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"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 state of Minnesota, 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 thick Scandanavian-esque accent). A dislike of confontation 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. Contrast Brooklyn Rage.


Examples of Minnesota Nice include:


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.

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 Jerkass 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 Minnesota town called Lakeside that is sort of like the best representation of small town life including kind and friendly inhabitants. Gaiman may have been inspired by both Fargo (very friendly cops) and A Prairie Home Companion (everyone being above average; one of the inhabitants, Hinzelmann is a great raconteur). It turns out to be a Town with a Dark Secret. Hinzelmann is a small god who sacrifices young girls in order to maintain the town's prosperity.
    • Nastily subverted in the same book, as "Low-Key Liesmith" also claims to be from Minnesota.

Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • 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.

Radio

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 Scandanavia, where communities more or less had to help each other out in order to live through the harsh weather and somewhat barren landscape.
  • 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."

Web Original

  • The Minnesotan host of Atop the Fourth Wall is rare among the Channel Awesome cast for his refusal to use "harder" swear words in character.
  • 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

  • Unusually, an episode of Danny Phantom applies this trope to a ghost from Wisconsin.
  • 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.
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