It's Always The '90s In Portlandia

Given the current deluge of '90s-related nostalgia, I was a little skeptical about IFC's new sketch comedy show, Portlandia, starring Sleater-Kinney alum Carrie Brownstein, and SNL's Fred Armisen.

Take everything you loved about -- or secretly groaned at -- '90s counter-culture, particularly Northeastern counter-culture: grunge, freegans, feminist bookstores, bicycling everywhere, zine making, and liberal politics galore and roll it into pretty hilarious sketch show. In an article for Salon, Matt Soller Seitz wonders if the left can handle this much poking fun at itself:
The series rather pointedly teases a core section of IFC's audience -- a portion that will watch Armisen and Brownstein's antics very closely, with an eye for accuracy, and then either roar with recognition and approval, or go on the Internet immediately and write a blog entry about how Portlandia doesn't get Portland or Oregon or feminist bookstores or urban bike culture. Armisen and Browstein's masterstroke is showing how certain flavors of modern leftist sensitivity/engagement can seem (to outsiders) like passive-aggressive self-absorption laced with contempt for the unenlightened.
I'll admit, after watching the first episode some of those bits hit a little close to home. (I've spent many hours in independently-owned book stores, and Feminist Book Store was accurate enough that I could almost smell the nag champa burning.) As much as Portlandia's appeal is regional, I see it more as a parody of a certain kind of entitled "alternative lifestyle" whose denizens can be found in most cities. Until they move to the suburbs and swap dumpster diving for Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

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