Earlier this month, season two of Portlandia made its way to Netflix. The show takes an irreverent look at hipster culture, typified by life in the bastion of Portland. Our generation may truly feel an attachment to the show due to the fact that the hipster, for better or for worse, is a phenomenon of our time. Although there have been similar hipster-ish crowds throughout history, our hipster culture is unique in its overt commercialization melded with its obsession with irony. Portlandia expertly depicts this cultural trend, and the show’s popularity has only improved with its move to Netflix. In addition to its hipster focus, the move to Netflix further defines the unique structure of the lives of its millennial viewers.
The workweek of a millennial can vary anywhere between 40 to 80 hours, just as a Sunday brunch can last an hour or go well into the late-afternoon. With the availability of personal electronic devices and streaming media, work or play can happen anywhere and all the time. Gone are the days when people sit down at 8 p.m. on Thursday to catch the newest episode of their favorite show; just as a nine-to-five job is no longer the only viable structure for labor. We can spend our Sundays catching up on the past three weeks of our favorite TV, or the past three weeks of our newest project for work.
When we watch Portlandia on Netflix, we find this culture itself showcased. For instance, watching a scene wherein the characters Spike and Ira (played brilliantly by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein) plan their wedding, Spike, in particular, bucks all the conventions of a normal wedding, to the ire of Ira’s father, as he tries to improvise every aspect of their big day in a hilarious pursuit of originality and the maintenance of self-imposed D-I-Y integrity. A millennial trope.
Later in the season, Armisen and Brownstein play themselves as traditional as a Portland couple can get as Peter and Nance. In these recurring roles, Armisen and Brownstein deliver their characters by mocking them at every turn. This is no more apparent than when a young couple asks them for directions. Peter and Nance take so long explaining their route that the couple starts making out from sheer boredom. Try as it might, tradition has no place in Portlandia, or in the millenial psyche; as the show's opening scene attests, “Keep Portland Weird.”
Armisen has always frequented the weird places of America; his interview videos at SXSW are legendary. And Brownstein is a stalwart of the Portland music scene. It is fitting that Armisen and Brownstein would create one of the most popular shows among millenials, a show that is subverting the structure of television. Because, as Portlandia proves, it is the "weird" places of the country, (the Brooklyns, the Austins, the Portlands,) that young people are flocking to in order to redefine the structure of a whole society.