- Because the real Portland is finally onscreen…
Portlandia is dead. Long live Portland.
It's probably sheer coincidence that the city's cultural back catalog is entering the zeitgeist as the show that spent eight years making fun of that culture goes off the air. Cosmically, though, it feels right.
For the past decade, the image of Portland was shaped by two people who weren't born here, and who haven't even lived here for several years. It was of a playground for liberal narcissists on the run from adulthood, an insular paradise too self-obsessed to relate to the world beyond its city limits. Whether you agreed with the portrayal or not, we argued about it for so long we forgot what we ever thought we were before.
That's all over now. Portlandia is in its final season, but Portland itself is suddenly everywhere, on even bigger screens. And the people who are defining how the world sees the city now are the same people who were doing it long before anyone else cared—the misfit cartoonists, the celebrity strippers, the feral children, the misunderstood rednecks.
It started with I, Tonya, which rehabbed the image of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding as a hard-nosed survivor of abuse, classism and her butthead neighbors. In May, John Callahan, the late, iconoclastic doodler who drew comics for this paper for 30 years, will have his own wild life dramatized by another native son, Gus Van Sant. Animator Will Vinton is getting a documentary. Iconic writer-stripper Viva Las Vegas is getting a documentary. Leave No Trace, the true story of a family that lived off the grid for years in Forest Park, premiered at Sundance to raves.
The time is right for Portland to get back in touch with itself—and not just at the movies. The city outside the multiplex is worth getting reacquainted with, too.
Portland, it's nice to see you again.