Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The kidnapping, string of murders, and wood chipper incident portrayed in the film Fargo actually took place in Minnesota in 1987.
Origins: Fargo opens with: "This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred."
Great opening. And not a word of truth to it.
Fargo's creators, the Coen brothers, are known for their playfulness, the inclusion of "little touches" that add to a film. Given the Coens' reputation for this, you'd think any responsible film reviewer would have made at least a stab at confirming this bold claim before blithely passing it along as fact. (Had they done any checking, they would have quickly discovered that nothing so much as vaguely resembling that level of carnage had occurred in Minnesota. Not in 1987. Not ever.) As a result of those reviews, an even greater number ended up believing what the Coen brothers had to have thought no one but the incredibly gullible would fall for. Their little
At least a few reviewers did see through the prank. Here's a handful of review snippets from the
However, repeated efforts by the Minnesota media to unearth any vaguely similar real life case have proved entirely unsuccessfulThe Coen brothers like a good
All movies are in some way fiction, so what does it matter? The Coen brothers' Fargo claimed to be based on a true story, and they admit it wasn't; the "true story" bit at the beginning was just a stylistic device."2
Fargo is a comedy-thriller about a wacky kidnapping scheme that goes incredibly wrong. The brothers originally said it was based on a true story, but a New York Post "investigation" got the brothers to admit the story actually popped out of their heads.3
If there's still any doubt, follow the credits through to the very end. You'll find the standard tiny-print disclaimer about "no resemblance to any persons living or
Barbara "oh, ya!" Mikkelson
Last updated: 16 August 2007
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