"Oh, it's basically just your ordinary English except that there are no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference, you know."
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Mary Richards is one of the great TV 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.
- 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 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.
- Often joked about and parodied on A Prairie Home Companion.
- 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."
Truth in Television
- Averted in The Music Man, which has an entire song called "Iowa Stubborn".
- 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."
- 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 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."
- Unusually, an episode of Danny Phantom applies this trope to a ghost from Wisconsin. He even has a cheesehead and ends every sentence with "doncha know". After talking to him, Danny is left looking pleasantly surprised to have met a nice ghost for once.
- In The Simpsons episode "Coming to Homerica," the Scandinavian-descended Ogdenvillian folk, driven to Springfield by the collapse of their town economy, politely and gladly take over the low-paying jobs, even helping to construct the wall Springfield decides to build to keep them out.
- Pam from Archer clearly had something of this characterization initially as the HR lady from Wisconsin, but has pretty dramatically outgrown it.
- The mom from Bobby's World has perhaps the most over-the-top example of a Minnesota accent and always appears chipper, even if she has to scold Bobby, which is never terribly harsh.