IFC’s portlandia: “put a bird on it!”

by Grace Bonney

I’ve never been so amused by and embarrassed about an aspect of the design industry as I was while watching this video. If you haven’t watched Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s hilarious new sketch comedy/TV show on IFC called Portlandia, please check it out here, here or here. The show primarily mocks the stereotypes found in Portland, Oregon, and in this clip, it takes on a trend that we’ve all seen a lot of: BIRDS. I can’t tell you how many times the phrase “Another bird?” has been used in our comment section and home offices of the D*S team, so to see an entire video mocking the trend had me laughing for what felt like an hour. AC thought I was crazy, but I immediately said, “Dude, everyone in our community will totally get this and laugh.” And well, I hope you do. If this doesn’t sum up the worst part of a trend/fad, I don’t know what does. It’s perfect. If you don’t think so, well, maybe adding a tiny bird decal to your screen will do the trick. xo, grace

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  • Though, I like Portlandia because the creators are so likeable, I’m hoping that the continued episodes will show more promise. I think the first two episodes are funny sometimes, but cannot be maintained. The show is a little too pokey at stereotypes and shows no real promise of character building. Basically it is a run of four or so Saturday Night Live skits. All the stereotypes are what you would find in any liberal-leaning community. I recently moved to Portland from Austin and we have them all there too. I think for this show to find any sort of long-term voice it will need to branch out. For a pilot created by two people in very little time it is a nice start. However, if it stays at the level where it is now, it is basically just the same ironic, cheeky, cynical sensibility that it is making fun of and I’m a little tired of seeing in our generation. Right now it feels like they are just “Putting a bird on it.” But I hope to see them develop it more because they are both talents. As for your comment about how you all at DesignSponge had internal memos about “another bird?” I must say it is easy to flip flop and act cool, as if you never were really into the trend to begin with. Let’s not be too smug. Yeah, maybe birds are now passe, along with mustaches, deer, bears, circus sideshow acts, and Keep Calm posters, but next week it will be another trend and that is the way it goes, right along with olive kitchen appliances and macrame. Themes move in and out of the public consciousness. We don’t have to act too cool when we recognize one has passed.

    • Dawn

      No one’s acting “too cool”- we were making fun of ourselves as well as the trend. We wrote about and were sucked into the bird craze just like everyone else.


  • I laughed at the bike riding mayor skit. I was sure it was about our bike riding mayor here in Minneapolis! And the hipster biker skit was great! I’ve always thought those giant earhole things looked dangerous! So it’s not just Portland getting skewered. Our own mini-Portland subculture here gets poked fun at too!

  • Love the show (though I wonder how long they can sustain it). But clearly this skit was written ages ago. They should have replaced ‘bird’ with ‘deer’ or maybe ‘mustache.’

    To be honest, though, I don’t care if the whole urban forest trend sticks around forever. It seems pretty normal to want little bits of nature (terrariums, leaf motifs, pictures of birds) in an urban setting.

  • Another Portlander who loveslovesloves Portlandia, that’s me!
    There are only six episodes of the show, so we’ll have to enjoy them while we can and not get too caught up in character development and sustainability. At least it’s local ;)

  • I immediately looked in my tee-shirt drawer: GUILTY. proud owner of several bird-emblazoned tees, the favorite of which is also a Wilco bird tee. <3 and peed pants laughing.

  • Grace,
    Thank you for posting about this when you did. My bf and I love it.

    Not only do you provide your readership with great design coverage, but you share smart and quirky entertainment anecdotes (Dexter being one of them) as well.

    I can’t wait to see the book.
    -Margaret in DC

  • This is pretty funny stuff…to a point. While I totally agree that the use of bird decals are done to death, I don’t agree that anyone with an Internet connection should be able to ‘Put a bird’ on anyone else’s blog/website – presumably to make fun of that illustrators use of birds. OK, so I’m talking about me. Someone ‘Put a bird’ on my blog entry: http://www.putabirdonit.com/http://andnowiambroke.blogspot.com/2010/11/birds-birds.html

    What makes the person who did this the arbiter/judge of creative talent? Do they have any them selves?
    Maybe I’m taking it too seriously but I don’t think artists should be made to feel like they are simply following trends because their subject matter may be done to death by less creative people. My paintings are hardly clip art decals of birds, wouldn’t you agree?
    I guess what Im trying to say is that although it’s funny to poke fun at the uncreative overuse of motifs, I don’t think it’s positive to make other legitimate artists feel like their work is sub-par and ‘Put a bird on it’ worthy.

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