In one season, “Portlandia” created catchphrases and viral videos potent enough to nearly kill off an artistic cliché. If that’s not evidence enough of the show’s impact, just look on YouTube. Sure, searching “Portlandia + parody” won’t yield as many results as, say, “dog with eyebrows”—and really, what can compete with that juggernaut?—but if you’re measuring quality over quantity, Fred and Carrie have inspired some top-shelf spoofs. With Season 2 debuting this Friday night, we can only imagine what hobbies will be threatened by the popularity of certain sketches (pickling, your days are numbered), but for now, here’s an assemblage of just a few of the ways “Portlandia” influenced the zeitgeist last year.
The Dream of the Suburbs
Portland might represent a very specific kind of youth culture, but the suburbs are always the suburbs. About two weeks ago, this clip by filmmaker Brighton West—which uses “The Dream of the ’90s” to lampoon Portland’s northernly neighbor, Vancouver, Washington—enjoyed a “Meme of the Day” moment in local media. Making fun of Vancouver is a favorite pastime of elitist Portlanders, but according to West—who lives in Portland—the jabs about dads wearing Old Navy, eating at Applebee’s and never having to make chit-chat with your neighbors were crowd-sourced for accuracy among actual Vancouverians (and while anyone who’s ever visited a Wal-Mart anywhere in America will get the jokes, there’s at least one gag specific to the humble Couve, involving the much-debated Columbia River Crossing). It’s pretty much spot-on satire, not just of the cross-bridge rivalry but of the sketch that inspired the spoof. Only inaccuracy: The dude playing Fred Armisen looks more like Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement. Eh, we’ll let it slide.
One Night in Portlandia
Something you might not know: “Portlandia” takes its name from a statue located downtown, depicting the trident-wielding woman found on the city seal. It is the second-largest copper reppouse statue in the country, behind the Statue of Liberty (thanks, Wikipedia!). And here’s a factoid not even native Portlanders were probably aware of: Portlandia is kind of a slut. Upset over having her name co-opted by a cable sketch comedy show, she apparently leaked a sex tape in an ill-advised attempt to steal back some of her fame. Filmmaker Mike Vogel went out and recorded reactions from other local statues, including the fountain beavers near Pioneer Place, who are much cattier than you’d imagine.
Milktooth Tour America
Milktooth is an indie rock band from Tennessee, but when a band’s on the road, they’re really no less a tourist than the guy standing on the downtown street corner in Bermuda shorts confusedly reading a bus schedule. As such, after reconstructing the “Portlandia” opening—complete with the theme song, Washed Out’s “Feel It All Around”—they do one of the top three most touristy things any Portland visitor can do: Go to Voodoo Doughnuts and marvel at the bacon maple bar.
Ken Finds Birds
As one might guess from the title, a graduate student named Ken went to Portland expecting to find birds in every tree and on every tote bag, mug, hat and bicycle helmet. He is shocked to find that birds are not quite as plentiful as “Portlandia” led him to believe. He does leave with a nice shirt, though.
The 10 Strangest Conspiracy Theories About The Shining
Go deep into The Shining this month on IFC.
Posted by Emmy Potter on Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Everett Collection
Stanley Kubrick was easily one of the most visually arresting, ambitious filmmakers of all time. Careful study of Kubrick’s work reveals that the obsessive, methodically-researched nature of his filmmaking trickles all the way down to the smallest details, making his filmography ripe for endless debate and analysis by fans and critics alike. And if there’s one thing the Internet loves, it’s endless debate.
None of Kubrick’s films have inspired more fervent hypothesizing than The Shining, a subject that was even the focus of the entertaining 2012 documentary Room 237. We combed the farthest, darkest corners of the Internet to shine a light on the weirdest, most out there conspiracy theories about The Shining, airing this month on IFC. Which theory do you believe? Read on and decide for yourself. Heeeere comes the crazy…
1. It’s about the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Let’s start with the most popular theory: The Shining is Kubrick’s apology for supposedly working with the government to fake the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing…despite the fact he was busy with 2001: A Space Odyssey at the time. Supporting evidence includes cans of astronaut favorite Tang on the Overlook Hotel’s pantry shelves, Danny’s not-so-subtle Apollo 11 sweater, and the theory that the dead twins symbolize the failed Gemini space missions.
A deeper dive into the theory asserts the word “All” in Jack’s typed mantra looks more like A11, or Apollo 11. As for room 237, moon landing theorist Jay Weidner claims the director changed it from 217 to 237 because the Moon is “237,000 miles from Earth,” but it’s more like 238,855 miles on average, according to NASA’s website. This Shining theory is pretty far out of reality’s orbit.
2. It’s about the treatment of Native Americans.
An ever-so-slightly more plausible theory than the “faked moon landing,” many Shining conspiracy theorists believe the film symbolizes Kubrick’s condemnation of America’s treatment of Native Americans. The film is full of Native American imagery, from the rugs to the Calumet (which means “peace pipe”) baking soda cans in the pantry to paintings on the walls. Even the elevator of blood supposedly symbolizes all the blood shed over the seizing of Native American land.
Of course, it’s also mentioned the hotel is built on old Native American burial grounds; a piece of information Kubrick added that was not in Stephen King’s original novel. And you know what they say about staying anywhere that is built on Native American burial grounds…
3. It’s about the Greek Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
Though the Outlook Hotel of King’s novel never had a hedge maze, Kubrick chose to add one as a deliberate visual reference to the Greek myth about the Minotaur slain by hero Theseus. The hotel itself is purposely labyrinthine with hallways, doors, and staircases leading either nowhere or to more hallways, doors, and staircases. And don’t forget the infamous “impossible window” in the hotel manager’s office that logically doesn’t make sense with the rest of the building’s maze-like architecture!
One other piece of supporting evidence is Jack’s bullish behavior, bulging eyes, prominent forehead, and slumped posture, all of which make a strong case for him being the “Minotaur” in question. Though we’d argue that ’70s Jack Nicholson always kind of looks like a bull.
4. It’s about the Holocaust.
This one depends on how much you believe in the significance of numbers, as the number 42 — for the year the Nazis initiated the “Final Solution,” aka 1942 — figures very prominently in the film. The number shows up in various ways: on the sleeve of one of Danny’s shirts, the number of cars in the parking lot, the film The Summer of ’42 that Wendy and Danny watch, and the fact that if you multiply Room 237 (2x3x7) it equals 42.
Fans also point to Jack’s German-made typewriter and the image of a yellow eagle, the other Nazi emblem, emblazoned on one of his t-shirts. Though Kubrick, a Bronx-born non-practicing Jew, had actually written his own Holocaust-centered film called The Aryan Papers, he ultimately abandoned the project when, according to his widow Christiane, he realized putting the whole brutal truth on film would be “un-survivable.”
5. It’s actually supposed to be viewed backward…and forward!
As if the film wasn’t disorienting enough, one theory by a group called MSTRMND alleges it’s meant to be watched backwards and forwards concurrently in order to unlock the “Kubrick Code.” When viewed this way with the images superimposed on top of one another, it brings out eerie subtextual congruencies between the beginning and end events with the two versions meeting right in the middle at the scene where Dick Halloran is lying in bed watching TV. (We can only imagine what happens if you watch it this way while stoned.)
Because of Kubrick’s visual acumen, it actually makes for an interesting meta experiment if nothing else, as it shows his perfectionism at work in both narrative and visual symmetry. After all, “redrum” backwards IS “murder”!
6. It’s about Hell and Jack Torrance is the Devil/Baphomet.
Jack Nicholson played the Devil in 1987’s The Witches of Eastwick, but some conspiracy theorists would have you believe he played a slightly different version of Old Scratch seven years prior in The Shining.
The concept is simple: the Overlook Hotel is hell and a manifestation of Jack’s deepest fears. But theorists are split on whether Jack merely made a pact with the Devil in order to get a drink at the bar or if the demented writer is actually the Devil himself. Evidence for the latter: the old black-and-white photo of Jack from the end of the film where he is seemingly trapped in 1921 shows him in the exact same pose as the Baphomet (aka Devil) Tarot card.
7. It’s all a dream/nightmare.
A hotel layout that makes no sense. Ghosts that pop up where they shouldn’t but look corporeal. Supernatural abilities. Elevators of blood. The only thing that makes sense is that none of it makes any sense except in a dream or nightmare where logic doesn’t matter, leading some conspiracy theorists to suggest all of the events of The Shining are just an alcohol-fueled dream/nightmare in the mind of Jack Torrance. Wake us up from THIS one.
8. It’s about CIA mind control.
The CIA ran a classified, controversial behavioral program called MKUltra from the early 1950s through 1973 which subjected its human test subjects to a number of illegal techniques –- LSD, sensory deprivation, etc. –- without their consent in order to ascertain the best methods of interrogation and mind control. Some fans claim Jack Torrance is one such human test subject for MKUltra with the Overlook representing the CIA slowly but surely eating away at his mind.
Fans point to a Monarch ski poster in the lounge behind the twin girls as proof, claiming “Monarch” was the code name used by the CIA for MKUltra. Or, you know, it could just be the name of a ski mountain or something.
9. It’s about the Illuminati.
It wouldn’t be a proper conspiracy theory list without at least ONE reference to the supposedly power-hungry secret society hell-bent on establishing a New World Order. Fans of this theory claim Kubrick deliberately used symbols associated with the Illuminati throughout The Shining like triangles, ladders, the all-seeing Eye, etc. as a way of admitting his involvement with the group.
Furthering the crazy presented here is the claim Kubrick was killed by the group shortly before releasing Eyes Wide Shut not only because of the symbols depicted in The Shining, but also because he revealed some of their rituals in the 1999 Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman erotic thriller. Kubrick DID die in 1999 just a few months before Eyes Wide Shut premiered but it was due to a massive heart attack as he slept. Or WAS it?????
10. It inspired Frozen.
The latest and possibly craziest theory (and that is saying something) claims that Disney’s endlessly popular animated film Frozen is actually the same movie as The Shining. Blogger Mary Katharine Ham hypothesizes ice queen Elsa and Jack are “a danger to family members, whose volatility increases after a long isolation inside a giant, ornate, high-ceilinged building in a cold desolate landscape.”
Ham goes on to compare screenshots from both films that do, in fact, look visually similar, including the ending shots of both characters frozen in the winter wilderness. It’s actually a really fun theory, but since Kubrick is no longer around to explain his motivations, Ham and all the other Shining conspiracy theorists might need to –- as Elsa sings — let it gooooooo…
It’s hard to believe that Comedy Bang! Bang! has made it to its 100th episode. It seems like just yesterday Zach Galifianakis was christening the couch with his daydreams about what dogs would say if they could talk. But after five seasons, three bandleaders and countless nicknames, host Scott Aukerman (Hurt Lockerman) and his team have finally arrived at the magic number.
To celebrate the feat, we put together a video of every single episode of the show running at once. Like that mischievous knife-wielding scamp Fourvel, this video is more than a little nightmare-inducing. Listen closely and you may hear the secrets of the universe. How long can you watch?
Catch back-to-back Comedy Bang! Bang! episodes Fridays at 11P. This week Scott welcomes Kristen Schaal and Zach Galifianakis.
Move over Zooey Deschanel — when it comes to “adorkable,” there’s only one playa in town, and that’s Kristen Schaal. She’s nerdy. She’s weird. She’s fierce. And we love it! She’s what all us oddballs dream of being when we grow up. In honor of her appearance on Scott’s couch this week on Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are a few times she owned the situation like we wish we could.