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Cuteness vs. grimness.

Cuteness vs. grimness. (photo)

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Everyone loves it when trend pieces talk, like when you have Jim Windolf at Vanity Fair complaining about our obsession with “cuteness” and A.O. Scott at the New York Times taking on “grimness.” In some ways they’re actually worried about the same thing.

Windolf proposes that we as Americans live in a culture of “growing self-infantilization,” what with our addiction to websites about cute lil’ puppehs and our habit of posting baby pics on Facebook. He grabs examples from everywhere and anywhere, not all of which have the same weight — does Weezer’s evolution from “Pinkerton” balladeers to Snuggie spokespeople really mean we’re all regressing? (Most people agree Weezer’s been regressing for years, no?) If this is really the way of the future, what are we to make of Disney’s rebranding Mickey Mouse as a silent, mischievous and occasionally cranky figure?

Scott’s argument is that the sophisticated and surprisingly dark family movie trifecta of “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “A Christmas Carol” put the lie to the infantile nature of most “adult” narratives. But Windolf’s talking about neurologically pre-ordained responses to cuteness; Scott ends with a mother weeping at “Wild Things,” which is exactly the same thing: by tugging at mom’s fears for her infant, she’s being yanked around in exactly the same way.

11092009_thehangover2.jpgFunny enough, both Windolf and Scott cite “The Hangover” as an example of infantilization. For Windolf, Zack Galifianakis putting sunglasses on a baby is an example of infants not being inherently cute — cuteness “is something we do to them.” Scott, meanwhile, mocks the movie’s relative lack of emotional complexity when compared to “Wild Things”: “Justice is served. The bad guys pay. Love conquers all. The naughty boys come home from their crazy adventures and find that their mommies still love them.”

Both Windolf and Scott take refuge in the antonyms of the problems they see (crankiness for Windolf, softly sad for Scott). Which is the perpetual danger of the zeitgeist piece: in decrying one thing, you’re forced to embrace the other side. Those “Wild Things” may scare kids, but they’re really just as cute as all those kittehs; the only “complexity” is in the gap between children and adult perception. Cute and cranky can and do coexist.

[Photos: “Runaway Brain,” Disney, 1995; “The Hangover,” Warner Bros., 2009]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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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.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

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

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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