“Portlandia” is queerest in Season 3


Portland, Oregon is a very queer place, so a show about the city should, innately, reflect that, especially in seeking to be truthful to the people and aesthetics within it. Creator/writer/star Carrie Brownstein is out as bisexual, too, so I was hopeful that PDX’s being a sexually diverse place wouldn’t be ignored. On Seasons 1 and 2, the only real queerness came from the Women & Women’s First bookstore owners who were sexually ambiguous but feminist to the nth degree so that they rejected anything male. When Heather Graham joined in a journal session in Season 1, Toni (Brownstein) took a liking to her that hinted at her not-so-straight sexuality.

But in Season 3, which has its finale tonight on IFC, there have been a few different sketches that are queer without the queerness being the point of it all. Which is to say, very Portland.

In episode 2, Martina Navratilova guested as herself, an unhappy customer of Women & Women First that was confronted by Toni and Candace.

And then in the episode “Alexandra,” Carrie and co-star Fred Armisen reveal that they both have been “hanging out intimately, like sex” with their roommate Alex (Chloe Sevigny). They both enjoy her whimsical, fun nature. They both go to see her band perform, forgiving her cultural mishaps (she pronounces Siouxsie Sioux as “Sucksy Sucks”) and later decide to go on a picnic together where they take turns frolicking, kissing and performing other French new wave film scenes together.

Here’s the entire episode of “Alexandra” with scenes about Fred, Carrie and Alex throughout.

On last week’s episode, “No-Fo-O-Fo-Bridge,” Alex breaks things off with Carrie while dining at a communal table at a restaurant (very Portland), deciding she’d rather spend time with Fred. This makes things awkward, and Carrie decides to move out. Before she leaves, Fred says he thinks Carrie should really hear from his girlfriend, who can help her work through her breakup. But what Fred misunderstands is Carrie’s ex is his girlfriend, Alex. Awkward. (It’s not funny if you have to explain it! But I promise, it’s more comical than heartbreaking, although you might agree with me that she made the wrong choice.)

Fred spoke with Salon recently about the “threeway” relationship:

Well, that was a simple thing of, like, we’re thinking of this season, doing this season, what are we gonna do, then: let’s get to know Fred and Carrie a bit more. And then someone brought up, like, without some kind of a problem, it’s just going to be us going from restaurant to restaurant and having all kinds of fun; let’s throw a real monkey wrench into it. It was just – that was probably the right thing to do. We try to make it not dirty, not like, a heavily sexual thing, because who wants that? We kept it light and kind of weird and Chloe was perfect for it. She is that type of person.

Chloe Sevigny is the perfect kind of person for the role as she has played several queer characters before and is very sexually ambiguous and has androgynous appeal. Earlier in the season it was unclear as to why they had wanted her so badly for the role, one she originally said she turned down based on the fact she doesn’t generally improv.

In past episodes, Carrie has played the role of herself dating men, and Fred also offers to hook her up with male friends after she and Alexandra break up. It’s made clear that Carrie (even as a character) is bisexual. Carrie herself has never made much of her sexuality, rarely choosing to discuss it and preferring to keep her private life very private. But with this storyline on Portlandia, it feels validating to the queer women who have grown up idolizing her for being an out musician-turned-TV star for not shying away from that part of her (and them) on her popular television show, even if it took three seasons to see it represented.

Portlandia‘s Season 3 finale airs tonight on IFC.

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