Anyone see the latest Minnesota Monthly Magazine? You know, the magazine of the Minnesota Public Radio franchise that is 98% advertisement and two percent content? It shows up in our mailbox because we are members of MPR and I haven’t gotten around to canceling the subscription. I will be doing that very soon, very soon.
One of my favorites, and the only, as far as I can see, feature of the magazine that is not advertising something is the “Last Word” column on the last page of the magazine. There is usually a personal essay or cartoon or photo spread, creatively done, amusing, and often with a decent message.
Then there is the present month’s “Last Word” titled State Fair Bingo.
The page is a grid (five columns and five rows just like a standard bingo card) of images and phrases of things to see at the State Fair. There are squares for politicians (sure to be there), the dairy princess, livestock, and food items.
There are also squares for “Couple wearing matching outfits,” “TV Reporter wearing high heels in a barn,” and “No shirt and overalls combo.” The one that gets me the most, that strikes me as unkind, insensitive, and truly offensive is “Carny missing his or her front teeth.”
Okay, the whole idea is meant to be fun, funny, and in all probability all these items can be found at the fair. I can’t be sure; it has been over 20 years since I was at the fair.
But aren’t they also all stereotypical “fair” sightings. And don’t they all sort of separate certain individuals from the rest of us “normal” individuals who would never dream of going to the State Fair sporting a “U.S. Flag tattoo” or walking around there with a “yardstick down the pants”?
Isn’t this ridicule? Ridicule based on appearance, and assumptions made about certain people’s character based on appearance? Isn’t this, when you start to think about it, offensive? Isn’t this, at the base level, profiling?
You know that woman or man wearing the neon fanny pack might be someone with a serious medical condition and in that fanny pack may be the medication and supplies needed in order to spend a day at the fair. That’s not funny. And that couple wearing the matching outfits might be proud and happy to be so close to each other emotionally that they want everyone to know that they are together forever. That’s not funny, that is charming and endearing. And that carny guy with the missing teeth, well he might be enduring a life harsh and cruel beyond what anyone could imagine. That should not ever be funny.
Is this really what we want to look for at the fair? Is this really what is amusing to fair goers? Of all the things that can be seen and admired and learned at the state fair, this is what we want to focus our attention on and remember from the day(s) spend there? Doesn’t this perpetuate the very sort of us and them judgement on the basis of appearance that has led to problems of racial profiling and vicious deadly encounters between strangers?
This “Last Word” from a magazine distributed by the highly regarded and respected Minnesota Public Radio is disgraceful, tasteless, and truly offensive. I am offended, and more importantly worried. If this sort of thing can be found in publications from such respected organizations as MPR there is no possible way we ever have a chance of rooting out the prejudices that result in the violence and attacks against those deemed “other.” That isn’t funny, or amusing, or even just offensive. That is frightening.
Editors of Minnesota Monthly, perhaps, you should take another look and amend your last word.