Ladies We'd Like To Bring to Life: Chief Marge "Sonufa" Gunderson

Posted at 7:45 AM Jul 15, 2009

By Geoff George

"There in a jif."
"You betcha."
"Thanks a bunch."
"Aw, geez."
"It's a real shame."
"Really super."

Long before Sarah Palin came along and pretty much ruined a whole regional dialect by way of association, there was Marge Gunderson, chief of police of Brainerd, Minn., and the lead character of that old TNT/TBS/USA network movie night favorite, Fargo. I can remember being entertained by how the stations would edit around all the swears.

There are inept criminals and bizarre crimes, but a lot of the comedy in the film stems from its scarily accurate characterization of the Midwest. Marge represents a faction of the American populace you'd most often recognize at small-town barbecues, parent-teacher assocation meetings, or the local diner, but here she walks with a badge and gun while pregnant, the Midwest still oozing outta her pores. Here are three reasons to love Chief Gunderson:

1. She's got the intelligence without the bitter irony
Between the bungled kidnapping, the hapless car dealer ("the heck d'ya mean?") and the long, thousand-yard stare of Norm, her husband, it's clear that Marge is the smartest one in the film, but she'd die before pointing it out. Plus, when you're working with deputies as incompetent as Lou (they were always dealer plates, buddy), you gotta be sharp without being cutting.

2. She's matter-of-fact
"So, we got a trooper pulls someone over, we got a shooting, these folks drive by, there's a high-speed pursuit, ends here, and then this execution-type deal."

'Nuff said.

3. She minds her please's and thank you's
Midwesterners can sometimes be polite to a fault, but Marge knows when to turn it on and when to just shut a guy down. I think everyone's run into their own Mike Yanagita (see below), but I doubt we've all handled the tension with the same amount of success. Marge scores a 9.5 here but misses the 10. Nobody can really nail the dismount in a situation like this.


So, here's a toast to the cheerful, chipper Chief Gunderson, deep in the heart of Minnesota. Now, let's all go enjoy a meal at the Old Country Buffet or Arby's on her behalf.


Jack Olson said:

Marge Gunderson is the female Columbo. Her midwestern cliches are the equivalent of his rumpled overcoat and jalopy car, a way for the fox to look like an ol' hound dog.

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