Sunday, January 8, 2012

Portlandia and Hippy Sexuality

With the genius hipster-skewering snark-bomb that is Portlandia, (Season 2 premiered on IFC January 6th), I'd love to give this show some major props. Conceived by former Sleater-Kinney front-woman Carrie Brownstein and SNL heavyweight Fred Armisen with a consistent slew of high profile celebrity guests from Kyle MahLachlan to Steve Buscemi, the show is garnering some serious praise for critics and a solid cult-turning-mainstream following. The sexual texts in this sketch comedy series is pretty right on, and unwaveringly hilarious. Yes the show tends to prey on gender stereotypes and yes maybe that's the whole point. It is a satire after all, so all's fair. 
One of their most endearing sketches that is a perfect example of all of the above is the Feminist Bookstore bit. Armisen in drag and Carrie Brownstein play a couple of 'enlightened' third-wave feminists, who are incredibly rude and condescending to anyone who is 'beneath' them, i.e. all men that might come in, or a girl sporting cut-off shorts. They hate any remotely phallic symbols including pointing fingers and pretty much spend all of their time talking about non-sense and drinking trendy teas. Let's just face it, we've all met women like that. I have to deal with them all the time when I buy candles at Bodhi Tree on Melrose. Every time I'm there it's like I've stepped into a Portlandia sketch.
And it's true, Feminism has been taking some hits lately, and I'm not talking about the general degradation of women kind and attempt to eliminate most of our human rights via the Republican candidates' platform, but of the sarcastic caliber as well.
Brownstein and Armisen also often play with gender stereotypes by switching theirs up. Both are rather androgynous when playing themselves, and take big creative liberties with each playing members of the opposite sex quite often, Armisen probably more than Brownstein channeling his inner Lillith Fair goddess.
Role reversal.
Brownstein as her recurring character of a tatted up mustachioed chauvinist who's obsession with sex drives his prudish girlfriend (Armisen) away.
Everyone seems to be in on the joke, even if their themselves feminist icons like Amy Mann and Sarah Mclaughlin. Every new-wave of redundant hippie culture that came about in the 90's that people actually took seriously for a few years is lampooned in this series, quite brilliantly and without any aggressiveness. It  takes us to as Brownstein puts it that 'parallel universe' where 'hot girls wear glasses', grow their hair long, threw away their last underwire, and recite Sylvia Plath verbatim. And the men are like...enlightened, soft, and passive; hip but introverted. Unless of course if Brownstein is playing the man. They would never call a woman's breasts tits, take her from behind and ride her like a plastic carnival pony, or ask her to wear heels. Heels don't exist in Portland. Basically the men are more feminine than usual and the women are more masculine than usual so they even out into this asexual freewheelin' faux-intellectual that is hilarious in how annoying they he/she is. 
This show also exemplifies the notion that in comedy women are always going to be nastier than men and Brownstein's sexual comedy is just above Armisen's in this series. She doesn't shy from being as forward and 'out there' as possible to drive the joke home, and it never fails to follow through.
The series is very clever, impeccably written and conceived, and always pitch perfect in its satire. It's fantastic, watch it.

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