The Twin Cities need to be destroyed

Published 8:57 am Friday, July 27, 2012

Column: Notes From Home

An equal mixture of arrogance and insecurity. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the residents of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A crowd of snobs without a lot of confidence.

Flouting logic, I insist that both together make perfect sense.

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Arrogance is easier to spot. It’s found in the sneers worn when those snobs come into contact with us “hicks” from Freeborn County (or anywhere else farther than 50 miles from the Metrodome). Residents of those two cities are (at least in their own minds) more sophisticated and intelligent than the residents of any other community in Minnesota. They spend time at farmers markets and in small, trendy shops and eateries on Lyndale, Grand or Nicollet instead of in suburban strip malls (or the ghastly edifice we love so much known as the Mall of America).

Insecurity is less obvious, but it’s also visible as those otherwise sophisticated and intelligent people obsess about how Chicago or New York or Seattle or L.A. have “things” that the Twin Cities do not. You can also see it as they talk about returning to Minnesota from wherever they’ve been traveling, not to Minneapolis or St. Paul, as if they’re embarrassed to even say the name out loud.

Longtime residents of both Minneapolis and St. Paul desperately want to support the claim that these cities are among the great cities of America. At the same time they worry that their hometown is being ignored by the movers and shakers in American society.

Now I don’t live in either Minneapolis or St. Paul, but many friends and relatives do. I have spent a fair bit of time up in both cities, visiting those friends and relatives, but also checking out exhibits at the History Center and the Science Museum in St. Paul or strolling through galleries at art museums and taking in plays at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Since I read the Star Tribune every morning, there are many times I feel an even closer connection, drawn into stories about politicians I can’t vote for (or against) and events that I have no intention of attending.

Because of this intimate distance from the Twin Cities, I’ve noticed that odd and illogical mixture of snobbery and insecurity among their inhabitants. For myself, I think both cities are pleasant places to visit, with all the amenities and institutions I expect to find in any great city.

Nonetheless, I do recognize that on the national scene, the Twin Cities aren’t taken as seriously as other American cities. Our largest cities just don’t get the attention they warrant, especially from Hollywood.

Don’t believe me? Remember any action and disaster movies set in either Minneapolis or St. Paul? Yes, I know about the movie “Contagion,” with Minneapolis as ground zero for a deadly epidemic. But that’s not the right kind of story. What I’m talking about is monster-stomping, explosive action.

For example, last summer, when I saw the latest installment of the “Transformers” robot movies, we watched Megatron, the evil robot leader, and his minions pummel skyscrapers, reducing whole blocks of gleaming steel and glass into rubble. The city being destroyed? Chicago.

Or in this year’s “Avengers” film, hideous aliens grind huge buildings into dust … in New York City. And what about all of those older movies with Godzilla trampling Tokyo or mutated insects swarming Los Angeles?

An important measure of a city having “arrived” on the international scene hasn’t happened for the Twin Cities: They haven’t been destroyed in a major Hollywood production. Until we see the IDS Tower going up in “virtual” flames in our movie theaters, Minnesota’s primary urban areas will only be second rate.

So, future filmmakers out there, don’t neglect the urban centers of your childhood when you make it big — in Hollywood or anywhere else. Please include Minneapolis and St. Paul in the list of cities you choose to cinematically destroy. A maniacal bachelor farmer blowing up the Capitol or a giant, mutant loon wreaking havoc on Hennepin Avenue will be a sign to the arrogantly insecure residents of urban Minnesota that their hometowns have made the list of the truly great cities of the world.


David Rask Behling teaches at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, and lives with his wife and children in Albert Lea.