The Representation of Portlanders in Portlandia

          Portland is known as a safe haven for hipsters and people that support counterculture. portlandia-s5-opie-blue-series1The show Portlandia has influenced that, and created this view of Portland. Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, the two lead roles in the show, did this by representing Portland and its stereotypes into a show. Every episode is filmed in Portland, and every set is volunteered by locals. The only issue with this show, is that people either like and relate to the shows portrayal or find it insulting. The show Portlandia does a great job portraying the stereotypes of Portlanders, in ways that include the way they are extremely polite, how they support their bicycle rights, and how they are into artisan stores.  

Courteous Drivers

  • The first clip that I wanted to analyse was a clip from episode three in the second season of the show. The clip is called, “No You Go,” and it is about the interaction of two people, and how they stop at a 4-way intersection. They both end up being polite, and try to let the other person go first. Then they proceed to telling the other person to go, and they do this back and forth for a while. Soon they both are doing ridiculous thing to try and make the other person go. These include ordering food, doing a crossword in a newspaper, suntanning, washing their car, and acting like they are direction traffic. During the whole video, one person doesn’t even have a stop sign. This clip is used to portray the over-courteous people in Portland. It gets a little over the top, but it is supposed to be a parody of something so simple. This being that being people are courteous. Personally, I see this happen around my neighborhood, and it is at a 4-way stop close to my house. People are always waving for the other person to go ahead, and it is always nice to see this happen.

Bicycle Rights

  • The second video is about Portlanders and their bicycle rights, and it was on the fourth episode of season one. The video goes really fast, but there are a lot of stereotypes listed in the video at random points. Some stuff said in the video include, “I don’t have drivers licence, I don’t need it,” “go vegan,” and “bicycle rights.” The character, who is played by Fred Armisen, is represented in a certain way to give the unique look that sets him apart from the norm. This is one of the things that sets Portland people apart from other people in the world. People in Portland aren’t ones to criticize verbally, so people just where what they want. They gave him this by making him have a scruffy beard, big gauges in his ears, patchy shirt, and a colorful hat. As you may not of known, Portland has the nation’s highest percentage of bike commuters, and it has 315 miles of bikeways. Going to PSU really helps explain the importance of biking, and this is because so many people depend on them to get around campus. There are bike racks all over the place, and they always are almost full during the busy parts of the day.

Artisan Knot Store

  • The third video that I analysed, was about a artisan knot store, and it is a parody of Portland’s artisan products. This was a skit in the second episode from the second season of Portlandia. The store owner is played by guest star, Jeff Goldblum, and he is trying to sell them his knots. In the beginning of the video, you can see a newspaper that says, “Do “knot” miss this trend,” and that is about how Portland is always having new trends all the time. It may be true that there is not a artisan knot store in Portland, but there are plenty of different artisan stands at the Saturday market on the waterfront. From what I’ve seen at the Saturday market, almost every single stand could be considered an artisan product.

Conflicting Thoughts From Portlanders

  • There are many conflicting thoughts on why Portlandia is either offensive towards Portlanders or how it praises their unique characteristics. In this short clip above, Carrie Brownstein is being interviewed about Portlandia. The interview is about how Portlanders sometimes find the show insulting. One thing said during the interview was that in the show, that they are “affectionately satirizing and making extreme, a real set of behaviors.” John Hodgman, one of the interviews, said that the show “plays with Portlandians desire to be offended at all times, but at the same time, you’re also playing into their desire to be recognised.” That is one of the main reasons on why the show is either hated or loved by Portlanders.
  • There was a site where there was a question that was targeted towards people’s’ view of Portlandia. The question asked was, “What do people who live in Portland, OR think of Portlandia?” Underneath the question asked, there are genuine answers on how people think of the show and how it represented Portlanders. There is a difference in feelings for the show. This is either that they like the show and it characterizes Portlanders really well, or that it negatives portrays Portland. One thing that stood out was, how people are conflicted on the topic. One person said that “no matter how authentically weird Portlandia is, the real Portland will always be a little bit weirder.” Then there was a serious comment on how it has ruined Portland. A commenter named, Jamie, said that it beats to death the representations of characters. Another thing she said was that it exposed Portland to the world, and it is part of the reason on why so many people have moved here. Some of the representations in the show are true, but they are slowly disappearing because of the rise of the cost of living. Smaller jobs/hobbies that people make a living off of, such as art, are being lost because they don’t provide enough income to live in Portland today.


  • The view of Portlanders represented in the show Portlandia is true, but to an extent. This extent is how it over-exaggerated the characters represented in the show. The keypoint of the show is a over the top satirical view of the city of Portland, OR. There will always be both sides of the argument towards Portlandia, this argument being that it is correctly representing Portland. People will both view it as relatable, but some will find it insulting to them because of the portrayal of some characters. Over the course of the seasons of the show, it is slowly turning Portland into what the show portrays. One of my articles, is about how Portlandia poorly caricatured Portland. In the beginning of the article it says how Portlandia’s representation of how Portland is a place about. “the depiction of a crunchy, fussy, foodie mecca where the young people go to retire” has stuck, and it’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.” It then talks on how all the caricatures about Portland portrayed in Portlandia are actually true, but these are being exaggerated in the show. The show is always going to be over the top because that is how they capture their audience’s attention.

Learning Moments

  • The first learning point that I found the most beneficial was about library sources. I never really knew that the library’s website could be such a big help when doing research. There are so many different ways to search for information about a topic, and sources to help you write essays better. I will definitely be using these in the future, whether it is for searching for sources or for help on forming an essay.
  • Another learning point from this class could include, that I have become better at analyzing articles/videos without a bias. I always end up giving my own ideas when I am interpreting a video/article, and this was a way to avoid that. The keypoint of analyzing was to gather as much information as we could. We did this multiple times during the term, and it helped me improve on gathering information from sources.

Work Cited

Armisen, Fred, et al. Portlandia. Season One /. Toronto, Ontario: VSC, 2011. DVD.

AtariGuy666. “Portlandia – The Knot Store.” YouTube. YouTube, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

CTFORUM. “Carrie Brownstein – “Portlandia” Offensive to Portlanders?” YouTube. YouTube, 08 July 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Graziano, Steve. “No You Go Portlandia on IFC.” YouTube, 02 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Weber, Peter. “Don’t Let Portlandia Ruin Portland.” Don’t Let Portlandia Ruin Portland, 31 Jan.Web. 03 Nov. 2016.

Vardavas, Stephanie. Young, Jamie. Everett, Dawni. Hinsvark, Jacob.”Responses on     What Do People Who Live in Portland, OR Think of Portlandia?” – Quora. Plarium, Web. 03 Nov. 2016.


6 thoughts on “The Representation of Portlanders in Portlandia

  1. Hey Timothy! I really enjoyed this post of yours! I never was a big fan of Portlandia because I found it weird but now reading your post it seems really interesting. I found it interesting how you mentioned that some Portlanders find this funny and find this insulting and your reasons why. Personally for me I found this hilarious. Maybe it’s because I’m not native to Portland (this is my 6th year here and I’m still considered a “baby”). But, I can see why it may be insulting to others but as you also explained to this is just a show and that this is really for comedy. They only do this for the media, truthfully. I think that this is what this whole project was about, analyzing how pop culture portrays something. This is definitely a good argument on how the media wants the world to see it vs. how it really is in reality and how the media loves to over-exaggerate scenarios.

  2. Hey Tim,

    Great blog post! As a native Portlander I can relate to this entirely. I’ve seen a couple seasons of Portlandia and find it amusing. Some episodes are hilarious and some are interesting. I agree that there is an extreme exaggeration with the simplest ideas, but thats what media likes.

    Overall, I think the show consists of a lot of satire but I think it could be a positive thing. It had definitely put Portland more on the map.

  3. Hello Tim,

    Awesome post! I’ve never really watched this show. Seeing the examples you provided was both hilarious and revealing because the stereotypes are kind of true with a bit of a stretch. I wonder if a show like this could ever be pulled off in another city.

  4. Hi Tim,

    I really enjoyed your post! I have watched Portlandia, but personally, have never really gotten into it. I understand how some people love it and how some people hate it, but I am neither. I have never really been any of the stereotypical Portland people that are depicted on the show, but I have definitely seen them at every turn! I enjoyed how you included clips with analysis as well, it gave a nice visual representation and was a great idea! Your post definitely got me thinking.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hello Tim,
    I love that you’re focusing on this topic! its definitely a major one these past days. I personally love Portlandia, yes, but I definitely do see some areas where it is portraying Portland in a strange/ inaccurate light. Portland is seriously growing at an increased rate. I feel as though the actual city is not taking it very well. I feel as though Portland is not ready for such drastic changes- and so suddenly at that. It sort of seems as though everyone is flocking to Oregon. You did a great job analyzing this issue and opening things up for us!

  6. Hey Tim,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I’ve never watched Portlandia but I have heard a few things about it. Based on the clips you shared I can tell the show really highlights how people view Portland and Portlanders. I’ll definitely look into watching it now it seems like a really funny show. You did a very nice job analyzing each clip and applying it to Portland and Portlanders.


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