I've always had the sneaking suspicion that Fred Armisen, SNL darling and co creator of Portlandia, was a smug dickhead. I was right!
Armisen, who ironically admits to living in the posh Pearl district (a-not-so-Portlandy neighborhood), was recently interviewed by the Willamette Week. The interviewer asked some tough questions of Freddy, which was right on, but he gave mostly non-commital answers. When pressured about Armisen & Brownstein's safe, if not unrealistic portrayal of Portland, this eloquent gem caught my eye: Armisen states,"In fact, that's kind of like, you know, our world, for a lack of a better word. White people, sort of like privileged people."
Let me stop you right there, Armisen. First of all, White people (in Portland) are not "sort of like privileged", you're definitely privileged. It is a privilege to be able to go about ignorant of people of color's experience because your city happens to be overly White in it's racial makeup and segregated otherwise. Second of all, I live in Portland, I'm not White and I can safely say the world Portlandia portrays is not my world. Those people, those characters, are the folks me and my friends (and yes, some of them are White too) don't want to be. We make fun of those people. We don't associate with those people. We try to be aware of our privileges, White, economic or otherwise.
I think the big problem with Portlandia for me personally is that you have the opportunity to make fun of ignorant silly White Portlanders but you choose not to. You can tackle gentrification, you can tackle subtle racism, you can tackle micro-aggressions and cultural appropriation: that shit happens here. Why not make fun of it? That is a way to subvert it. I think I'm giving Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein too much credit though, that they'd actually use their "art" to do something revolutionary. They choose not to, to play it safe, because they don't want to offend their target audience: White people.
Grow some balls, Portlandia. Until then, I won't be laughing at you.