USDA Grade, Women That Is


Turning to local media, I discovered Portland is embraced in a love affair with Leverage. Leverage is a television drama that airs on the TNT network. And Portlanders are enmeshed in the public relations machine that produces the program: we love the writers, actors, and most of all, the setting. The Oregonian, our daily newspaper, gushes over the show.

The show is set in Portland. I mean Boston. I mean Portland.

Truth is that Portland is a stand-in for Beantown. And yes, I take umbrage that our beloved berg would be a stand-in for any town. Yet, stream one of the shows and you’ll see our Park Blocks, City Hall and the Willamette: all fronting for Boston.

Truth is the storyline around Boston is paper-thin and the writers could easily swap the east coast for the west. We should urge them to come clean: we’re Portland and we won’t take a backseat to anyone, dammit.

Leverage began with a promising storyline: Robin Hood-meets-Mission Impossible. A crew of grifters robs the bad guys and return fortunes to the commoners. The show has lost some of its lustre and the stories have diminished over time, resorting to stale tales. But the cast remains irrepressible.

Portlanders are invited to meet the cast at socials and serve as extras on the set. Last week while riding my bike through Sellwood I saw yellow signs on the sidewalk directing cars to “Leverage Crew Parking.” Apparently they were filming in my neighborhood but I had no star sightings.

One of the actors, Christian Kane, was performing at a local country western venue and I went to see him and his band. On Leverage, Kane plays Eliot Spencer, a tough guy with a soft spot and unexpected skills: in one episode he whipped up a plate of hors d’oeuvres and in another strummed guitar and crooned. His typical role is to beat bad guys senseless.

At the Portland club Kane and his band performed pop-country at painfully high volumes. I was surrounded by a bevy of women: all ages, shapes and sizes; all mad about The Kane. Including me. When he bounced onto the stage, the women whooped. Kane began the concert with a gulp from a bottle of Jack Daniels chased by a slug of beer.
It went downhill from there.

The music was shrill with no soul, the lyrics muffled. I realized the tough guy on Leverage is just a front-man for a second-rate country western singer. The capper was a home-spun lyric about his love of Americans—girls, that is. And his girl sports a “tattoo on her ass” with the symbol “USDA.” For top-grade meat.

I left the groupies to stoke the band members’ egos, and redoubled my quest for authenticity. I don’t have time for phonies.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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