Fargo (1996)


“I hope to see more comedies revolving around female main characters. There’s definitely great female parts out there; I think most are based around guys. But that’s changing.” –Kristen Wiig, actress and writer

Fargo’s own tagline sums it up best: a homespun murder story.

On AFI’s list of the 100 funniest American movies, they add this caveat: “Regardless of genre, the films on this list possess a total comedic impact that creates an experience greater than the sum of the smiles. These movies provide laughs that echo across time, enriching America’s film heritage and inspiring artists and audiences today.”

It is important to remember that statement when watching Fargo. It isn’t always funny, but it sets a precedent for the library of dark and quirky – yet hilarious – Coen brothers’ movies we have today. (Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? are among their most noteworthy.)

The endearing protagonist in Fargo feels like the close friend you’ve known for ages. Her name is Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), a seven-month-pregnant sheriff from Brainerd, MN. After a night of murderous havoc, it is a nice change of pace to watch Marge wake up with her husband Norm in their cozy little home, eat breakfast together at the kitchen table, and give the car a jumpstart on this cold morning. Even though she’s soft spoken with her sayings like “Ah, Norm” and “You betcha” (complete with a strong Northern accent), it’s hard to argue with the fact that Marge is the most badass pregnant lady you will ever see…

No husband would be okay with the idea of his wife and unborn child approaching a murderer who is destroying a body behind a cabin in the woods. However, Marge does so unflinchingly. Her character breaks scantily clad female stereotypes that years of superhero movies continue to enforce. Have you seen those Facebook quizzes that ask, “Which hero would you trust to save you?” Marge Gunderson would be my first choice in a heartbeat. She means business and will get the job done without any unnecessary dramatics.

I am thankful for filmmakers like the Coen brothers who think outside the box. These guys understand that comedic scripts don’t have to be packed full of zingers but can have moments of silence and scariness. They also understand that heroic women can wear clothes and be pregnant…a fact the rest of the entertainment industry needs to remember.