Coffee. Many of the major iPhone apps get developed in Portland, including ones for Starbucks and Obama. More people are wired and connected here, and technology companies like Google often test market their wares here before rolling them out to the rest of the country.
Yes, Voodoo Doughnuts is cool, but so are the hundreds of other independent restaurants and businesses that exist in the place of the big chains. I dare you to find a TGIFridays within the city limits. It’s just not there.
Portland is an amazing city filled with people who have moved here to find a better life. Yes, we do have our fair share of couch-surfing hipsters, but honestly, they’re here for the same reason, to find a better way.
For a long time I cringed at the jokes at Portlandia, worried that the rest of the world would get the wrong idea about our city, but then I realized it was the right idea: we are a little strange, but only in the best of ways.