Growing up in Bend, Oregon a town 4 hours from Portland with a population of 81,236 (United States Census Bureau) Portland was the city notoriously known for the overly-friendly eco hipsters that most 16 year olds dreamed to escaping to one day. Taking a trip to Portland from Bend usually meant you were seeing an obscure concert and counting how many men with beards you saw over the 24 hours you were here. Now, having lived in Portland for almost two years, the thought of someone thinking of me as an overly-friendly eco hipster is something I cannot quite grasp, because most of the time I am held up studying and living of pasta. While looking back on the stereotype I can not pinpoint where I first heard it, or where it came from and the more I think about it while writing this paper the more obscure it seems. Researching this paper, I really wanted to understand where this stereotype came from and how it is still perpetuated in society.
If you mention Portlandia to people who live in Portland, as well as people who have never been to Portland, the response will be about the much loved IFC show, which is currently on its 5th season. Portlandia displays many different types of stereotypes on the show. One of the most popular sketches from the first season is called In the Restaurant, in this sketch we see two characters, Nance and Pete, who are being portrayed as the eco or green stereotype by asking about the chicken they are ordering. They proceed to drill the server about the chicken on the menu, such as “This is Local?” “Now is that USDA organic, or Oregon organic or Portland organic,”(figure out how to source a TV show), implying that the people of Portland have a higher standard of what local means. The two characters end up driving out to the farm where the chicken was raised to make sure it led a happy life. I know many people who pay a lot of attention to what they eat, but none of them would act rudely towards waitstaff at the restaurant, and they certainly would not drive to see where the chicken previously lived. Portlandia is not the only form of media that the “eco” Portlander stereotype is portrayed. An article called 10 Portland Stereotypes that are Completely Accurate that appears on the website motovo.com. The fourth stereotype the author discusses is, “Portlandians make it a mission to buy from the little guy,” this point talks about buy local and organic, the author writes “Portlandians have hardcore beliefs about buying local and supporting farms, small businesses and regional artisans,” (motovo.com).
The biggest stereotype of Portland portrayed in the media is the hipster. Most people have heard of the Portland being filled with the coffee snobs who discuss microbreweries while downing the PBR in their hand. A video posted on YouTube called, Shit Portlanders Say portrays this stereotype. In the video the people say things like, “I brew my own beer,” and “I don’t really have a job.”(Shit Portlanders Say). The article 10 Portland Stereotypes that are Completely Accurate has a section called, “Portlandians take their coffee snobby and pretentious,”(motovo.com). Portlandia covers the hipster stereotype with the aggressive, bike riding character Spike. In the first season, the sketch OVER shows Spike declaring things, like fixies, certain bars, even shell art is over because he sees a stereotypical “normal” man riding a fixie, or doing shell art. Even The Times featured an article about Portland called, Will Portland always be a retirement community for the young?
To some people, these stereotypes do not seem to be very harmful, but I think they have a bigger effect on the people of the city than it might seem. Somehow over the years the term hipster molded into being a very judgemental person who follows trends. Sometimes it feels like people are being judged for drinking their coffee black, because its so “hip” and people assume that they drink it black to be cool, and on the other hand sometimes it feels like people are being judged for drinking a double shit vanilla frappucino from Starbucks, because “they just can’t handle real coffee.” Portland has always been known for being a really accepting city, and this blown out of proportion stereotype of hipster has created a certain amount of judgemental tension. Passing judgement is not the only negative outcome of Portland stereotypes. The eco hipster Portland stereotype is such a small fraction of people in the city, but that stereotype overshadows everything else, making Portland seem like a almost perfect utopia to the outside world where our biggest problems revolve around having to drink Starbucks coffee or not being able to find organic free range chicken. There are real issues in Portland, “On a given night, some 2,869 are without homes in Portland, with 1,572 more living in transitional housing,” (United States Census Bureau). Oregon Live featured an article about child sex trafficking, “At least 469 children in the Portland area were exploited as commercial sex workers from 2009 to 2013,”(http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/08/portlands_role_as_hub_of_child.html).
Portland is known for the eco hipster stereotype, despite it seeming like not the most severe stereotype, it does affect people in the city in real and serious ways. In some cases, the stereotype allows people to pass judgement easier because they do not like the same things, in other cases is allows major groups of people and issues, such as homelessness to be highly overlooked and it is much harder to fix issues that people ignore.