Follow TV Tropes


Minnesota Nice

Go To

"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, with patronymic surnames like Nathanson or Gustafson or Larsen, 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 or Extreme Doormat, 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 passive-aggression or an unwillingness to discuss things that are unpleasant. Taken to extremes, it can be what puts the "sugar" in Sugary Malice. This isn't portrayed in the media as often. For a more in-depth look at this darker side, check out Jante's Law, since many white Midwesterners are descended from Nordic people.

Very similar to the trope about their neighbors to the north, Courteous Canadian, to the extent that people from outside the two countries can find it hard to tell them apart. For similar tropes in the American South, see Sweet Home Alabama and The Friendly Texan. Compare Japanese Politeness and British Stuffiness. Contrast Brooklyn Rage.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash: Barry Allen is from Central City, which is from this part of the country, and is often described this way.
  • Supergirl: Silver Age Supergirl grew up in Midvale -a fictional town located between somewhere between Smallville (Kansas) and Metropolis (Illinois)- and she is a nice, kind and compassionate -albeit short-tempered and fierce- woman. (not !Minnesota!nice then)
  • Static: 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).

    Films — Animated 
  • 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.
  • Rio: Played very straight with Linda and Blu. Both are from Minnesota and are very genial.
  • Inside Out: Riley Andersen was born and raised in Minnesota and is a pretty cheerful girl, thanks to Joy's influence. When she and her parents go through the ordeal of moving into San Francisco, she crosses into Stepford Smiler territory, once again because Joy tries to keep her happy at all costs for her parents' sake and actively blocks Sadness. Until both of them get lost...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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."
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Love in the Villa:When Rob encourages Minneapolis native Julie to terrorize Charlie and get him to leave, he says to put away the "Minnesota nice".
  • New in Town is of the "irritated by constant politeness" variety, with Jerkass Miami business executive Lucy Hill (RenĂ©e 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.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous takes place largely in beautiful Mount Rose, Minnesota. Played straight in that many of the characters (including the lead character, Amber Atkins) are polite to a fault; subverted in that the darker side of this politeness is also shown (Gladys is achingly pleasant as she schemes, manipulates and murders) and a number of characters (particularly Laverne and Amber's mother) don't fit the stereotype at all.
  • Grace (Edie McClurg), the principal's secretary in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, talks with the standard Minnesota Nice accent and may well be a native Minnesotan, as the movie is set in Chicago, Illinois (a mere two states away). However, she also exhibits the dark side of this trope by secretly being mean and nasty, saying rude things about people when they aren't around.

  • Alpha and Omega: One of the few callers on Stark's show to get a sympathetic portrayal is a woman named Jane from Duluth Minnesota, who expresses curiosity rather than hostility about the unfolding developments, particularly the appearance of the Islamic Messiah.
  • American Gods features the town of Lakeside, Wisconsin, an idealized representation of small town life filled with 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 Menomin).
  • A Cry in the Night subverts this. The novel is primarily set in a small rural town in Minnesota and while most people are polite and friendly enough, they're also a bit close-minded and judgemental, especially when it comes to newcomer Jenny. Erich is one of the most well-known and popular residents of the town, and he's a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Several townsfolk are kinder and more welcoming towards Jenny after the truth about Erich comes out though, regretting how they misjudged her.
  • Mateo and Avinesh from Driftless Wormhole. Mateo especially, since he gets yanked through time and stranded, jailed, and still eventually manages to end up on friendly terms with almost everyone there. He also has the hidden core of stubbornness.
  • 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.
  • Barbara Ehrenreich specifically mentions "Minnesota Nice" when she goes there in chapter 3 of Nickel and Dimed.
  • Captain Halsing in Victoria presents a somewhat unusual variation, being a polite, bright, and friendly Nazi soldier from the Midwest.
  • If you want to know how to be this way, check out How to Talk Minnesotan by Howard Mohr.
  • If you really want to immerse yourself in Minnesota Nice culture, check out the books by Janet Lentos Martin, including Growing Up Lutheran, Cream Peas on Toast, and Lutheran Church Basement Women.
  • An old classic, Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis, has lots of characters like this in the fictional town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota.
  • Encryption Straffe's protagonist Genie is helpful to friends and obedient to orders, even though he is from Wisconsin.

    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. She also manages to have parts of the darker side of it as well. She's been shown to have a nasty competitive streak, and when she's finally pushed far enough and snaps, watch out. In one famous example, after dealing with a rude neighbor's nasty attitude regarding having a tree cut down, Rose finally lets her have it and the woman ends up dropping from a heart attack right there.
  • 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. This is the focus of one episode in particular showing how much his personality clashes with the significantly more cynical and street-smart New York, to the point that Marshall accidentally helps two guys rob an apartment because he thought they were just moving. 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.
    • At the beginning of The Day the Earth Froze, Joel and the bots start talking like Minnesotans complaining about the coldest day of the year, i.e. "It was so ding-dang cold that the stuff in my nose just froze right up!"
    • A later episode during the Mike era had a linking bit where the bots acted out an Ole and Sven joke in the style of Ingmar Bergman.
  • 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 Jerkass 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:
    • In season 1, people in Bemidji are often chipper at inappropriate moments. Lester Nygaard 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.
    • In season 2, Mike Milligan discusses and deconstructs this. He claims that people in the Midwest are not really that nice but are just very good at using politeness to disguise the fact that they are actually unfriendly and hostile to someone.
      Mike Milligan: I like you. Met another fella from Minnesota yesterday. Big guy. Sheriff, I think. I liked him, too.
      Lou Solverson: We're a very friendly people.
      Mike Milligan: No, that's not it. Pretty unfriendly, actually. But it's the way you're unfriendly— how you're so polite about it. Like you're doing me a favor.
    • The fifth season opens with an Epigraph that gives a definition of the term. It also describes Dot Lyon pretty well, as she keeps insisting that everything's fine even as it's clear that events are spiraling out of her control.
  • Season nine of Supernatural introduced the recurring character of Donna Hanscum, sheriff of Stillwater and perfect personification of this trope.
    Donna Hanscum: What the H-E-double hockey sticks, Jodie?
  • In one episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, John talked about how difficult is for the states to agree on anything, and as an "example" says that of the 50 states, only 49 accept that Delaware sucks. The one not agreeing is, of course, Minnesota.
  • The premise of Norsemen is having a gang of Vikings go about their harsh medieval lives with the attitude of their latter-day descendants. As such, they'll Rape, Pillage, and Burn, but they'd prefer to be able to do it with a positive attitude and without being too pushy about it.
  • Discussed on Baggage, since on one episode the dater was a guy from Minnesota. Host Jerry Springer asked the guy if he was excited to be there and he said he was but he didn't seem like it. Jerry asked, "Is this how people from Minnesota show excitement?"
  • Ted Lasso: Ted's earthy, aw-shucks brand of Kansas politeness and kindness are a stark contrast and breath of fresh air to the dry-witted English football club that hires him.

    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 (Gene/Lars/Ole/Arn Anderson), The Minnesota Stretching Crew (Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin) 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 Kentuckiana and the latter group were only "nice" in comparison to the rest of the roster, having been regulars in "hardcore" promotions.
  • The American Wrestling Association itself, run by Verne Gagne, was based in Minneapolis and focused on a no-nonsense mat-based style of wrestling, in comparison to the rather cartoonish style of wrestling out of New York City, the violent brawling style of wrestling out of Atlanta, or the odd mix of brawling and comedy out of Memphis.
  • Subverted by ODB. She was born in Nashville, Tennessee and trained and resides in Minneapolis. While she is a Face, as a No Indoor Voice Hot-Blooded Hard-Drinking Party Girl, she is hardly the polite soft-spoken type usually associated with this trope.

  • 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."
  • In Were You Raised by Wolves? Nick and Leah talk about how people in New York and Los Angeles, where they are respectively based, are much more rude than those in the Midwest, as evidenced by their separate experiences while traveling through the country.

  • 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.
  • Poked a little fun at by the Minnesota RollerGirls B-team (the Minnesota Nice) and traveling mascot (Minnie Sorta-Nice). MNRG's travel-team fan club, the AQUAMAN ARMY?, has a reputation of being the friendliest (but loudest!) fans in roller derby, and have been featured in advertisements for the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.

  • The Music Man inverts this trope with the song "Iowa Stubborn," portraying Iowa as an entire state of tsunderes.

    Video Games 
  • A horrific subversion is Motor Momma from the Borderlands 2 DLC "Torgue's Campaign of Carnage." While she's got the accent, the polite tone of voice, and almost-too-friendly gregariousness, she is also a Fat Bastard Cannibal who eats her own children. She's so grotesque that Moxxi, herself a lover of gratuitous violence, is so repulsed that she nearly gags.
    "Oh I nearly forgot to mention! If you would like me to not eat you until after you are dead, I understand and respect your wishes! I will also completely ignore them."
    (And later, in the most cheerful tone of voice possible:)
    "I'm gonna kill you and make sandwiches out of your corpse!"
  • Phone Guy from the Five Nights at Freddy's games appears to have a Midwestern accent. His primary role in the games is to be an Exposition Fairy to the protagonists, and is relatively Conditioned to Accept Horror to the point of emphasizing that the murderous animatronics need "respect".
  • Martha Garrett in Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent has the accent and verbal tics, plus a healthy interest in hot dish. The rest of the town of Scoggins, Minnesota tends toward the darker side of the trope, with Sheriff Bahg being the most blatant.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: Deerie is a cherub who embodies the darker side of Minnesota nice, cheerily refusing her coworkers entry into heaven with a heavy, "Yah, noooo."
  • Jack from Minilife TV speaks with a Minnesotan accent and he's one of the nicer characters in the cast.


    Web Original 
  • Linkara, the host of Atop the Fourth Wall, is from Minnesota. Unlike much of the former Channel Awesome members, he notably refuses to use "harder" swear words when in-character no matter how angry he gets.
    • Naturally, it's just his character. When he does an episode as Film Brain, he curses a blue streak. He also curses during impromptu videos away from the show.
    • Both in-character and in Real Life, while it's not a pronounced accent, his Minnesotan accent does peek through every now and then, most notably when he pronounces the word "room" (his pronunciation almost sounds like "rum") unless he emphasizes it.
  • 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."
  • In the timeline That Wacky Redhead, there's an in-universe 1985 sitcom (called Valerie and starring Valerie Harper, but nothing like the OTL sitcom of that name) in which Edie McClurg (see above) plays Valerie's boss's secretary, who is portrayed as cheerful, friendly and completely implacable. And saying "you betcha!"
  • Paul/Barbie from Geography Now was born and grew up partially in Minnesota. He mentions how he used to have the accent, but it was bullied out of him when he moved away.
  • Gus Johnson is from Wisconsin and milks these stereotypes a lot in his characters.
  • Charlie Berens of Manitowoc Minute fame is from Wisconsin and uses this stereotype a lot.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
    • Also, Maude Flanders.
  • 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.
  • In Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry, one of the nicer opponents is Soccer Mom from Wisconsin.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • At a summit of ponies representing cities across Equestria, the representative from the city of Whinnyapolis is shown to be friendly, polite, and when angered, massively passive-aggressive. Her scenes show her alongside the blunt, gruff representative from Manehattan, for maximum contrast. She seems to be at least partially based on Marge Gunderson.
    • Ponyville's Mrs. Cake speaks with an Upper Midwestern accent and uses "Dearie" when addressing other ponies.
    • In the special My Little Pony: Rainbow Roadtrip, almost all of the residents of Hope Hollow speak with Minnesota accents and use phrases like "doncha know?" and "you betcha". The only exceptions are the Hoofingtons (who moved in from Manehattan) and the Barrel twins.
  • Reverend Karen Stroup from King of the Hill is from St. Paul, speaks with a pretty obvious accent, and is one of the nicest characters on the whole show. That being said, she can be very negative when passing off her niceness as a good thing.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • Anti-racism activist Tim Wise has noted that often in the mid-west, people object that they can't have racial issues because they're Minnesota Nice. He follows up by saying that every time he asks black and brown folk in the region how they feel about Minnesota Nice, they say that Minnesota Nice is killing them. Not only does it disguise the racism in the region under the nice veneer, but also means they refuse to discuss it.