Being Contextually Famous Is A Weird Thing, If It’s Even A Thing W/ Carrie Brownstein

While sitting and watching last Monday’s Heat-Pacers game with Gary Schonfeld (@Floor18), this commercial came up. I knew I recognized the woman, but it took me until the end of the commercial to grasp that it was Carrie Brownstein. Maybe I was just in shock that Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag’s badass-lady-indie-punk-rock-singer-guitarist Carrie Brownstein was in an American Express commercial being aired during a super important blow out basketball game. I mean, I guess she’s all about this sketch comedy thing since Portlandia, but still, who’s the audience watching the Heat-Pacers game 7 battle that’s psyched about Carrie Brownstein. Not totally sure.

Contextual Fame is a weird cultural thing and Carrie Brownstein seems to be the best example of it.

By contextually famous I mean a person who has two successful projects that their fame stems from with distinctly different fan bases and products. While there is undoubtedly overlap between Sleater-Kinney/ Wild Flag’s fanbase and Portlandia’s audience, they are two different cultural products that have their own worth and significance.

On one hand, she’s an indie punk rock goddess, the only woman named on Rolling Stones list of the  Most Underrated Guitarists of All-Time.” She has flocks of corduroy cut-off wearing alt. punk heads going apeshit over every verse and guitar riff that she produces. She gets love from every substantial music blog for each one of her releases, and performs physical and fiery rock music across the world. But this is mostly particular to Pitchfork rats knowledge of Brownstein.

On the other hand, she co-stars along side SNL cast member and all around funny man Fred Armisen on IFC’s Portlandia. Like many (or just one) successful modern sketch/sitcom comedy show on TV right now (I’m looking at you, Workoholics) Portlandia started as a semi-viral youtube series called ThunderAnt staring both Brownstein and Armisen. After that blew up a bit they got the bid to start a Portland-centric comedy show, based in satire, to shed light on the hipster-infested, politically correct, organic ways of the city. It’s hilarious and has really taken off. Portlandia, much like Brownstein’s other accolades, has gained quite the cultish following over the last three seasons. Portlandia won a Peabody Award in 2012 and has been highlighted in several media and entertainment publications for it’s humor, creativity, and innovation.

I’m still not totally sure which outlet Heat-Pacers basketball fans know Brownstein from best… I’m still thinking about it. And I’m not totally sure what Heat-Pacers basketball has to do with this post other than her Am. Ex. commercial making me want to highlight Brownstein as a modern cultural icon. Either way, she’s a really cool person that does a lot of really cool things. So, yeah, support.


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