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That time John Kasich tried to get his local Blockbuster to pull Fargo from its shelves

Frances McDormand in a scene from Fargo.
Frances McDormand in a scene from Fargo.
Gramercy Pictures/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

John Kasich, the newest GOP presidential candidate to enter the race, has a very interesting political profile — but the Ohio governor is also a bit eccentric, and he's done a few odd things in his decades-long political career. Probably the oddest of all was his crusade to get his local Blockbuster to pull the movie Fargo from its shelves.

As Henry Gomez of the Northeast Ohio Media Group described in his excellent profile series "Kasich 5.0," Kasich watched the movie with his wife in the late '90s and was absolutely horrified by the infamous "wood chipper scene." So he decided to do something about it.

Here's how Kasich himself recounted the story in his 2006 book:

I was in my local video store looking for a movie to watch with my wife, Karen, during one of our few quiet evenings together at home. The clerk in the store recommended Fargo, a perversely dark crime story that had played to generally enthusiastic reviews. The movie even earned a Best Actress Oscar for Frances McDormand for her role as a pregnant Midwestern sheriff, and the guy behind the counter at Blockbuster assured me it was a great movie and that I should probably rent it.

So I did. Walked right over to that shelf where they had their general titles, grabbed a copy and took it home, and when Karen and I got to the part where they chop up a guy in a grinder we looked at each other and thought, What the heck are we watching here? It was billed as a comedy, but it wasn’t funny. It was graphic, and brutal, and completely unnecessary, and it rubbed us in so many wrong ways we had to shut the thing off right there in the middle... Next morning, I got on the phone to Blockbuster and demanded that they take the movie off their shelves.

Kasich writes that while he was "a fairly prominent local customer," he didn't demand any special treatment — "I was personally offended, and it had nothing to do with any kind of political stand." He says someone in charge at the local Blockbuster agreed to label movies with graphic content more clearly, but he heard from friends that they didn't actually change very much. So he called again:

I couldn’t say firsthand whether the situation had gotten any better, because I had taken my business elsewhere, but from all accounts not much had changed, so I called the store again to remind them of our deal, and it got to where Karen had to tell me to back off because I was driving everyone crazy. I’d made my point, she said, and it was time to move on, so I did, but not before the columnist George Will picked up on the story.

"On reflection," Kasich wrote, he wasn't "entirely sure that [this story] paints me in the best light," and admitted, "In fact, it’s possible to look on my actions as the rantings of a wild man." He concluded:

Usually, I speak out against the status quo on behalf of the little guy, but sometimes I get a little crazy and go off about something like this Fargo business, with no real expectation but to let off some steam. I can’t imagine it’s all that much fun to be on the receiving end of one of my tirades, but I’m here to tell you it isn’t much fun to be making the delivery either.

There's no word yet on whether Kasich's views on the Coen brothers classic have mellowed over the years. But it's safe to say that Blockbuster content policies won't be an issue in the 2016 race.


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