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Why Very Few People Got the Mike Yanagita Plot Point in Fargo (1996)

Mike Yanagita from Fargo (1996)

Mike Yanagita from Fargo (1996)

Problem #2: Marge and Mike’s Behavior Inconsistent with Subplot’s Intent

If I understand correctly, we’re supposed to “get” that Marge walked into this rendezvous completely blindsided by Mike, never suspecting that he was lying the entire time about his life circumstances or wife. This, in turn, was supposed to have us later “getting” that in the follow-up scene, she realizes that Jerry had also been lying to her the day before.

Okay. But look at how Mike behaved throughout their encounter. He called Marge–out of the blue–in the dead of morning, a person he hasn’t seen since high school and wasn’t really close friends with. He also acted like the worst kind of socially inept, awkward creep. He got too up close and personal with a heavily pregnant woman who was wearing a wedding band. He started blubbering at the table, causing a scene in public. Everything about him screamed “weird, awkward, sketchy.”

I don’t care how naive, trusting someone is, anyone with half a brain would’ve sensed that something was wrong with him. So, later on in the film, when Marge learns that he was lying, why would anyone have read that scene other than her being surprised about the extent of his lying, as opposed to this idea that she had believed everything that he’d said? In other words, why wouldn’t anyone have imagined Marge’s reaction on the phone with her friend the next day as, “Wow, I knew he was full of shit but didn’t think he’d go that far as to lie about being married to so-and-so,” instead of, “Wow, I totally believed everything he said!”

This issue of Mike’s behavior undermining the subplot is made all the worse by Marge’s behavior throughout her entire encounter at the restaurant. I’m bringing this up because I’ve heard everyone excuse Marge’s gullibility with, “I get what you’re saying about all this; any rational person would’ve thought he was a creepy weirdo with an agenda, but you know what? Marge is so pure of heart, she couldn’t help trusting him.”

Bull. Shit. Let’s say for the sake of argument that this was true (that Marge was trusting to the point of naivety). There’s a problem, though–if you observe her behavior at the restaurant, you’ll see that she not only couldn’t have felt more uncomfortable around Mike, but was doing everything she could to hide her displeasure. In fact, so much of the “humor” of the scene was based on what people call “Minnesota Nice,” which is putting on an extra polite facade as a cover for how uncomfortable with or angry you are at someone.

If Marge is acting both uncomfortable and passive-aggressive during her dinner with Mike, exactly how were audiences supposed to take her impressions of him during their rendezvous? Exactly as the scene portrayed–as someone who thought he was so creepy and awkward that she plastered the biggest smile and phoniest voice ever to keep him from noticing how uncomfortable he was making her feel.

So, given all that, why would audiences have immediately imagined the scene after this one–when Marge learns that he was lying–that she was so completely knocked back by the truth? Her entire body language and facial expression during their dinner was one of distrust, but we were supposed to understand in the follow up scene that she had completely trusted him the entire time?

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