Feminist Bookstore from 'Portlandia' Accuses Show of Transmisogyny, Gentrification and Whitewashing
Published Sep 29, 2016Since it first aired in 2011, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's sketch comedy show Portlandia has featured a recurring sketch that sees the pair play grumpy proprietors of a feminist bookstore. The real-life Portland bookstore where the sketch is filmed has now decided that it will refuse to work with Portlandia any longer.
The real-life store is called In Other Words, and yesterday they posted a pointed blog post simply titled "Fuck Portlandia."
In the piece, the store accused Portlandia staff of mistreating their employees, forcing their neighbours to shut down business for the day and leaving the shop a mess when they were done with it.
Having their store appear on the show hasn't helped business, either. The piece alleges that it has just resulted in people taking selfies in front of their shop's sign.
It doesn't end there. The piece also suggests that Portlandia promotes a pro-gentrification message and that the feminist bookstore sketches utilize transmisogyny for cheap laughs.
Further, In Other Words point out that the show is seriously lacking in people of colour. The last time Portlandia shot in their store, the show asked them to take down a Black Lives Matter sticker (which they refused to do).
Armisen and Brownstein have not yet commented on the post. It's as of now unclear whether or not the feminist bookstore characters will appear in Portlandia's seventh season, which is currently in production.
Here's the full letter from the bookstore:
Several months ago the In Other Words community agreed to discontinue our relationship with Portlandia. This was a direct response to a particular egregious filming of the show in our space which saw our store left a mess, our staff mistreated, our neighbors forced to close and lose business for a day without warning, and our repeated attempts to obtain accountability or resolution dismissed. It was also a direct response to a show which is in every way diametrically opposed to our politics and the vision of society we're organizing to realize. A show which has had a net negative effect on our neighborhood and the city of Portland as a whole. Shortly after this decision was made, a volunteer placed the Fuck Portlandia sign in our window.
Being on Portlandia Doesn't Make Us Money
We are paid a small flat fee per episode filmed at in Other Words. This fee does not cover the profits lost by our having to remain closed for filming. It also does not cover the additional business lost by our neighbors who at times also have to remain closed for filming. The additional exposure we have received from our time on Portlandia does not provide financial or political support of any kind: tourists and fans of the show come to our door to stand outside, take selfies, and then leave. The vast majority of them don't come inside.
The Show Sucks
The Women and Women First segments that are filmed at In Other Words are trans-antagonistic and trans-misogynist and have only become more offensive as the show goes on. 'LOL Fred Armisen in a wig and a dress' is a deeply shitty joke whose sole punchline throws trans femmes under the bus by holding up their gender presentation for mockery and ridicule. In a world where trans femmes – particularly Black trans women – are being brutalized and murdered on a regular basis for simply daring to exist, dude in a dress jokes are lazy, reactionary, and actively harmful. They're also just straight up not funny.
Also: there are no Black people on Portlandia. There are a tiny number of people of color on Portlandia. Portland is white but it's not that damn white. It's also a city with a deeply entrenched history of racism and white supremacy. In Other Words is in the heart of a historically Black neighborhood in Northeast Portland. We have Black Lives Matter written on our window. Black Lives Matter Portland meets regularly in our space. But as more and more Black folks and people of color have become involved at In Other Words, Portlandia has only gotten steadfastly more white. Oh and also: the last time the show filmed in our space, the production crew asked to us to remove the Black Lives Matter sign on our window. We refused.
Gentrification Isn't a Joke
Portlandia 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.
The current board, staff, and volunteers were not involved in the decision, made six years ago, to allow Portlandia to film at In Other Words. We stand behind our collective decision to discontinue our relationship with the show. And we fucking love the sign.