Trans-Antagonism Turns Portlandia, Ergo Portland, Ugly

Portlandia is that sort of show you never really need to watch to understand what its primary sketches are. And one of the most famous, set at In Other Words Bookstore on Northeast Killingsworth Street, is “the feminist bookstore” sketch a.k.a. Women and Women First. Unfortunately for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the real feminists who have cooperated from the outset of the show’s debut in 2011 have severed all ties with the production, citing, among other reasons, the show’s disrespect for the space.

But more than the flat fee paid by Portlandia to film in the bookstore being insufficient to make up for fledgling sales, volunteers at the space have described the portrayal as “trans-antagonistic and trans-misogynist.” Beyond Armisen’s bad drag act is In Other Words’ vexation with what they see as a juggernaut of gentrification promotion.

Portlandia is, in essence, “fueling mass displacement in Portland” as the city gets marketed by the show as “something twee and whimsical” that a new generation of yuppies (still a more viable word than hipster) will gravitate toward in lieu of cities like New York or San Francisco.

One volunteer in particular, Shanti, also explained the issue taken with Portlandia due to its caricaturized depiction of whiteness in the city: “This area of Portland used to be primarily African American, and people are being priced out. Portlandia has shown a white version of Portland. They haven’t portrayed Portland in a way that’s inclusive of all the other kinds of people who live here.”

And so, with its racist (“the last time the show filmed in our space, the production crew asked us to remove the Black Lives Matter sign on our window”) and transphobic (“dude in a dress jokes are lazy, reactionary and actively harmful”) bent, a TV series that has saturated mainstream culture is finally getting the check it needs to reassess its priorities. Alas, In Other Words’ decision to break ties with the IFC show has come too late to stop the rent hikes and influx of “technocrat hordes.”