"A couple of guys in first class on a flightWhere do you live? New York? Awesome. L.A.? Awesome. Kansas City? Uh... where is that, like, in Idaho or something?note That's Flyover Country, also known as "the Heartland" or "Middle America" — American slang for the states which trendy coast-dwellers see only from the window of an airplane. Containing roughly half the country's population (if you're using a narrower definition) but much more of its landmass, this region includes everything between Las Vegas and Chicago at a minimum — and is often extended to everything east of the Sierra Nevada and west of the Alleghenies (if not the Hudson River). Sparsely populated, largely rural, and lacking in photogenic glamor, it rarely shows up in works which attempt to appear trendy or up-to-date. It gets much more play in political circles, however, as the quirks of the American electoral system make appeals to smaller states essential. When one talks about the "red state/blue state" divide in American politics, this is what is meant by "red state" — conservative-leaning rural/suburban areas where Wal-Mart, chain restaurants, church, high school football and the Republican Party are pillars of local communities. The phrase "flyover country" was, in fact, coined by right-wing talk radio hosts, to ridicule their imagined concept of what coastal liberal elites thought of the American interior. Setting a show or a novel here can be shorthand for '50s-style social conservatism (and the common portrayal of this region by Hollywood in the actual Fifties did nothing to help), small-town insularity, or a crushingly unhip, even dorky ambiance — think Pleasantville or Napoleon Dynamite. However, it gets used at least as often to inspire nostalgia for Eagleland Flavor #1, a friendly, down-home environment full of old-time family values where all the women are strong, all the men are good-lookin' and all the children are above average.note (Think Smallville, Friday Night Lights, or an '80s Spielberg/Amblin movie.) Needless to say, the truth is a little more complicated than that. While the states of the central U.S. do skew more rural than urban, the cities therein are as cosmopolitan as any coastal town. There's plenty of culture, style, and nightlife to be found in cities like Minneapolis, Kansas City, or Omaha (a full list of oft-featured cities is included at the end), and they have a much lower cost of living than the coasts. And even some of the smaller towns, like Boulder, Coloradonote and Ann Arbor, Michigannote , have their own quirks. There are very few states in the US that don't have at least one significant metropolitan area. Politically, the cities and their metro areas are also more liberal than the surrounding region. Many of them are (or were) industrial towns with a strong presence of labor unions and minorities, plus college students who stuck around after finishing. In fact, people in the surrounding, rural areas who don't fit in with the arch-conservative lifestyle will tend to relocate to the nearest decent-sized city. These factors frequently produce Democratic islands within states that are otherwise Republican strongholds. Many don't realize that Milwaukee was one of the hotbeds of the Socialist Party up until the second Red Scare, and while North Dakota does lean to the right, it has a publicly-owned banking system unique in the nation. These nuances and many more tend to be lost on Hollywood. Shows based in one of the coasts will lovingly show details of the landmarks and locales, while Midwestern locations are either fictionalized or used as a generic backdrop. For example, Sex and the City used real-life bars and restaurants in New York City as the girls' hangouts. Meanwhile, Garry Marshall, the producer of Happy Days and its Spin-Off Laverne and Shirley, never set foot in Milwaukee until long after both shows ended, leading to a horrifically inaccurate portrayal of the city that may have hurt its actual economic and cultural growth. That all said, the depiction of the geographic landscape outside the cities can be quite accurate. The Midwest produces substantial portions of the global supply of corn, wheat, and soybeans (among other crops) so fields in every direction as far as the eye can see is an absolute truth for much of the area. Furthermore, large parts of it are very flat with no more then some low hills (there's a reason the center of the country is called the Great Plains), but flatness is not universal. As mentioned above, if a show is actually based in one of the cities here, whether or not it's a subversion of this trope depends on how much research the writer has done (read: usually not much). However, the following tropes and locales of Middle America feature highly in the media:
From New York to Los Angeles
...30, 000 feet above, could be Oklahoma
Just a bunch of square cornfields and wheat farms
Man, it all looks the same
Miles and miles of back roads and highways
Connecting little towns with funny names
Who'd want to live down there in the middle of nowhere?"
—Jason Aldean, "Fly Over States"