Full disclosure: I enjoy the show Portlandia. It’s a silly show full of dry humor that is filmed in Portland, Oregon. One of the most famous skits of the show involves the “feminist bookstore” and here is a clip:
So the show does have two goofy, overzealous feminists running their store so I can see why some people can get upset by it, but myself and every other feminist I know thinks it’s funny. Personally, one of my favorite episodes is “Doug becomes a feminist” where they make fun of goofy, overzealous male feminists too.
When I visited Portland this summer, I had to stop by the real bookstore, In Other Words, where the feminist bookstore part of the show is filmed.
When I visited the store, I noticed a “fuck Portlandia” sign on the window. I figured it was a joke towards the show, but it actually was very serious. In Other Words has officially ended their relationship with the show and will no longer let Portlandia film there. They put an official statement about leaving the show on their website and here are a few excerpts from it:
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.
They also claim the show is offensive to trans people and black people:
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.
I can see the store’s perspective here and I totally would understand why they would want to cut ties with the show. They were trying to run their own business and were being co-opted by the television show using their store to film. However, I don’t think the show was trying to make fun of trans people as the actors swap genders in other scenes too. Also, there are black people on the show, but admittedly they are not main characters. But ultimately In Other Words decided to leave the show and I can totally respect their decision.