ABC has a show called “What would you do?” that can be rather fun to watch, in which some sort of uncomfortable scenario is faked in a public place, and the reactions of the people exposed to it is filmed. At the end, the host of the show and the hidden camera crew comes out of nowhere and does a post-game analysis. Unlike Candid Camera, in which the scenario is typically some sort of silly trickery, this show often deals with social issues.

The show is normally done in the New York area. When I’ve watched it, I’ve thought “Yeah, you’d have to do this in NY, because it would not work in Minnesota.” … In Minnesota, no one would overtly respond to the scenario but every one would get passive-aggressively mad. If gay people were denigrated in a restaurant, for example, Minnesotans would mutter something under their breath but really just audible while on their way out after paying their bill. That’s what counts for “Minnesota Nice.”

Recently, ABC decided to take the show on the road to see how things would go in different communities around the US. Lousy Canuck has written up one of the interesting events, in which gay families in a Texas diner were told that they were evil by the waitress. Interestingly, when this was done in the New York setting, most people ignored the anti-gay server, while in Texas many of the customers reacted and defended the gay families.

I quickly add that the scenarios were not identical in the two runs of this social experiment, so the comparison may not be valid. Nonetheless, Texas seems to have a more tolerant population than New York, based on this limited sample. This is interesting because Texas is one of the US states where it is legal to refuse service to a person in a restaurant because they are gay.

Anyway, see LC’s writeup for more, and for the video: Unscripted public responses to gay-bashing in Texas

Comments

  1. #1 Nemo
    May 28, 2011

    Alternatively, perhaps the New Yorkers are just more tolerant of rudeness.

  2. #2 gruebait
    May 28, 2011

    In NY, if the waitress had horns and belched fire, it would have gone unnoticed as long as it was at somebody else’s table.

  3. #3 itzac
    May 28, 2011

    That note made me a little verklempt.

  4. #4 Alan
    May 28, 2011

    I think it shows Texans are more intolerant of people who break pervailing social mores, while New Yorker’s are so tolerant it’s indistigushable from apathy.
    This would seem to imply that a Texan is more likely to stick their nose in your business wich can be be annoying if you’re having a lover’s spat, or a godsend if you’re being mugged.

  5. #5 Scott Simmons
    May 29, 2011

    OK, I’m marginally less embarrassed than usual to admit I live in Texas now.

  6. #6 Scott Simmons
    May 29, 2011

    Oh, that was in Farmer’s Branch? I don’t know where they get the idea that’s a conservative bastion–Dallas County as a whole votes consistently Democrat.

    Try that a little farther from the city–say, Midlothian, or Terrell–you might have a less inspiring crowd reaction. Head out to the countryside, and I’m sure …

  7. #7 P_Smith
    May 29, 2011

    Similar things have been said about racism in the north and south of the US, that southerners are either overly so or not at all, while northerners tend to keep quiet on both sides.

    While no one wants to see barefaced hostility or violence, an honest response makes it easier to know where you stand and who’s dangerous.

    .

  8. #8 P_Smith
    May 29, 2011

    Similar things have been said about racism in the north and south of the US, that southerners are either overly so or not at all, while northerners tend to keep quiet on both sides.

    While no one wants to see barefaced hostility or violence, an honest response makes it easier to know where you stand and who’s dangerous.

    .

  9. #9 badgersdaughter
    May 29, 2011

    Yeah, just north of Dallas. I’m kind of glad they picked it though. We rational Texans can use the press.

    Now if they had picked Odessa… well, that would have been just one more of the interminable “ignorant hick Texan” bashes that make it difficult to do things like go on business trips.