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Minnesota Nice
"Oh, it's basically just your ordinary English except that there are no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference, you know."
Garrison Keillor describes Minnesota speech, or Wobegonics

Most cultural depictions of the American Midwest, particularly those of the Upper Midwest (Minnesota and neighboring areas), depict the people who live there as being nice, polite, and willing to help people even if they don't know them, often while speaking in a Scandinavian-esque accent often liberally sprinkled with "yah shure!", "you betcha!", or "don'tcha know?" (though more than one at a time is overdoing it). A dislike of confrontation and preference to not stand out or make a big deal about anything is also a common element of this personality. As is the case with most regional personality quirks, it tends to be exaggerated and Played for Laughs in film and TV, either serving as a contrast to outside characters or to show people who are annoyed by their kindness and willingness to help.

It is also fairly common for portrayals of this trope to overlap with Good Is Dumb, at least on the surface. Anybody who has spent a good amount of time in Minnesota can tell you that that is very much not the case: just because Minnesotans put on a polite and non-confrontational face doesn't mean they are any less street-smart or strong-willed than anyone else, and in many cases can be even more stubborn than the average person.

Naturally, there is a darker element to Minnesota Nice, with the positive attitude sometimes being used to cover a passive-agressiveness or an unwillingness to discuss things that are unpleasant. This isn't portrayed in the media as often. For a more in-depth look at this darker side, check out Jante's Law.

Very similar to the trope about their neighbors to the north, Canada, Eh?, to the extent that people from outside the two countries can find it hard to tell them apart. For a similar trope in the American South, see Sweet Home Alabama. Compare Japanese Politeness. Contrast Brooklyn Rage.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • Superman, who was raised on a farm in Kansas, is one of the nicest people in the DC Universe and generally thought of as Earth's greatest hero.
  • When Static (who is from the fictional city of Dakota) joined the Teen Titans, one of his teammates observed that he had an archetypically nice, upstanding, Midwestern personality (which is also a nice aversion of stereotypes, since Static is black, and people tend to think of the Midwest as being mostly white).
  • Barry Allen, the Flash, is from this part of the country and is often described this way.

Film
  • In Annie Hall, the titular Wisconsin native is a combination of this and Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Also her relatives in the Easter dinner scene: "I can't believe this family... They're talking swap meets and boat basins and the old lady at the end of the table is a classic Jew hater."
  • Pixar's Cars has a scene where an overly cheerful lost car named Minnie asks for directions in an exaggerated accent and mentions that her husband also got them lost in Shakopee.
  • Fargo is probably the definitive film example, and much of the laughs come from the juxtaposition of the incredibly nice characters with the horrifically violent crimes that are taking place. Just about the only people who aren't Minnesota Nice are the hired criminals, who aren't from the region. This is lampshaded by Officer Marge Gunderson when she examines a crime scene:
    "I'd be very surprised if our suspect was from Brainerd."
  • Averted in the film Grumpy Old Men, where the titular characters endlessly insult and pull cruel jokes at each others' expense. By the end, however, it turns out they are Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Most of the people in Juno are essentially nice, though not to the extreme of some other examples. Even when Juno goes to an abortion clinic, the lone protestor (a classmate of hers) doesn't make that big a deal over it.
  • Lars and the Real Girl: the kindhearted townsfolk play along with the title character's sincere belief that his mail order sex doll is an actual person.
  • New In Town is of the "irritated by constant politeness" variety, with Jerk Ass Miami business executive Renee Zellweger being Reassigned to Minnesota to close down the local food processing plant. Of course, the constant niceness ends up softening her by the film's end.
  • Trapped In Paradise is a Nicolas Cage film about three brothers who rob a bank in Paradise, PA because it isn't being closely guarded (and they're crooks, of course). A blizzard traps them in town before they can get away, and the townspeople are so nice to the three strangers they begin to feel very guilty for taking the money.

Literature
  • American Gods features a Wisconsin town called Lakeside that is sort of like the best representation of small town life including kind and friendly inhabitants. It turns out to be a Town with a Dark Secret. Hinzelmann is a small god who kills one young teenager per year, sacrificing them to himself in order to maintain the town's prosperity. Gaiman has actually owned a house in Wisconsin since the early 1990s, and he makes frequent trips to Minnesota. The foreword to the novel implies that Lakeside was inspired by a real town (possibly Menomonie, WI, a town near where he lives, which is on the shores of Lake Menomon).
  • In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson says that the Midwest is the friendliest region in the USA, especially compared to the West and the South. Mr Bryson is originally from Iowa.

Live-Action TV
  • On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary Richards is this through and through, while Phyllis Lindstrom and Sue Ann Nivens are more passive-aggressive examples.
  • The first season of Beverly Hills 90210 had the Walsh family from Minnesota portrayed as much more moral and down to earth than those from Beverly Hills.
  • Rose of The Golden Girls is from Minnesota, and, while dumb as a rock, is also the nicest person in Miami. She's really just a product of the equally stupid and pleasant town of St. Olaf.
  • Marshall from How I Met Your Mother is a Gentle Giant from Minnesota, although his hometown isn't portrayed as any more polite than anywhere else. On the other hand, the fairly tough and aggressive Robin comes from the ridiculously polite land of Canada.
    • Although a Minnesota-themed bar where everyone is ridiculously nice does feature in one episode.
    • Marshall's mom is a fine example of the dark side of Minnesota Nice — she's generally a lovely person, but she's passive-aggressive with Lily (especially where Marvin's raising is concerned) and can't bring herself to confront Marshall when he's been staying with her for too long.
    • In a aversion of the trope, Marshall and his brothers as teenagers are shown to regularly fight with such ferocity that they make Fight Club look tame.
    Future!Ted: Kids, never fight with Uncle Marshall. Because he's crazy.
  • Often the case in sitcoms on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Usually when a character is from a Midwestern state like Minnesota or Wisconsin his/her folks are these nice, dopey people who are mocked by the other characters. iCarly is a good example of a show that uses that trope.
  • Being produced in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Mystery Science Theater 3000 parodies these folks from time to time. Not to mention many members of the cast fit this personality type to a T.
  • Completely averted in the episode of Parks and Recreation where Ben Wyatt returns to his Minnesota hometown to accept an apology from its citizens. Turns out that they weren't going to apologize at all. Instead, the community was going to be anything but Minnesota nice to him with a very public shaming that he narrowly avoided attending. Then again, Ben managed to put the town into serious financial trouble when he was elected mayor at just eighteen years of age.
  • Subverted in one episode of NewsRadio, when Dave and Bill get stranded in St. Louis's Lambert International Airport, where everyone is extremely nice. Dave, who's from Wisconsin, handles their hospitality very well; Bill, a New Yorker, behaves like a Jerk Ass and takes advantage of their niceness at every turn. The St. Louisans put up with this until the end, when they give him a "Show-Me Hello," which is a punch in the gut. The episode ends with the airport workers recounting a Noodle Incident where they sent a man back to L. A. after teaching him a lesson. Bill tells a disheartened Dave that "deep down, everyone is all the same."
  • Fargo: People in Brainerd are often chipper at inappropriate moments. The main character is a Stepford Smiler who acts carefree and happy even when he hates the person he's talking to. In an early scene of the pilot, his wife subjects him to a protracted shaming while pretending to engage him in friendly conversation.

Professional Wrestling
  • Averted by the fact that some of the best Heels of the 1980s and early 1990s, such as "Ravishing" Rick Rude and Mr. Perfect, as well as the greatest Tag Team of all time, who were so successful as both heels and as Faces that they wrestled the same way regardless, The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal), all called the Land of 10,000 Lakes home.
    • The Road Warriors were always billed as being from Chicago because, in their words, "Minnesota nice doesn't cut it in professional wrestling".
  • Although her WWE character was originally billed from Mobile, AL to mesh with her Kayfabe cousins Hardcore and Crash Holly, Molly Holly, real name Noreen "Nora" Greenwald, is from Forest Lake, MN and is said to absolutely be this in Real Life.
  • The Minnesota Wrecking Crew, The Minnesota Stretching Crew and The Minnesota Home Wrecking Crew, in successive order, although in the middle group's case its hard not to look nice when your opponents are the disciples of Synn, the wicked witch of Kentuckyana and the latter group were only "nice" in comparison to the rest of the roster, having been regulars in "hardcore" promotions.

Radio
  • Often joked about and parodied on A Prairie Home Companion. It's basically the show's stock-in-trade.
  • At the end of Tim Bedore's Vague but True segments on The Bob & Tom Show, he closes out by saying he's "...from Minneapolis, Minnesota: where the introverts stare at their shoes and the extroverts stare at your shoes."

Sports
  • St. Louis, Missouri (two states directly south of Minnesota), has a reputation for having weirdly nice sports fans.
  • Fans of the Green Bay Packers (one state east of Minnesota) also have a reputation for being among the friendliest fans in pro football. Ironically, visiting fans from Minnesota would not be particularly likely to see it, as the Packers and Minnesota Vikings have a long, heated rivalry.

Theatre
  • Averted in The Music Man, which has an entire song called "Iowa Stubborn".

Truth in Television
  • This is Truth in Television for most people who grow up in the region: Minnesota (and neighboring communities such as the Dakotas and western Wisconsin) is a very moralistic place, a heritage which likely draws from the fact that most of the people who settled there came from places like Scandinavia, where communities more or less had to help each other out in order to live through the harsh weather and somewhat barren landscape. Additionally, the bad rep Minnesotans get for being passive-aggressive has some basis: It is good to remember that Scandinavia also gave birth to the Vikings, the people who raped and pillaged Europe so hard they became legends in their own right. In other words, Minnesotans are brought up to be polite, but Beware the Nice Ones.
  • This video on the similar Japanese concept of Honne and Tatemae gives a general enough explanation that it could apply almost word for word about Minnesota Nice as well, especially for behavior that others might see as "fake" or "two faced."
  • Crossing Minnesota Nice and Japanese Politeness explains a lot about Seattle, which has a healthy influence from both. Transplants to the city complain about the "Seattle Freeze" where the natives are terribly polite in helping you to carry a heavy shopping bag or find a lost dog, but rather cool and reserved to anyone they don't know well.

Web Original
  • Linkara, the host of Atop the Fourth Wall, is from Minnesota. Unlike much of the Channel Awesome cast, he notably refuses to use "harder" swear words when in-character no matter how angry he gets.
  • Marilyn Hegarty, columnist at the Grand Forks Herald, went viral for her writing style and specifically her review of The Olive Garden. Bloggers are divided whether she was simply mirroring the excitement of a remote small city to get an Olive Garden, or being upfront that she really, really likes a chain restaurant, or that it was actually a pretty scathing review in its own polite way. Hegarty herself was amused by the amount of publicity and said the hipster naysayers should "get a life."

Western Animation


EaglelandNational Stereotyping TropesPatriotic Fervor
Nice Character, Mean ActorA Polite IndexMisunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold
The Men FirstGoodness TropesMore Hero than Thou
The MillstoneCharacters as DeviceMinor Major Character
Down on the FarmUsefulNotes/The United StatesEverytown, America

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