Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
In this essay, CC2K Video Game Editor Big Ross turns a critical eye toward the depiction of his home state in the world of pop-culture and finds it woefully inaccurate … for the most part.
For being a fly-over state, my home state of Kansas seems to show up in pop-culture more than I would expect. Whether in television shows or in movies it seems Kansas serves as a kind of symbol for the Apple Pie Americana that's supposed to tug at our patriotic heartstrings. Yet whenever Kansas appears on the TV or at the cineplex, I can tell you that, having been born and raised in the Sunflower State, rarely does anyone take the time to actually ensure that Kansas as presented onscreen bears any resemblance to the real thing. Not that I can blame them, because really, it's called a fly-over state for a reason, that reason being once you venture in you might never escape. But for what it's worth, here are three misconceptions about Kansas from pop-culture.
The Wizard of Oz –
This movie would have you believe that an old widow and three farmhands can successfully run a farm. I suppose that's possible given it's small enough, but even more preposterous is the notion that tornadoes, which we do have on a seasonal basis, are these wonderful joyrides to a magical land of Munchkins and yellow brick roads and Emerald Cities. I hate to burst your bubble, but the only place you'll end up after getting sucked up by a tornado is the ER of your local hospital, provided you're lucky enough to survive the experience. Though I will admit that our state is full of mean, old ladies who make it their mission in life to visit all manner of harm upon young, doe-eyed girls, and their little dogs too.
Here I'm referencing the CW series that focuses on an adolescent Clark Kent before he flies off to the big city (literally) to serve as the protector of humanity as Superman. Granted, Smallville is a fictional town, but it is set in the very real state of Kansas. At least the movies featured geographically accurate settings in Kansas. However, for this show the producers decided that production would take place in British Columbia, I guess because they assumed since Kansas is a fly-over state no one would know the difference. This explains why the Kansas of Smallville is filled with forests of evergreen trees, huge cliffs and cascading waterfalls, and a generally rugged terrain that's more Canadian Rockies than American Midwest. Listen, I've been from one end of this state to the other and let me tell you, there's nothing here that I would say really constitutes a forest. Kansas is prairie grasslands and wheat fields. . .and that's about it. Scientists have even proven that Kansas is literally flatter than a pancake. So please keep this in mind the next time you are watching Tom Welling fighting some super-powered villain in what looks to be an alpine setting, assuming any of you still watch this show.
While we're on the topic of reasons why Smallville sucks, which could be an entire essay in itself, let me expound upon one other that involves Kansas. Not only have the show's producers fucked up the real geography of the state, but that can't even get the geography of the fictional DC Universe right. Any fan of DC Comics could probably tell you that, at least since post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Smallville is located in Kansas. Given that Metropolis is generally accepted to be located somewhere on the East Coast, it would follow that one could not drive from Smallville to Metropolis in an hour or so. The producers and/or writers, perhaps wanting a way for their characters to be able to escape the boring setting of Smallville evidently said, "Screw the established canon, we'll just move Metropolis to the Midwest." Yeah, that's a great way to win over fans.
This short-lived CBS series followed the residents of a fictional small town in Kansas (Jericho) in the aftermath of a nuclear war that decimated most of the major cities in the U.S. How did the residents know this tragic event occurred? Did they see it on the evening news? Hear about it on the radio? Yes, but they did one better and actually witnessed the destruction themselves when some of the show's characters saw a mushroom cloud erupting from Denver with their own eyes. How'd they know it was Denver, CO that was being destroyed? Why, because they could see the Rocky Mountains of course – watch for it at the 1:00 minute mark in the following promo.
If this doesn't seem batshit ridiculous to you, allow me to give a brief geography lesson. As far as I can tell, Jericho was supposed to be located in western Kansas, about 100 or so miles west of Wichita (not that I expect any of you to know where that city is, but humor me). That would put the fictional town of Jericho somewhere on the order of 150 miles east of the Kansas-Colorado border, and from there it's another 200 miles to Denver. Now I've driven to Denver on many a family vacation from western Kansas, and I can tell you that you can't even see the Rockies on a clear day until you get to a town called Limon, about 80 miles east of Denver. And even there the mountains aren't much bigger than ant hills out on the horizon. So in the fictional world of Jericho, either the Rocky Mountains are really fucking big, or all of eastern Colorado has been swallowed by an interdimensional vortex bringing the Rockies closer to Kansas. That or the producers at CBS think their viewers are really fucking stupid. Yeah, probably that last one.
In conclusion, what did we learn today? Hopefully I've helped you to realize that Kansas is flatter than a flapjack, tornadoes are not acceptable means of transportation anywhere, and despite being adjacent to Colorado it's still really fucking far from anything resembling a mountain, or for that matter an ocean. Oh, and Kansas hates gays . . .and rational thought.
Happy New Year Everybody!