The predominant notion I have noticed in many forms of mass media seems to hint that the state of Kansas is home to a majority of backwoods, inept, and terrifically unaware denizens who are quite possibly incapable of operating a flush toilet much less grasping the concept of an internet connection.
For the record, I feel it should be known that the inhabitants of Kansas do, in fact, have electricity, phones, running water, computers, and indoor toilets. Chances are, we also have a great deal of the multitudinous other amenities possessed by other enlightened areas of the United States of America.
The impression that Kansas does not possess any of these things seems to be fostered by an unending stream of media attention which always wants to point towards the contrary. The fact is that most representations of Kansas are created by people who have never been here and who, in turn, base their presumptions upon out of date source material like The Wizard of Oz to form their opinions.
I cite, as an example, the film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, directed by John Hughes in which this situation first made itself readily apparent to me. Upon finding the destination airport of Chicago shut down by a blizzard, the plane bearing Steve Martin lands at Wichita Mid-Continental Airport as an alternative. The choice of Wichita's airport as an alternative is certainly logical and realistic, but the resulting events are certainly not.
One of the most immediate things many Kansans may notice is that the airport is not Wichita Mid-Continental. It is some generic smallish structure inhabited by hayseeds--except for the taxi that Martin and John Candy pick up. Of course, a place like Wichita--as of 1987, at least--did not contain the significant population of cabs that one would find in places such as New York or Los Angeles.
From a simple critical point of view, though, it can at least be explained that one should expect a film to not contain a voluminous amount of real location work--especially with a travel oriented film such as Hughes' piece. After all, how many other cinematic and television pieces have wanted us to believe that Vancouver, British Columbia, is Washington D.C., New York, Minneapolis, or any other large American Metropolitan area? How many exotic locations are merely replicated on a Hollywood soundstage for the issues of cost and budget?
Yes, certainly, this minor faux pas is certainly not a primary issue. However, one needs take into consideration another facet for this section of the film: Hughes took his entire film crew out to the state of Missouri to film the scenes written for Kansas. His justification went something along the lines of, "Missouri looks more like Kansas than Kansas."
So, now Hughes has written an inaccurate portrayal of the state, and filmed it in the adjacent state because just because the state in question doesn't look right in accordance to the image of Kansas he has.
Further knocks against the state involve the only "Kansan" Candy and Martin come into contact with being an inarticulate, borderline illiterate hayseed with a rusted heap of a circa 1930's pick-up truck. The truck bed contains a plethora of poultry and birddogs, and the driver speaks with a twang more reminiscent of Alabama or Georgia. Upon being questioned as to where the nearest Amtrak station to Wichita is, the hayseed responds with a locale called "Possum Holler," or some similar piece of inconsiderate nonsense.
Again for the record, the nearest Amtrak station to Wichita is Wichita. That's pretty simple, I think. Plus, that route will take you straight to Chicago, so you have even less to worry about.
However, what my explanation of this seemingly trivial portion of a larger film attempts to illustrate is a common mentality held by just about anyone who doesn't come from this part of the country. As an example of this attitude's proliferation I suggest actually reading the Kansas node and taking note of what you can find there.
Of those write-ups dealing exclusively with the state of Kansas, the highest one features a glaring mis-spelling of "Topeka" while the second highest wu, written by vorlon, indulges itself in the same denegrating, semi-insulting, and completely non-informative trite slander that only serves to further promulgate the idea that Kansas is the origin of all idiocy in the world, and that Kansans, on average, possess an I.Q. that disqualifies them from holding a decent discussion with the gunk that accumulates around the base of your toilet.
Meanwhile, user Pano offers an informative and useful wu concerning the state. This writeup concerns several facts and statistics regarding that state which are not based mainly on heresay and popular opinion. It is voted at seven out of nine.
Many individuals feel they can cite some basic and well promoted stereotypes of Kansas (it's flat as a pancake, we have no trees, we live in sod huts, we still use outhouses, we all herd cattle or farm in one way or another) throw the state into some category just short of the perceived sterotype of Arkansas--most likely because the names are similar--and get on with their happy, city-folk existences; "Thank god we're not Kansans," they think, "they don't even have phones!"
Well, it's important to clarify a few things. The Kansas State Board of Education's decision to shoot the teaching of evolution out of the classrooms (or at least refrain from making it a required area of instruction, as it had previously been) was certainly no help to our cause. The idea that a large group of investors has been trying to build a "Wizard of Oz" theme park on the site of an abandoned munitions factory doesn't help. Sometimes I admit that certain factions and decision makers in Kansas don't do much to help the situation out. I mean, the state motto even used to be, "The Land of 'Ahhhs' . . ., " but it is also generally a fact that most people promulgate this idea based on inaccurate facts and misrepresentations from fictional sources.
Some important Kansas industries, besides agriculture and ranching, which are here or have been here include: aerospace, oil refining, rail freight, engineering, and information technologies, to name a few. Wichita is the home to Boeing, Beechcraft, and Cessna. The Sprint World Headquarters are located in Overland Park. This is just an example of some of the things in this state that seem to be grievously overlooked--or in some instances, ignored--by people who refer to Kansas. For a great many, it seems that it is just best to knock them sily country-boys (and girls) out there in the wheat-fields. The reasoning behind this I don't quite understand.
This state has been home to folks like Danny Carey, William S. Burroughs, John Brown, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Luci Tapahanso, Kirstie Alley, Joe Walsh, and scores of others no one has ever imagined could come from such a (percieved) backwater as this state.
Of course, you get one Fred Phelps, and it all goes out the window. "Now that," your average non-midwesterner thinks, "That is something that sounds totally like it should be coming out of Kansas." No one stops to think that most Kansans hate Fred Phelps just as much as you do.
At any rate, no, Kansas is not full of idiots. We have advanced into the 21st century along with everyone else, and we have our plusses and minuses just like everyone else. To assume and propogate any stereotype against someone based on his/her state of origin is just as bad as stereotyping someone because he/she is Black/Gay/Jewish/German/American/Vietnamese/Muslim/whatever. For you to automatically assume something about my friends and family--and myself--based on the fact that I am a Kansan (for instance: that I am some kind of redneck iliterate who can barely speak above my own Confederate twang) is within the same realm of my assuming that, in order to be from New York, you must be either: a) a murderer b) a crack dealer c) a member of the mafia d) an unintelligible cab driver.
In short, it doesn't seem to be right in any situation, so please stop doing it to us.
Note: so as to avoid any potential for smart-assed replies, I should mention that my three dogs are named: Siegfried, August, and Lucky respectively--and that I have never met anyone named Dorothy in the total time I have lived here.