This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


The obligatory “Trapped in the Closet” post.

Posted by on

We were at a party not long ago where someone was expounding at great length on levels of irony, inspired by something he’d recently read, and how each theoretical higher level reflected some more complex relationship of what was being said to what was in fact the case. He then left his cigarettes on the table, went outside to smoke a joint and never came back. Everyone speculated that he had somehow gotten himself arrested, but no one actually bothered to go outside to find out.

Our point is, we don’t know where "Trapped in the Closet" is sandwiched on that irony layer cake, being a project that was almost certainly created in earnest, appreciated for camp value, continued for camp value, and now appreciated…in earnest? Regardless, we’re enjoying the writers who attempt to engage it as art or as a cultural artifact. Jody Rosen at Slate speculates that "Surely this is the most widely viewed psychedelic chitlin-circuit soap opera in history," and finds metatextual meaning:

Trapped in the Closet is a riot, but it is also, in its way, profound. The real triumph of Kelly’s meta-love-man routine is how it underscores something essential about sex and desire: the comedy and absurdity that so often accompany the desperate lurchings of our loins. This is where Trapped in the Closet (and "Sex Planet" and the "The Zoo" and dozens of other Kelly songs yet to be recorded) shades into autobiography. Kelly will stand trial this September on child pornography charges, stemming from a videotaped encounter in which Kelly allegedly is shown urinating on an underaged paramour. Who can doubt that the outrageous stew of sex, guilt, and violence in Trapped in the Closet reflects its creator’s own outrageous legal troubles? R. Kelly knows as well as anyone that eros can be a farce, and a trap.

Kelefa Sanneh at the New York Times also places "Trapped" in the chitlin’ circuit tradition:

Some “Trapped” fans may think they’re flattering Mr. Kelly by praising his alleged insanity or naïveté, but that’s the kind of praise that can easily sound like condescension, especially when directed (as it often is) at African-American performers. And some IFC viewers might not know that Mr. Kelly is deploying some of the same dramatic devices you can find in the world of urban theater, sometimes affectionately or derisively called the chitlin circuit.” Many of his stock characters (the pastor with a secret, the nosy neighbors, the semireformed ex-con, the stuttering pimp) and melodramatic revelations would be at home in a play by Tyler Perry, Shelly Garrett, Angela Barrow-Dunlap or David E. Talbert.

Alexis Petridis at the Guardian finds the charm in its unlikely "acts of grand folly":

These days, record companies have entire departments dedicated to preventing artists like R Kelly from perpetrating acts of grand folly such as Trapped in the Closet. Whatever you think of the end product, or indeed of Kelly himself – he is due in court on child pornography charges on September 17 – you have to be glad he has circumvented them. The increasingly beige world of rock and pop could use the occasional grand folly, however crass, idiotic, baffling and unintentionally hilarious it may be.

Karina Longworth at Spout offers a more filmic analysis. And back in 2005, Hillary Brown at Flagpole offered the über-literate take on the series, proposing you "Consider the concept of sprezzatura, or artful artlessness, a high Renaissance commitment to at least the illusion of nonchalance."

+ R. Kelly Gets the Joke (Slate)
+ Outrageous Farce From R. Kelly: He’s In on the Joke, Right? (NY Times)
+ How did R Kelly create the world’s strangest soap opera? (Guardian)
+ Trapped in the Closet: It’s Here, But it Could Be Queerer (Spout)
+ Nature Versus Nurture (Flagpole)

Watch More

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

Posted by on

The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

Watch More

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

Posted by on

Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Watch More

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

Watch More